There is no more appropriate beginning to the story of 143 Oliver than this signature fairy-tale introduction. For that is what has inspired this home- a classic fairy tale (Disney version, specifically). Even in its dilapidated state, there was something whimsical about the place. I can remember the first time I walked through the house (it was in the dining room to be exact) the song zippidy-do-dah started playing in my head and I could practically feel “Mr. Bluebird on my shoulder.”
From that moment on, I knew the story/design would be light-hearted and playful- but it was the circumstances of the renovation that ended up inspiring the details of the story. You see, we purchased this property about a year ago, but because we were in the middle of renovating our Carl Stuart home and the Davis Street house we were very slow to start working on this one. Even when we finally did start demolition and construction the house continued to get neglected by only getting my leftover attention. Normally, I practically live at the reno site, but with this house on Oliver, I would give a subcontractor instructions and then abandon the job for sometimes weeks before checking back in on her. It was almost like the house was putting itself back together with no love, attention, or help from me- does that storyline remind you of anything?? Are you with me??? Can you see where I’m going here???
Oh my goodness, I’m probably a little too proud of myself for that one.
Annnnyways… once I was clear on the story I knew exactly the direction I wanted to take the design to give it the fairy tale ending it deserved. And with the house solidified as Cindedwella in my head, I no longer felt guilty about the lack of attention I was giving the house, I just told myself that while I was away she was getting plenty of help with the renovation from the neighborhood woodland creatures. Which have you seen the enormous pine trees surrounding the house? Trust me, woodland creatures a plenty!
I even found myself lovingly referring to her as my stepchild…. until the day I realized that would make me the wicked stepmother…..
The challenge in designing a spec house around a Disney fairy-tale is to capture the whimsy of the story, but with a maturity that allows the average “grown-up” to envision themselves living in the home. Basically, I didn’t want the finished product to look like a four-year-old princess party. I struggled to find this balance until inspiration struck with the simplest solution- I simply grew up the princess!
Instead of imagining the house for the young girl Walt Disney immortalized in his version of Cinderella in 1950, I pictured what she would be like now, almost 70 years later. I asked myself: What would she be like now? How would her life circumstances and experiences influence her house hunt? What would be her design style? How would she go about the renovation? Oh my goodness, I had the best time with this. In fact, over the last 6 months, if you saw me driving down the road, by myself, with a goofy smile on my face or laughing hysterically, I wasn’t talking on the phone or listening to the radio- I was telling myself stories about Cindedwella and her posse of middle age Princesses.
Now before you cast judgment on my active imagination, just remember around the same time that I was playing with aging Disney characters in my head many of you discovered the viral FB aging app and were purposely aging yourselves and posting your Senior Citizen Selfies on the internet for the world to see. Which got me thinking…… what would happen if….
Wow! Time has been kind to Cinderella, I’d never guess she was almost 70! I’m thinking she might have had a little bibbidi bobbidi done over the years…if you know what I mean…I’m just saying.
Back to Cindedwella and the story of 143 Oliver…. Let’s dive in.
Sadly, the prince passed away last year and Cindedwella felt like the castle was just too big for one person- so she left it to her oldest son and his adorable family and decided to downsize. She fell in love with the house on Oliver because it reminded her of the simple life she had had with her father before he married her stepmother. She was not turned off by it’s broken down state because she herself was the product of an extreme makeover and she wasn’t afraid of a little hard work. Plus 143 Oliver checked off most of her wish list- a front porch for morning visits with the neighboring birds and squirrels, a dining room to host dinners with her friends, 4 bedrooms so when her children or stepsisters came to visit everyone would have their own room, and an extra room she could use for a craft/sewing room. Gus and Jaq (her best mice pals) had taught her to sew years ago but since living in the palace she had not had the need or opportunity to sew for herself and she was looking forward to getting back into the hobby.
Once she purchased the house she got right to work cleaning out the furniture, knick knacks, books, and other items the old homeowners had left behind.
The work was exhausting and reminded her of her days living with her stepmother and sisters.
