The Treasure Chest
With a to-the-bones remodel, a young couple reveal the charm of a formerly dilapidated downtown rental property.
By Lila Edythe ∙ Photography by David Agnello
Built in 1925 and haphazardly added on to over the ensuing nine decades, the house had seven-foot ceilings, some of which were collapsing. Part of what wasn’t collapsing had significant water damage. Nothing was square. Windows rattled when the wind blew. Heck, walls rattled when the wind blew. The front deck had long ago settled at a tilt. Still, the day it went on the market late last summer, Tom Fay and Kristin Frappart made a full-price offer on the 1,200-square-foot house on Hansen Street. Not even the seller’s agent could believe it. “ ‘Really? ’ he asked,” recounts Fay, the founder of Pinky G’s pizzeria. “ ‘You’re sure?’ ”
Marrying in September 2015, the thirty-something couple, who were both born and raised here—Frappart grew up only several blocks away—were sure. “It was affordable by Jackson standards,” Frappart says. “It was the only place in East Jackson in the last couple of months that sold for under $500,000.” Fay had had his eye on the house for a few years. “I drove by it all the time,” he says. “I had an idea that it could be a great house.” Fay went so far as to research who owned the home. “I had heard stories of people writing letters directly to owners asking that they notify them if they ever wanted to sell,” Fay says. “I wrote a letter to the owner, but never had the courage to send it.” Fay did submit the letter with their offer, though. “I don’t know if this is true or not, but I like to think the letter hit home with the seller. They got other offers at the asking price, but we were the lucky ones who got it.”
The two knew the home, which had been a rental for as long as anyone could remember and was quite the party house, needed work. “We planned on repairing the water-damaged area of the ceiling,” Fay says. Four days after closing the couple started in on that project themselves. But, “The next thing we knew, the whole place was gutted,” says Frappart, who has been the lead interior designer at Trauner Designs for the last five years and recently became a partner (Trauner Designs is now Trauner Fay Designs). “Looking into repairing the ceiling, we learned it would be more extensive than we had thought. Every time we thought there was an end to the demolition, we’d find a new problem that was just easier to demo than to repair.” By the time the two had finished the demolition, all that was left was the skeleton of the house.
“We weren’t looking for a remodel this big,” Fay says. Frappart adds, “We couldn’t afford a big remodel. But that’s what the house needed. So we ended up doing as much of it as we could ourselves.” The couple found out early on that town has a noise curfew: 10:00 p.m. “Ninety-five percent of the house was done between 5 and 9 p.m. and on weekends,” Frappart says.
As the couple stumbled upon problem after problem, they began to understand why they were one of the few people to bid on the house that didn’t want to scrap it. “The way this house is zoned, someone could have built an office building here,” says Frappart. “Lots of buyers wanted to have their way with it, but we saw the charm. Today it’s perfect. We call it our treasure chest.”