'Rehab Addict' host Nicole Curtis transforms local house

This spring, viewers of “Rehab Addict” have been watching host Nicole Curtis restore this 1,264-square-foot house, which was built in 1889 on the East Side of St. Paul.

The front of the restored 381 Case Ave. house, with the woodwork on the front porch intact, is shown on a sunny day. (photo courtesy of DIY Network.)

In the 381 Case Avenue home, the ‘Rehab Addict’ team tackled ceiling and wall damage, a worn floor and an original fireplace mantel and pocket door in need of restoration. (photos courtesy of Ariel Photography)

The kitchen needed extensive work on the ceiling and floors, as well as a better-organized workspace. Nicole Curtis moved the built-in cabinet from a facing wall to a spot over the sink and added more counter space for modern cooks. (photos courtesy of Ariel Photography)

Relocating a virtual traffic jam of doors and exposing more of the chimney brickwork set the stage for a spacious, serene bedroom. (photos courtesy of Ariel Photography)

An unused nook in the dining room, just left, becomes a perfect place to display a period buffet, and repaired windows let the light shine in.(photos courtesy of Ariel Photography)

One East Side home full of memories gets brought back to life, soul intact

Like many older homes around the east metro area, the one at 381 Case Ave. in St. Paul had fallen into decay.

What was once the warm family home of Lois Palmer, 88, was now on the brink of demolition.

Palmer moved into the house with her husband in the 1950s, and they raised their children there.

In love with the home and her East Side neighborhood, she stayed there for 58 years, well into old age.

In recent years Palmer was living alone. Supported by her Social Security income, Palmer says she had trouble keeping up with repairs, and the home’s condition slowly deteriorated.

When she grew ill during a trip to the Dominican Republic, hanging onto the house came into question.

With her heart condition, Palmer was having difficulty climbing the stairs to the only bathroom located on the second story.

Faced with the reality of a tough situation, it was clear that she had to move.

“I didn’t have a choice,” Palmer says. Saying goodbye was hard for her, even though the house was clearly in distress.

“It was in horrible condition,” says Palmer’s daughter Valerie Danielson, 58, who grew up in the home.

‘It needed everything’

The home, built in 1889, sounded like something of a disaster area based on a September 2012 Truth-In-Housing report -- broken windows, cracking drywall, stained and water-damaged ceilings, warped and dingy wood floors, mismatched doors, and broken light fixtures.

It was truly in need of some rehabilitation.

“The house was in shambles,” Danielson says. “It needed a new furnace... it needed everything.”

So the family decided they needed to sell it.

With the ruinous state of the house, it needed someone with a soft spot for old homes to pick it up.

It was at this point that Nicole Curtis, the host of the DIY Network show “Rehab Addict,” came along.

Recapturing the charm

Looking for her next project, Curtis, a veteran home restorer and a Keller Williams real-estate agent, immediately saw the house’s potential.

So she purchased the home in the fall of 2012 with the idea of featuring it on her popular cable TV show.

“Rehab Addict” showcases Curtis’ zeal for restoring homes considered to be historical gems. She seeks to portray how homes can be saved and restored and still respect their integrity and character, says Brandii Toby of the DIY Network and HGTV.

And so, over the next few months, she and a skeletal crew did just that -- she transformed the house on Case Avenue, with the goal of recapturing the original charm and soul of the design.

The project was “a major overhaul of cosmetic work,” says Steven Lerner, DIY Network’s vice president of programming.

Curtis and her crew refinished floors, repaired windows and replaced drywall. They rearranged the kitchen, keeping a built-in, original cabinet and exposing some brickwork.

They scraped paint off the original wood trim and restained it. They repainted the walls. They installed a new furnace and overhauled the bathroom.

And they documented the process, which was featured in five “Rehab Addict” episodes this spring.

“It is very rare to find someone with the skill set and the passion that Nicole Curtis possesses,” Lerner says.

“Nicole has quickly become an icon for the historic restoration movement across the country, and HGTV and DIY Network are so very proud to follow her true life story as she saves American history one home at a time,” Lerner says.

After the restoration was completed, Palmer and Danielson got a tour of the place.

“I was really satisfied,” Palmer says. “It looked beautiful inside.”

Her only quibble was that Curtis removed the carpeting from the stairs and exposed the wood planks.

Danielson was also pleased with the final results.

“I was thrilled that the right person came along,” she says, someone who knew how to “treat it with tenderness, and capture the grandeur” of the original architecture.

New view of neighborhood

Seanne Thomas, broker at the East Side Neighborhood Development Company’s real-estate brokerage, was also excited about Curtis’ achievement with the Case Avenue home.

“I think it has a positive impact on the neighborhood,” Thomas says. “It’s great to see a home like that restored back to its original glory.”

She says she doesn’t see a lot of developers who restore homes to their original condition.

“Any other Joe Schmo would have... turned up a chintzy product without the grandeur of the original architectural concept,” she says. “(Curtis’) model is unique. I love her work.”

Curtis’ project could be a bellwether for the East Side housing market. Many folks appear to be finding hidden gems that need a little TLC.

Thomas said that average home sales for the area were around $70,000 for 2012. This year, however, the average sale is more like $90,000.

“We’re seeing some extremely aggressive growth,” she says. “Market values are recovering.”

The Case Avenue house was put on the market in March and was listed at $135,000. Curtis has accepted a bid and the sale is pending.

The television show, “Rehab Addict” began featuring the house with a March 14 episode. The final episode, which reveals the polished and crisp-looking finished product, will air on DIY Network this Thursday, April 11, at 10 p.m.

For more information on the 381 Case Ave. house, and additional pictures, visit the “Rehab Addict” Facebook page.

Patrick Larkin can be reached at eastside@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7816.

Above, view a clip of the Case Avenue episode of 'Rehab Addict'. Video courtesy of DIY Network

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