In November 1995, newlyweds Stewart and Sara Abercrombie moved into a 1900-square-foot house in College Town. Now 18 years, two children and four major additions later, the home is double in size.
It all started with a dishwasher.
When they bought the house, it was more than 60 years old.
“The kitchen was not small, but it was very, very dysfunctional,” Sara Abercrombie said. “It only had four linear feet of counter space. There was no dishwasher, and the water heater was in the kitchen.”
After two years, Stewart Abercrombie said he had enough of doing dishes. So he bought a standard-size dishwasher that turned out to be too deep for the shallow cabinets. What followed was a yearlong renovation that included granite countertops, cypress cabinets and stainless steel appliances.
“It was my first design project,” said Sara Abercrombie, who, with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in rehabilitation counseling, drew out the kitchen exactly the way she wanted it and presented the plans to a local contractor.
“He executed it,” said Abercrombie, who is now beginning her second year in design school at LSU.
The second project was the addition of a large family room to the right of the front entrance. At the same time, they added a master bath, closets and two back porches and made the master bedroom bigger.
In 2009, they added an outdoor kitchen and a patio between the porches.
Finally, in 2010, they added a second story by framing up a roof and sides and then tearing out the old roof and attic. They removed a closet to make way for the wide staircase that leads from the keeping room to the second story that now contains two bedrooms, two baths and a playroom for their children, Claire, 11, and Will, 14.
“It was important to me to make the upstairs look as if it had always been there,” Sara Abercrombie said.
The project was designed so that the second story sits on the home’s original exterior walls. “That was the safest way to do things,” she said.
The children were given complete freedom to decorate their rooms. Will’s room, which has a clear view of Tiger Stadium, is filled with LSU sports memorabilia and posters. Claire’s room is decorated in pink and blue with a large mural painted by one of her mother’s design classmates.
The Abercrombies lived in their home during most of the renovations. For the second-story addition, the workers sectioned off the front of the house with vinyl sheeting so the family was able to use the back, including the kitchen, for the whole time.
“I love doing these projects, but Stewart hates it,” said Sara Abercrombie, who is always thinking about the next renovation.
A carport or garage with outside storage is at the top of her list these days.
“When we moved in, we tore down the original garage that our cars didn’t fit in,”she said.
The home is full of furniture and accessories Abercrombie got from family members or picked up at flea markets and antiques shops. She loves painting projects.
An old dresser that was sunken in mud after Hurricane Katrina is within six feet of the front door. It’s the first piece of furniture you see when you enter the home.
Abercrombie got the dresser for practically nothing, painted it and added a marble top to replace the original top that was badly damaged in the hurricane.
“Every room I go in, I see something I painted or something from Stewart’s grandmother or from other family members,” she said. “These are things that make a house a home. Things that make it your own.”