Deborah Scarborough and her mother Beezie Moore stage homes for sale and fix up vacation rentals through their company Improve to Move. Five years ago, they embarked upon one of their most ambitious projects: the restoration of Scarborough’s own home, an 1889 colonial farmhouse in Paso Robles.
Named the “Doc Kennedy House” after its original owner, the two-story, 2,545-square-foot home was added onto and remodeled twice: in 1910, and again in 1934. Scarborough was grateful that these remodels didn’t destroy its character, “so the house was still true to its history,” she said. “It was solidly built and only needed cosmetic things plus repairs.”
When she bought the house in 2011, her goal was to preserve the home and not to modernize it.
The footprint and floor plan remain the same, but the women revamped nearly every surface with materials appropriate to the period and architectural style of the home. They performed almost all the work themselves over four years, with the help of a few willing family members and friends. They only resorted to professional help for “plumbing or electrical, or (jobs that) required a power saw,” said Scarborough.
She started by spending time at the Paso Robles Main Street offices, studying historical images of the house. From those, the team designed a replacement for the front porch, which was damaged by the 2003 San Simeon earthquake. Light fixtures were a random mix dating from the 1940s to the 1970s. Scarborough replaced them with refurbished antique and vintage ones, including two oil lamps wired for electricity.
Scarborough and Moore removed fussy trim that had been added to make the home seem Victorian. They replaced bathroom fixtures with ones that matched the era of the home.
As for woodwork, most of it was original to the home, but it had been “slathered with some sort of shiny shellac long ago and it was yellowed,” Scarborough said. Faced with either painting, or having the wood stripped — a long, costly process — she opted to coat trim in a creamy white paint, leaving doors and window frames unpainted. “I know some would be horrified,” she said, “but this proved to be the right thing as the house seemed dark before and is now light, bright and inviting.”
The duo estimates they used around 40 gallons of paint inside and outside the house. Interior walls were previously coated in peeling, Victorian-style wallpaper. The new palette for walls includes farmhouse-appropriate hues such as dark gray, blue and red.
Scarborough decorated in an updated traditional style, mixing old with new and tying it all together with a unified color palette. She found honored places for cherished furnishings, including pieces that have been in her family for several generations. One of her favorites is a six-sided entry table that sat in her great-great-grandfather’s home in Brookline, Massachusetts.
The restoration process was long and filled with roadblocks and headaches.
For instance, when Scarborough and her mother tackled wallpaper removal, they did so with confidence, having taken on the task numerous times in the past. But they soon realized that the paper was extremely old, and three layers deep in some rooms. It peeled off in tiny pieces, requiring both steaming and sanding to complete the job. “There was much cursing,” she recalled. Removing the paper took three years, and required the additional help of a niece.
For four years, Scarborough lived among the dust and debris of her home restoration. But, she said, “I wouldn’t have done it any other way. It is unbelievably gratifying and rewarding. I walk through this house and I can’t believe that it’s mine.”
If you go: May 7 AAUW Home Tour
Deborah Scarborough’s home is one of four on this year’s Paso Robles American Association of University Women (AAUW) Home Tour.
The tour will be held from noon to 4 p.m. on May 7 at homes in and around Paso Robles. Tickets are $25 and include both the tour and refreshments. They may be purchased at The Blenders in Paso Robles, from any AAUW member, or by calling Bev Howe at (805) 239-1817.
Other homes on the tour:
- The Zenobios home is located in a tranquil setting just west of Paso Robles. It is dubbed “The Granite Ranch” because of its striking use of many different types of granite.
- The contemporary Klosterman home features modern fixtures, Carrara marble, and distinctive décor that expresses the homeowner’s love of fashion and travel.
- Villa Vetta is a grand Tuscan-style home. It was primarily designed by its owners, Tom and Rebecca Allen, who were inspired by their experiences living in Turin, Italy.