We’ll Have To Find A New Room For The Maid: A Victorian House Remodel In Petoskey, Vol. 2

You are cordially invited to attend the commitment ceremony between one otherwise level-headed couple and their home.

My in-laws, who have built all of their homes and later sold all of their homes, have often suggested we don’t “marry a house.”

Trevor and I are finding this problematic.

It’s not only that we’re working there, that we’re polishing and sanding, molding it into its old self. A lot of our love affair comes from the house… returning our affection. Warning, fair readers: The following contains some touchy-feely mumbo jumbo.

Your House Is Smiling At Me

When we’re at the house, we have a tendency to talk to it. Not to ourselves, but to it. As in, “These floors will feel so much better after we get this layer of dirt off.” It’s like we’ve taken in a soiled, matted kitten who needs a little TLC and a saucer of milk.

This isn’t our style. We don’t notice people’s auras or even burn scented candles. And there’s more.

When we’re there, even outside, we feel happy. There’s an energy in the house that just makes you want to whistle or hum, or pat people on the back. Even the guys working there, who won’t get to live under its roof, enjoy being at the house. They chat and laugh and point out neat features and imagine what life was like when it was built. They reach out heavily tattooed arms to point with fingers covered in plaster at an artifact they’ve discovered in the walls, or eagerly wonder what color we’ll paint the dining room. Their eyes gleam. I’m not kidding.

The Division Street house has been empty for years – decades, really. With a handful of ill-mannered renters since the 70s who all left relatively quickly, and with no renters for at least the past 10 years, our house has sat overlooking downtown Petoskey, overlooking the bay, surrounded by family homes and activity, and has been lonely.

Last weekend while strolling through Boyne City, we ran into one of Trevor’s past clients, now a friend, who had recently stopped by the house to say hello and peek in on the remodel.

When we saw him in Boyne he leaned in and, with a very serious face, said, “Your house smiled at me.”

This business baron then described the happiness he felt in the home, the energy, the joy.

“It’s glad you’re there,” he said.

“The feeling is mutual,” I said.


The house was built for the Quaintance family sometime in the 1890s. Marion Quaintance’s obituary in the newspaper, headed M.F. QUAINTANCE TAKEN BY DEATH and subtitled, Was one of Petoskey’s most widely known pioneer residents, highlights the man’s long career with the G.R.&I. and Pennsylvania railroads, his marriage to the superintendent’s daughter and his strong interest and activity in the town’s civic affairs.

Mr. Quaintance was Petoskey’s first village clerk, served on the Board of Public Works and even as mayor of the city. His three children lived in Detroit, Grand Rapids and Paris, France.

Now, that’s all very fascinating on its own. But I, being in a rather warm-and-fuzzy mood in all matters concerning the house lately, have decided that this house truly was meant for us based on his history. Bear with me.

My very recently departed grandfather spent his career working his way up to superintendent of a railroad, and his train stories – oh, the endless train stories – are etched in my mind like fairy tales. Following his retirement from the railroad, my grandfather served our city in various civic roles. And my own history includes living in the Detroit, Grand Rapids and Petoskey areas, and a special ancestral connection to Paris, France.

Is this why the house likes us? Because we have very weak commonalities with its original owner? I suspect not. I think it likes the attention, the care we take with its bones, the appropriate level of awe we hold for how well its kept up its charm. Maybe it can breathe now that we’ve taken off the aluminum siding and shaken out all of the (many) bats. I think it likes that we’re painting one room purple and one pink, and maybe it remembers that the children living in it last were also two little girls.

Whatever the reason the house enjoys our company, we’re relieved. You never know with old houses and their spirits. Not that we’d believe any of that mumbo-jumbo.

Out With It, Already

In my last blog entry I promised you paint colors. Here’s how the house looked in the beginning:

Here’s how it looks today. Notice how Withey Painting & Service has primed all of the soffit and fascia at top, and how it makes such a difference already:

You might also notice that we have grass, a new walkway and safer, more lovely steps up from the street, courtesy of John Hoffman & Sons Landscaping and Nursery. Just for fun, here’s a look at what they’re doing to the backyard:

Back to the paint colors. Here’s a sample of how the wood siding will look in a few weeks:

And here’s the full exterior scheme (apologies for the poor photo quality):

Starting from the bottom and moving up, Pale Moss Green will be on the body of the home. Silk Sails will accent the front porch ceiling. Turban Shell is our trim color, our soffit and fascia color, our spindle color, our lattice color. Aloe Vera will be underfoot on the porch. And Tropical Breeze (it’s blue, it’s hard to tell here) will highlight the rail handles and parts of the columns.

I did say there were six colors, and there are. The black will remain as a band around the columns, and when we’ve lived there awhile (read: when our bank account has recovered), we’ll use it to highlight the decorative painting we do on the soffit and fascia, alongside the various colors above.

I’ve given away two interior paint colors already. What are your thoughts for the rest of the house? What would you do? What wouldn’t you do?

Look for my next blog in which I’ll reveal… tile! Who doesn’t love a good tile story?

Article Comments

3 thoughts on “We’ll Have To Find A New Room For The Maid: A Victorian House Remodel In Petoskey, Vol. 2”

  1. Lisa,

    The History of this home and the connections of its past and your grandfather are amazing! This is a wonderful story and I am so glad that you and Trevor are taking on this restoration. I am very excited to have read this article and know the history. I can’t wait to here the tile story.

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