Jim and Maria White spent nearly two decades in Louisville before moving for a few years to Washington D.C. When they decided to come back to the Bluegrass State in 2019, they began looking for homes in a specific neighborhood.
“We always lived in the St. Matthews area,” Maria said. “We (liked it), but we loved Cherokee Park … So, when we came back to Louisville after three years in D.C., we knew exactly what we wanted.”
She explains that walkability was key — the couple wanted to be able to get to coffee shops, restaurants, and of course, Cherokee Park, on foot. While in the middle of their home search, the colonial-style house they now call home went on the market.
A fixer-upper find
“It was the ugliest house in the (area) by a long shot,” Maria said. “It was hideous. Nothing had been done (to it) since 1976 when it was first built. It was neglected.”
Despite its condition, the Whites were convinced that the colonial-style house could be salvaged. They’d remodeled several of their previous residences, so they were confident that with a little love and some major updates, it could be their next home.
“Luckily, our daughter and son-in-law who live in San Francisco were here that weekend,” Maria said. “They also have a very good nose for houses, so (we had them) come over (to see it) — and they said yes, it (could) be done. So, we just made an offer and (went through some) normal negotiation, and we bought it.”
Ready to renovate
Jim and Maria wanted to transform the house into a livable, open, and inviting space that brought the outdoors in and included an attached garage, outdoor seating area, and centrally located kitchen. What they didn’t have a clear vision for, however, was the façade.
“The house from the outside looked like Ponderosa-meets-Tudor,” Jim said with a laugh.
Maria agreed. Trying to determine what the exterior would look like was the biggest challenge, she said.
“When we contacted Greg Fickle (of Barry Wooley Designs),” she recalled, “we asked (what he envisioned for the outside). He showed us a picture and we were like, ‘yes, you get it.’ It was like he had read our minds without us not even knowing what we wanted.”
She adds that the goal was to have their 1970s home’s exterior blend in with other houses in the neighborhood.
“We don’t want it to be a house that you notice a mile away … We want it to be understated, but when people actually get (close enough) to notice it, we want it to be pleasant; not flashy, not overbearing, (and) not modern, either. The idea was to make it look like an updated, renovated house that used to be a colonial built in the 1930s.”
Intimate and admirable artwork
After about a year of planning and renovating, Jim and Maria were able to truly enjoy their new home and adorn the interior space with meaningful pieces of artwork.
“Jim has an art background (but) he never painted after he graduated from school,” Maria said. “One day, I said, ‘You need to paint — you’re too good.’ And he started to paint again.”
One of his oil paintings hangs near a window in the dining room; it’s based on a photograph of Maria relaxing on a sofa with a cup of coffee in hand.
“We had rented a house for the weekend and my wife was just sitting on the couch in her pajamas, and I just thought the photograph captured her depth,” Jim said. “I mean, my wife is very smart — she puts me to shame, (and) I thought it just caught her essence as a deep, thoughtful person. So, that’s what I thought I would paint.”
Jim has also depicted other significant people and places in his paintings, such as Maria’s late father in Barcelona, where she’s from.
“A lot of these paintings have so much meaning to me, but that one is probably the most special,” Maria said.
She adds that they enjoy their house and everything in it very much — but they’re especially pleased with its location.
“We do exactly what we thought we would do: we walk to the farmer’s market, we walk to get coffee … we walk Cherokee Park every day after work, (and) we worked hard at bringing that outside inside. We live at the edge of Cherokee Park surrounded by beautiful old trees and hills, and now we can enjoy that view from every room in the house.”
nuts & bolts
Owners: Jim and Maria White. Jim is a creative director and Maria is an interpreter/translator.
Home: This is a 4-bed, 2-and-a-half bath, 3,305-square-foot, colonial home in the Bonnycastle area of Louisville’s Highlands neighborhood that was built in 1976.
Distinctive elements: Completely remodeled with conveniences of a new home while preserving exterior that fits into a neighborhood of older houses; new roof, façade, and lighting; new, open floorplan; attached two-car garage; first-floor laundry room with penny tile flooring; newly added windows to allow in natural light; open foyer; spacious private patio with dining and seating areas off the family room; new doors, windows, white oak flooring, trim, and molding throughout; open gourmet kitchen includes quartz countertops with waterfall island, all new appliances, custom cabinets, TV niche, and breakfast room with chevron tile pattern floors; redesigned master suite includes two walk-in closets, a fireplace, and a bathroom with water closet; formal living room with built-in bookcases and large picture window.
Applause! Applause!Louisville Window Company, Louisville Blinds and Drapery, Louisville Countertops LLC, Carpet Specialists, Elevations at K & I, Peer Electric, and DFH heating and cooling. Jim and Maria White would also like to thank their design/remodeling team: Greg Fickle, Barry Wooley, and Jude Loew; their daughter Tessa Bernhardt and son-in-law Jonathan Bernhardt for sharing their vision and enthusiasm for the house’s potential; and their son Patrick White for introducing them to his friend Logan Ormerod, who became their realtor.