Once she had the place cleaned out she called in the big guns to help with construction…
Now, I know what your thinking… “those dwarfs were old to begin with, how in the world are they still working 82 years later?” Well, it turns out that whistling while you work not only improves work morale it also has anti-aging health benefits. I’m telling ya those guys worked hard! They were on the job at the crack of dawn and often did not start their heigh-ho march home until well after dark. Overall, I was very impressed with their work. I just had to keep a close eye on Dopey, nudge Sleepy to work a little harder, and stay out of Grumpy’s way- which is pretty much the norm at all my construction sites.
Once the dwarfs had the framing (including the all new pier and beam foundation and new roof), new plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems roughed-in they turned the job back over to Cindedwella to take over the design and finish out. While Cindedwella had a ton of ideas pinned to her “new house” Pinterest board she quickly became overwhelmed with all the choices she had to make. She decided to invite a few of her closest friends over to the house for encouragement and to see if they had any advice or ideas to offer on the design. I happened to be checking in at the job site just as her friends were arriving so Cindedwella invited me to stay for tea as well. I was nervous to accept her invitation because of my phobia* but OH MY GOODNESS am I glad I decided to stay!
* SIDEBAR: One thing you should know about me- I have a fear of famous people. It’s true, If I see someone famous (even just a little famous) I freeze up, my legs become cemented in place, my tongue goes limp so no intelligible words are capable of escaping my mouth, and my eyes become locked on the said famous person while my eyelashes cease to blink. (hmmm now that I think about what that must look like, I’m thinking the ol’ platitude “They are more scared of you than you are of them” given for most animal phobias might apply here too.) I’m serious, I once spotted Paige Davis of “Trading Spaces” in a hotel lobby while I was riding up an escalator. I was so transfixed that I forgot I was on the escalator until the moving stairs and stationary landing collided and I found myself on the ground. Because I am aware of this phobia I try to avoid situations where I might encounter famous people. For example, when Rory and I made our pilgrimage to Waco to visit the great Magnolia Market I made Rory go inside and make sure Chip or Joanna were nowhere in sight before I stepped inside. end sidebar
Let me set the scene for you:
Time: Early Spring around 2 in the afternoon.
Place: 143 Oliver, Conway, Arkansas
Setting: The house has just been drywalled but otherwise is empty except for the table and chairs Cindedwella brought in for the occasion. She has lovingly set the table with beautiful china, fresh flowers, and place cards for all of her friends. It’s the tea party of every preschool girls imagination come to life.
Cast- are you ready for this…..
Snow White- Cindedwella’s BFF. It’s been 82 years since she had her Disney debut. Like Cindedwella she too is widowed. While still beautiful, the aging process has hit her a little harder. She has a slight stoop in her posture (probably from years of leaning over to visit with the dwarfs) and uses a walker. Her black hair is now a shiny silver and she needs hearing aids but refuses to wear them.
Alice (from Wonderland)- It has been 68 years since she fell down the rabbit hole. She moved from the UK to New York in the late 60s and attended the original Woodstock Music Festival. She has never married and currently hosts a weekly podcast on conspiracy theories. She is one of Cindedwellas most eccentric yet loyal friends.
Jasmine- Cindedwella first met Jasmin 27 years ago when she was inducted into the Disney Princess club. They bonded over the trials they both experienced marrying men from different socioeconomic classes. She helped Princess Jasmin better understand the challenges Alladdin might face going from street peasant to royalty. Cindedwella adores Jasmine and has been trying to think of a gentle way to suggest she give up the crop tops due to her middle age muffin top without hurting her feelings.
Aurora: This princess is almost unrecognizable from the sleeping beauty she was 60 years ago. Poor thing, ever since Prince Phillip woke her up from the hexed slumber she has suffered from all sorts of sleep disorders including insomnia, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, and as of last year- sleep apnea. The years of sleep deprivation have resulted in deep bags under her eyes, weight gain, hair loss, and severe anxiety. Because of this she rarely leaves the palace.
