Work in progress

By Tilly Dillehay, Editor

March 26, 2014

When Jesse and Katie Waldman bought their house in October of 2013, they knew it was going to need some work.

The 3,700 square foot home was constructed in 2011 around a log cabin built in 1860. It was a project of love for the previous owner. Years had been spent moving the logs from the old cabin location on the same property, reconstructing them, and then building a large open-plan structure onto that. It was a beautiful concept that, unfortunately, the woman was unable to complete herself.

She put the unfinished house up for sale in 2013. By the time the Waldmans put their offer in, the home’s price had been slashed and slashed again.

They are now living in the house, and about halfway through the process of home improvement. Jesse is an accountant, so as soon as the first stage was complete and the family moved in on December 31, he disappeared into the flurry of tax season, planning to reemerge in the spring and get things finished.

Well, spring is here.

Jesse and Katie have four boys romping around the place now—Jack (6), Josiah (4), Jude (3), and Joseph (20 months)—and Katie is expecting a fifth child in September. They’ll use the room. Katie said that they hope to make this their “forever home,” and that she is especially excited about her boys growing up in such an adventuresome place.

According to Katie, the property, which is on Gaulden Hollow Road in Lafayette, has belonged to the Seagraves family for many years. The woman who purchased the property and made it into a project is related to the Seagraves, and actually held a Seagraves/Gaulden family reunion in the house last year. Katie said she hopes the family knows that they love and respect the property, and plan to raise a family here.

“The first thing we did, the weekend we purchased the house, was plant a bunch of trees,” said Katie. “We planted oaks and maples and some fun things, like figs and dogwoods, and we planted lots of blueberry bushes. And a Ginko Beloba tree for fun. Have you ever seen a Ginko Beloba tree? They’re beautiful. Their feathers are like a fan. They look like a lady’s fan, and they turn bright yellow. It’s an herb too. But we’re such sort of reminiscent people…when Jesse and I were dating, they had Ginko Belobas all over the TN Tech campus. So we planted one of those in honor of that…”

The house, which sits on twenty acres, also had water in the crawlspace, and a grading problem that brought rainwater back in towards the house. So they had to fix that right away.

The next urgent issue was to put flooring in. The floors were still just exposed plywood when they bought the house, so they selected a wide-plank red oak and installed it themselves with the help of family and friends. “It’s called ‘cabin grade’; that’s why it has all the knots,” said Katie. “We thought it would go well with kind of the rustic look of the house.”

The old cabin beams, which make up some interior and exterior walls, had not been chinked yet, either. You could stand in the front bedrooms, Katie said, and feel wind and see quite a bit of sunlight. So they had to shoot some foam insulation into those cracks as a temporary fix, and will later complete the chinking.

They installed a wood burning stove in the living room. A large slab of imported Brazilian hardwood was purchased from “a guy down towards Memphis,” and was originally going to be used to set up the stove. Instead, it’s been turned into a gorgeous twelve by six foot irregular coffee table, proportionate in scale to the living room. (The boys were climbing all over it throughout our interview, and you could see they weren’t going to make a dent.)

There are several interesting antique pieces nearby that Katie points out, which seem right at home against the log backdrop. These include a large spinning wheel and a 4,000-pound square grand piano, made in Chicago in the early 1900s and left here by the previous owner.

So what’s left to do?

The house is perfectly livable, but they’ve got major projects in front of them this spring, says Katie. They’ll need to bleach and stain all of the exterior siding and decks. There’s a decent amount of trimming out to do, and the large posts that hold the living room up are not finished out at the top. They’re still anchored by plywood braces, so wrought iron braces will need to be installed.

In the next few weeks, a bulldozer will be coming in and re-grading the yard, as well as marking out the spot where a circular driveway is going to be. Later, they’ll get the chinking done, and maybe, in the more distant future, upscale the kitchen.

Who knows? Maybe by the time the seventh little Waldman shows up in September, he or she will find themselves in a finished home.