The preservation project at 404 S. Garfield took a decade to complete. That’s because the Carpenters wouldn’t settle for a quick remodel. Instead, they wanted to bring this belle of the ball back to her glory days — and then some
• By Rebecca Long Pyper •
ANYONE WHO'S TACKLED a historic-home remodel knows the devil is in the details, but ask the brave few who take on a restoration, and they’ll show you the dings in their bank accounts and bodies to prove it.
Such was the story for David and Julie Carpenter. For 10 years they fixed up their 1892 home at 404 S. Garfield, one of the oldest in Pocatello and with a pedigree too.
The house was first owned by George N. Ifft, one of three newspapermen who came from Salt Lake City in 1892 to purchase a fledgling paper called the Pocatello Tribune; Ifft’s son and grandson also took their turns running the paper, which became Idaho State Journal. According to documents from the Pocatello Historic Preservation Commission, both the home at 404 and 414 S. Garfield remained in the Ifft family until the 1940s.
With history like that and with original features too, the Carpenters were sold on the place when they saw it, partly because they had the time to do much of the work themselves but mostly because they had the itch to fix up a historic home. “I love the old stuff — I hate to see the old stuff torn down,” David said.
Taking on a restoration rather than a renovation isn’t for the faint at heart, and David said work like this ought to be done right. Here are the Carpenters’ tips for breathing new life into an old place without spoiling its character:
Design with preservation in mind. The Carpenters knew their house was historically significant locally, and they respected that. “It’s important to keep history. It was the old Ifft house, and I just think it’s important to remember things the way they were — not modernize everything,” Julie said.
David and Julie stripped millwork, sandblasted paint from the brick fireplace and took out all the salvageable baseboards when working on the floors, putting them back puzzle-style when the job was through. “We kept everything that we possibly could,” David said.
What they did replace were inefficient windows and hammered floors. But since one of David’s goals is for the home to someday be included in the National Register of Historic Places, he worked with that level of preservation in mind.
1. Move slowly and you’ll have time to do your homework. The restoration was slow going — like one-inch-at-a-time slow. The project was a ladder-climbing, wallpaper-hanging, paint-by-hand job that took a decade to complete.
But the snail’s pace gave the homeowners time to conceive a precise plan. Researching Victorian homes helped them select colors and a design scheme. And when they removed a bookcase added to the home decades after it was built, they found a bit of original wallpaper and were able to buy and hang new in a style that’s a close match.
The front area of the house — which contains most of the original footprint — is ornate with wallpapered walls and ceiling, pink moldings and turn-of-the-century furniture. Before diving in, “we knew exactly what we wanted to do with this room,” David said. And that made it easier for the couple to spend years seeking out just-right antiques that completed the look they were after.
2. Budget for the showstoppers and the sweet details. The doorways all boasted transoms, but they had been sealed off years ago. Inspired by original stained glass in the home, the Carpenters commissioned an artist to create matching stained-glass panes to be installed over all the doors.
Although it makes a big statement, the custom stained glass cost less than the antique door hardware in the front area of the house. Those ornate hinges and doorknobs add substance everywhere they turn and swing, justifying the purchase.
The original exterior style was Victorian in feel, but the Iffts didn’t push the look as far as they could have, painting traditional features like fish-scale siding, turned posts and decorative spindles a lackluster beige. And that just wouldn’t pass muster with the Carpenters, who knew from their research that they liked vibrant Victorians best. Julie dreamed up the four-pastel color scheme outside because “we wanted to do something different; we thought it was cheerful,” she said.
3. Keep your chin up. Today the house functions as both the family home for the Carpenters and their kids and as the site of David’s business, Old Town Accounting and Tax Service. Now that the hard work has wrapped up, the Carpenters have their dream home — it’s the treasure at the end of their hunt to discover the charm of years past.
“Well, it’s a long time coming, there’s not doubt, but the end result, if it’s something you really want to do, is fantastic,” Julie said.