Lexington, KY – When Valerie Brotherton was tapped as the construction and project manager for the restoration of the Harry S. Truman Little White House (the winter vacation home for the 33rd President of the United States in Key West, Fla.), she didn’t know she would be putting the valuable knowledge she gained from that experience to use later in her life when she decided to completely rehabilitate a decrepit Victorian-style home on Clay Avenue.
“The only difference was, because this was a presidential home, we had all of the documentation on how things really were. I mean down to the wallpaper,” Brotherton said. “But it was in rack and ruin. We had to totally redo everything, because it’s a museum now.”
Brotherton didn’t have any sort of blueprint to work from when she started the rehabilitation project on Clay Avenue over seven years ago, but her proclivity for space design and for envisioning a project’s final appearance were in full swing when her 1910 residence was gutted and refashioned over an 18-month construction process.
“I looked at it, and I knew it had potential. I knew what it was going to look like. Some people have no idea what something is going to look like until it’s completely finished,” Brotherton said. “The location was great and I was up for it. I worked like a crazy person to get it done.”
Aside from stripping a hundred years worth of paint and varnish off the stairs and railings, demolishing walls for a heating and cooling system, as well as new wiring and plumbing, and refinishing the heart of pine wood floors that run throughout the majority of the home, a sizable addition was constructed in the rear of the home, which now consists of a new kitchen and adjacent eating area on the first floor, and an office, dressing room and new master bath on the second. The bricks which were removed from the back of the house in order to build the addition were refashioned as a back patio.
The kitchen was fitted with new appliances, a brick floor and a delicate stained glass window near the eating area. Instead of opting for costly granite countertops, Brotherton decided to have some walnut she already owned fitted on the counters and new island. She imported a cabinet maker from Somerset (which was where she was living while work was being completed) to install the dark, modern cabinets of her own design; given the cabinets’ unique design, Brotherton said the older gentleman was skeptical during the process until the final product was complete.
Upstairs in the master bedroom, now a master suite, a bright, open dressing room and office combination connects the new master bath with the crisp sleeping area. The bathroom was fitted with a number of comfort-affording amenities, such as heated floors and bench seating in the large tile shower and steam room.
The dressing room, with its ample storage space, accommodates a nagging characteristic of older homes.
“In old houses, of course, there aren’t any closets because everybody had wardrobes,” Brotherton said.
Throughout the entire home, Brotherton’s tastes, and personality, are on display. Each room seems to be peppered with trinkets, both large (as is the case of the imposing Asian statues in the living room and the Chinese garden door in the master bedroom) and small, from her travels around the world. And her artwork, which utilizes various offerings from beaches and oceans, harkens to the times she lived in Hawaii and Key West. As a designer, Brotherton makes her services available to anyone wishing to restore or renovate their home; she can be contacted at (267) 563-0684 or email@example.com.
For Brotherton, the home’s location directly across the street from Woodland Park’s baseball field was reason enough to endure the efforts it took to meld the house into the vision she had for it, and adds another layer of appeal.
“It’s really kind of interesting, if you’re on your porch at night and people are milling about and you hear the crack of the bat –
it’s very nostalgic,” Brotherton said.