One thing that Steve Martini brags about is his wife's decorating skills. And while Daisy Kessler has done a great job with color selection and finding treasures in antique shops, garage sales and on Craig's List, the couple has also displayed considerable do-it-yourself skills on their antique house.
On the other hand, Jessica and Mike Braun moved their young children into their 100-year-old Arlington Heights home without many decorating changes.
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If you goWhat: Arlington Heights Historical Society's House Walk and Tea
When: Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 10
Tickets: $30; $25 for society members. Tea is an additional $10. They are available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at the Arlington Heights Historical Museum, 110 W. Fremont St.; and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday at the Heritage Gallery, 112 W. Fremont St. Credit card purchases can be made by visiting ahmuseum.org or calling (847) 255-1225.
Etc.:The last day to register for the tea is Tuesday, June 5. However, unless sold out, house walk tickets may be purchased the day of the walk at the Heritage Gallery.
Both homes are part of the Arlington Heights Historical Society's June 10 House Walk and Tea. All five homes on the walking tour are historic this year to honor the 125th anniversary of the village's incorporation. Other homes are a 1906 Victorian complete with a turret and stained glass and two 1920s bungalows.
Guess which room both the Brauns and Martini/Kessler redid completely during their three years of homeownership? That's right, the kitchen.
And another thing the couples have in common -- they both love their old houses and the central Arlington Heights neighborhoods where they live.
Martini and Kessler added 150 square feet to what was once a galley kitchen, making it much more workable when 50 or more relatives gather for Christmas.
And while the couple has painted most rooms, sanded floors, added crown molding and other woodwork, vaulted the ceiling of a small family room off the kitchen that was once an enclosed porch, they still consider the home a work in progress.
Remaining on the to do list: Remodel the 2½ bathrooms and find an appropriate mantel for the oversized living room fireplace, not to mention sconces for the wall above it.
The Brauns did not enlarge their kitchen, but one place where they are ahead of Martini and Kessler is the fireplace in the living room. The Brauns, whose home was built in 1910, could tell from the floor boards that a fireplace had been there, so they recreated one beautifully, all with pieces that Mike found online.
The antique cherry mantel matches the home's incredible cherry woodwork, and it surrounds antique-looking tiles with wine-colored clouds on white. The fireplace does not work, so it was important to find the metal plate that Jessica hopes depicts a musician such as Mozart, and Mike says looks like Thomas Jefferson.
Martini and Kessler looked long and hard for an old house, then found this one after they had given up and remodeled the kitchen in their previous, much more contemporary house.
They did much of the work themselves and received considerable help from relatives, some of whom work in construction.
Visitors will note the many details that Kessler, who acted as general contractor, sweated over in the kitchen. The window in the pantry door features a sheaf of wheat, and a tree graces the one to the back stoop.
Kessler fell in love with the Silestone counter she bought at at Home Depot and put on the two-level island a few years ago, and that inspired features like the maple cabinets painted ivory. The island cabinets are an olive green, and that area holds one of the room's upscale appliances, a two-drawer dishwasher, flexible for when the couple eats alone or entertains.
Three colors of brick-shaped glass tiles, including olive green, make up the backsplash, and Kessler not only loves the look of the kitchen, but finds all the materials easy to clean. Kessler took the colors from nature, including the Cypress Grass from Glidden, a soft yellow paint with green tones.
A corner table was made from a large wooden box or crate that once held boots, now held up with metal legs. It's labeled Hamilton-Brown Shoe Co., a St. Louis store. In the 1870s one of its salesmen, a relative of an owner, started the company that eventually made Buster Brown shoes and sold the most children's shoes in the world, according to an article on the website of the Clayton, Mo., History Society.
It's obvious that Kessler loves oak, which she selected for the kitchen floor and the round table and chairs she found on Craig's List, but Martini is so pleased the couple decided to keep the maple flooring in the dining room.
"I just love the wood in there," he said. "You know by looking at it it's original to the house."
Martini and Kessler found they were spending a lot of time in the small room off the kitchen, even before they raised the ceiling, installed a skylight and added large travertine tiles to the floor.
Kessler doesn't like to admit it, but she found the large painting of a Spanish woman, which sets the tone of the whole room, at La-Z-Boy where the couple bought their sofa. She loves how the colors go with the rug she had already selected for the floor.
Tip to owners of old houses: The baseboard heaters in this room were removed, stripped and repainted to look new.
Bonuses in this house besides the first-floor office for Kessler and one on the stairway landing for Martini include a small room that was once the home's entry hall. The couple keeps a day bed there, and with lovely black and white toile fabric, it's great when older guests need to take a break.
In the second-floor blue and white room, Kessler made the window valances that match the covering on the bed from a second quilt when she bought a pair at a garage sale for $5.
Note on the second floor: A small lighted telephone niche that Martini is determined to stock with an old-fashioned phone some day; and transoms above just a few of the five bedrooms.
The Martini and Kessler house was built farmhouse-style circa 1897 by Herman Magers, a retired farmer, and has had five owners. With five bedrooms upstairs, the second owners offered rooms to teachers from nearby Arlington High School in the 1920s and 1930s. The first major remodeling was done in the 1940s when the third owners changed the front entrance on the corner house from one street to another. They also removed two staircases and installed the present center-house stairway. The fourth owners were Harry and Lois Knaack and their family of six, owners of the former Lynn's Hallmark store on South Dunton Avenue from 1969-2004.
The Brauns' house is an elegant foursquare with a big, welcoming porch. Inside the cherry woodwork is a striking feature, including lacy pieces stretching across the wide doorways between the entry hall and the large living room, as well as the living room and dining room.
Mike plays the upright Steger piano, a venerated brand that was made in the town of Steger southwest of Chicago.
The kitchen, with granite countertops and cabinets similar to those that Martini and Kessler chose for their remodeling job, is still small but, with the dining room and a small enclosed porch nearby, works well for the young family, said Jessica. One of the improvements that a previous owner made is a full bath reached through a pocket door from the kitchen.
The Brauns kept some of the wallpaper in the home, and Jessica loves details like the built-in china cabinet in the dining room and the very deep linen cabinet in the second-floor hallway.
Visitors always want to see where the distinctive round window on the home's front fits into the house, and the answer is a closet in one of the children's bedrooms, said Jessica, who will leave that open for tour-goers to peek.
Another charming detail is the small casement window on the landing of the staircase.
The home's backyard is huge, stretching beyond the vegetable garden where 70 tomato plants hold forth with strawberries, rhubarb, sweet corn and apple trees. The surrounding yards are not fenced, so lots of children are often playing back here, Jessica said.
The Brauns lived in an old house in Chicago and wanted to be closer to Barrington, where Mike works. They looked at a few houses in Barrington, but this was the only one they saw in Arlington Heights, and they are happy with it.
"I like the central flow," said Jessica. Her husband likes to show the old pump right outside the back door that still pulls up well water.
This property was part of the Sharringhausen farm, and a Vanasek family bought part of it and built this house in 1910. George Max Adam purchased the home in 1917, and his daughter, Gertrude M. Adam, lived here until 1991. She worked as an executive secretary to the general consul of the New York Central Railroad in downtown Chicago. In the early years her commute included walking through wheat fields between her home and the train station.