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Photo by Laura Inlow
Cathy and Rich Coffman are the owners of an extensively remodeled home on Tibbitt Street in North Alton.
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Photo by Laura Inlow
The home's exterior.
ALTON — Cathy Coffman has spent most of her life in the same house in North Alton, and over the past decade, she and her husband, Rich, have worked hard to make it their “new/old” home.
The now-three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath house, located on two lots on Tibbitt Street, started out much smaller, and there were far fewer neighbors than there are today.
Originally built in the 1800s, Cathy’s father, Charles, bought the house in 1927, but rented it out to another family during the Depression. At that time, he and Cathy’s mother, Florence, along with their children, lived with Charles’ brother Cas Horn and his wife, Eula, in Alton. Together, they ran Horn & Horn, a local grocery store.
“It was hard times then,” Rich said.
In 1940, they moved into the home themselves. Cathy, now 64, lived there from the time of her birth in 1950 to the time she was first married at age 20, then bought the house from her mother and moved back at age 40.
In 1998, Cathy met Rich Coffman. Rich was self-employed but had always worked in construction. He tried to convince her to let him build her a new house, but she wasn’t into the idea.
“Then it switched to what could we do to the house,” Rich said.
After the war, Charles Horn had built a sun porch onto the south end of the home, with a room above it. On the northeast end of the home, sat a car port. He tinkered with rooms throughout the house. In the kitchen, he built the cabinets 6 inches lower than usual, to accommodate his wife’s height, and whenever he painted in the home, he preferred to use the color green, Cathy remembers fondly.
When the Coffmans decided to remodel, they did so with the intention of keeping the old home’s look and feel mostly intact.
They tore down the carport, and instead built a carriage house with a connection to the house they call “the bridge.” Rich’s office sits above it.
They tore off the old roof to vault and raise the pitch; they transformed an upstairs space into a hallway, laundry room and a master suite, and they converted two former living rooms into a dining room and a foyer with a half bath, respectively.
During those renovations, the couple uncovered a few surprises. When building in the yard, they uncovered a child’s headstone dated 1897, which remains a mystery today. But it wasn’t the last surprise.
“At one point, we took the roof off and were throwing stuff out of the attic, when we found a duffel bag full of letters dad and mom wrote to each other during the war,” Cathy said, emotionally.
“Nobody knew it was up there,” Rich said.
Had her mother known, Cathy added, she probably would have discarded the letters long before anyone else had the chance to see them.
On the outside of the house, aside from the roof, the Coffmans insulated and re-sided the main structure to match the new carriage house. From there, they continued remodeling, room by room.
In the kitchen, they uncovered clear maple flooring, which had been covered by layers of linoleum over the years. After cleaning, sanding and refinishing the wood, it looked like brand new, they said.
The sun porch, located just off the kitchen, became the Coffmans’ new living room and favorite space in the house. Lined by windows on two sides, the natural light pours right in, adding to the home’s open feel.
“I love this room. There’s so much light,” Cathy said.
The room features a brick fireplace, flanked on both sides by built-in shelves with recessed lighting. Photos of loved ones adorn the shelves, as well as Rich’s baseball collectibles and a doll that once belonged to Cathy’s mother, only one of a number of family heirlooms that can be found throughout the home. The doll sits next to a photo of Florence at age 4, and is dressed just like her owner in the photo.
It’s a comfortable space where the couple enjoys entertaining guests.
Just off the east end of the room is a door to the back yard, where Rich and Cathy were married just a decade ago in 2004, and a porch where Rich enjoys grilling throughout the year.
Some of the most dramatic changes include the transformation of one of the home’s former living rooms into a dining room, and another into a foyer and half bath that looks like they’ve always been there, explained Rich.
The dining room, once the “fancy” living room, is decorated in warm tones, red and tan, and is a place where the family gets together on holidays. The room used to contain the home’s front door, which has since been moved to another space. Displayed in a large china cabinet are several family heirlooms, including six glasses Cathy’s great-great-grandmother brought to the United States from Ireland during the potato famine.
In the foyer, where the new front door is located, sit two chairs that once belonged to her grandmother.
From the foyer, stairs lead to the home’s second floor. The first room on the left was Cathy’s bedroom growing up. Although she came from a large family, she was the youngest of six and was born 11 years after her next older brother. A rocking chair that once belonged to her grandmother sits in the room, which is now a place for guests to stay.
Next door to the guest room is the former main bathroom, which has been expanded and redecorated over the years. Stripes on the wall closely resemble wallpaper, but actually are professionally painted.
Just outside of those two rooms, old wood trim blends seamlessly into new wood trim, as one walks down the hallway toward the master suite. It’s hard to tell where the old and the new converge in that space, Rich said.
In the hallway sits more furniture that belonged to Cathy when she was a child, and a laundry room across the hall used to be a part of a small bedroom. At the end of the hall, directly above the living room, sits the couple’s master suite.
The ceiling in the master suite is vaulted and the centerpiece of the room is a triple window, sans curtains, that allows sunlight on the south end of the home to fill the room, making it feel light and calm. The flooring in the room is also original maple, but a different grain than can be seen in the kitchen.
Down a small hallway in the suite is a large walk-in closet and, a bit further down, a full master bath, complete with shower, soaking tub and a full vanity. The toilet is set off into a small space that was once a closet.
Even outside, the Coffmans have reused windows and bricks from the old home. They’ve even kept up an azalea that was on the property when the Horns lived there.
“We protect stuff like that that’s always been there,” Rich said.
“It still feels like the home I grew up in,” Cathy said. “That was pretty important all the way through (the remodel), incorporating the old with the new.”
When Rich would come up with a design idea, he would work up a model and Cathy would approve it or they would rework it. Around 2008, they finished most of the work on the home and held a party to celebrate.
“People are always saying ‘your mom and dad would love this,’” Cathy said, adding that she feels like they do. “Now, we have our new/old house.”