When Abby Brothers first saw the Page Mansion for sale online, she knew she had found a forever home.
But the 6,000 square foot home in Aberdeen, North Carolina was not yet habitable. The six-bedroom mansion – which had been vacant for around 40 years – had shattered windows and collapsed floors. Not one to shy away from a project, Abby, 31, and husband Trey Brothers, 33, paid $155,000 for the property in 2018, charmed by the home’s structural integrity, sweeping staircases and furnishings vintage.
“When we first came to see the house, we didn’t need a key, we didn’t need an estate agent – you could just crawl through the shattered windows or just open the front door. entrance because there was no lock,” Abby told CNBC Make It. “It had been invaded by the elements [and] it was very, very run down.”
The house – which was originally built by a local wealthy family in 1913 – ended up requiring renovations worth around $268,000. But the costliest part of the couple’s budget hasn’t been spent tearing down walls or rebuilding modern amenities. Instead, they’ve spent most of their funds preserving the home’s original features, like its 109-year-old wooden floors.
“It was important to retain the original details of the house because it’s history,” says Abby. “Houses aren’t built the way they were in 1913. The details aren’t the same there. And if you want those kinds of details in a house now, they’re very expensive.”
Indeed, the most recent appraisal of the renovated home was $900,000, but the duo, along with their one-year-old son and their pets, have no plans to move. Here’s how they found and developed a vision to turn the vacant house into their dream home.
When the couple first saw the listing online, they were living in Baltimore, Maryland. Abby was working as a registered nurse and Trey was considering leaving the military, and they wanted to move back to North Carolina where they both grew up.
They had “no intention” of buying a mansion, let alone one that was over a century old, Abby says. But she was drawn to the “almost doomed” home because of its history: The Page family was made up of wealthy industrialists who founded several North Carolina towns and helped introduce railroads to the state.
The house was originally built for one of the Page girls. During the Great Depression, various family members moved in and out of the mansion before it was purchased by another family.
When Abby and Trey went to see the house in person, remnants of that story were scattered around the vacant mansion. “There was furniture in every room,” Abby says. “It really looked like a time capsule… There were stacks of magazines. There was confetti on the floor where it looked like someone threw a party years ago and just left.”
Once Trey – who now works in IT – saw that the original brick house structure could be salvaged, he knew it had potential. He also knew he needed major renovations: almost all the windows were broken, the first-floor kitchen had sunk into the basement and there was a massive leak in the roof, he said.
The duo met with contractors to estimate the cost of plumbing, electrical and other specialty projects. When they realized that changing homes could be a worthwhile investment, they “took a leap of faith”, says Abby, and planned to move without a secure job.
Before they could move in, most of the house had to be stripped down to the studs and replastered. The original hardwood floors, which the couple were keen to preserve, had collapsed on every level of the house. These renovations took about nine months.
To keep the house “as quirky as possible,” says Abby, they only made small changes to its structural plan, like adding a bathroom under the stairs and expanding the kitchen and from the master bedroom. “We have a completely modernized kitchen, [but tried] to keep it integrated into the original design of the house,” says Trey.
Their new upgraded kitchen on the first floor now contains a dishwasher, double oven, refrigerator, double basin sink, and washer and dryer in the pantry. The wide staircase in the entry hall, one of Trey’s favorite parts of the house, was “barred” and had to be carefully refurbished to maintain its structure.
The couple have retained the home’s original doors and lighting, and have refurbished sofas, chairs and cabinets left in the house – some dating from the 1800s. There is an original piece of furniture in each room , says Abby.
The Brothers family have lived in the renovated and updated mansion for three years now. A handful of projects, such as finishing the paneling around the house, have yet to be done.
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