Anna- Ok, to be honest, none of the older princesses can truly relate to this millennial, but Cindedwella thought it might be nice to get a fresh, young perspective on the design of her house so she invited both Anna and Elsa to the tea. Elsa was unable to make it because she was meeting with the IOC (International Olympic Games Commission) to make a formal bid for the Kingdom of Arendelle to host the 2026 Winter Games.
I’m going to skip the part where they first come in and Cindedwella attempts to introduce me to her fabled friends. Let’s just say drool was involved and while I heard noises coming out of my mouth, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t words. I could just die thinking about it. I’m pretty sure I overheard Alice asking Cindedwella if she was sure I was qualified to oversee the renovation. Luckily the awkwardness was short-lived because Cindedwella offered to take the girls on a quick tour of the home before they sat down to tea. While they were walking thru the house I positioned myself in a corner where I could just sit and watch their encounter- not creepy at all.
Once Cindedwella had given them a tour and explained the layout of the home they sat down at the dining room table for tea. Here is a little snip-it of their conversation:
Cindedwella: Well ladies, what do you think?
All the princesses exchange nervous looks.
Jasmine: struggling to sound enthusiastic Umm, I’m sure it’s going to be great Cindy.
Aurora: I can see that the place has plenty of space for you but gosh Cindy, there is a ton to do- it makes me tired just thinking about it. How do you even know where to start? I’m nervous you are in over your head.
Anna: Im so excited for you! It will be like your living out your own episode of fixer-upper. What an experience! You should totally document the progress on social media!
Cindedwella: laughing Thank you Anna, but I don’t even have a Facebook account.
Jasmine: I didn’t want to say anything, but I agree. I just can’t see you living in a brown house.
Cindedwella: Oh I’ve got plans for the outside. I’m replacing all the broken panes in the windows; beefing up the front columns, putting in a new front door and of course I will be painting over the brown siding. I wanted to replace the vinyl siding with new Hardie Board siding but there were so many surprises uncovered during demolition that I just didn’t have the budget to replace it. And, unfortunately, home improvements are not covered under my Fairy Godmother’s bibbidi bobbidi policy.
Anna: Oh girl, you gotta let it go! That vinyl siding is going to paint up beautiful.
Jasmine: What a great idea! Now your getting me excited about this project. By the way, where is Poky? I miss seeing her.
Aurora: Well I’m neither fresh nor current but I can tell you that florals never go out of style.
Snow White: You can’t go wrong with white. It’s the fairest color of them all and makes a great neutral backdrop for colorful accessories.
Jasmine: What about blues Cindy? You have always loved the color blue.
Aurora: Well, the most important thing to consider is a big, comfy, inviting, beautiful bed with pretty curtains to help block out the sun. she lets out a big yawn.
Jasmine: And lots of rugs throughout the house. I’m telling ya, a good rug can transport your home into a whole new world.
Alice: A clock. I know that might sound silly but too many people neglect a good clock in their decor. Believe me it’s the key to never being rushed or late to an important date.
Cindedwella: obviously disappointed Oh well, the pool was a fun idea; but Anna I like your idea for art too. Any other ideas?
Snow White: Don’t forget about Mirrors. Mirrors on the Wall make quite a statement.
Cindedwella: Oh Ladies, I knew I could count on you. Those are all super ideas. You have helped me so much. I truly treasure your friendship and I can’t wait to have you back over once the renovation is complete.
Wow! That was incredible. I will never forget that day. Cindedwella took each suggestion to heart and has been hard at work finishing up the renovation ever since. She is so close to wrapping this project up and let me just tell you- it is charming! Every time I step inside I can’t help but smile. It will be the perfect home in which to live happily ever after.
Would you like to see how this story played out in real life? Cindedwella’s Open House will be Sunday, September 15th, 2019 from 2-4pm. All are welcome. Watch Storybook Renovation’s Facebook and Instagram for more information about this event. House hunting? Be on the lookout for this home’s Zillow posting in the coming days.