Work in progress

The home of Karrie Elter

When Karrie Elter first drove past the house she now calls home, she wasn’t too impressed. 

“No,” she told her real estate agent.  

At the real estate agent’s urging, she took a look inside. That’s when she began to see the three-bedroom, two-bath, 103-year-old house not for what it was, but what it could be.

“I fell in love with the high ceilings, the original trim, molding and cabinets,” she said. “I saw the potential.”

For Karrie Elter, this was not an assessment through rose-colored glasses. Even more clearly than the house’s potential, she saw the work that would be needed. She saw all the way to the ground below, through the hole in one of the bedroom floors. She saw through cracked windows that would have to be replaced in order for her to qualify for her FHA loan. She shuddered at the sight of the awful paint color and the trim and front door with layer after layer of paint and caulk.

She understood the work that would be required and what was needed to get it done.

“I’m not scared of a saw,” she said. 

Currently she has a few of these and other tools stored in her front bedroom tool closet. 

Elter is a weekend warrior with a full-time job, a handywoman not afraid of hard work.

“My brother came and helped out,” she said. “He asked me if I ever sit down.” 

She seldom watches TV, plans her work and relies on lists.

“It gives me a great sense of satisfaction to scratch something off my list,” she said. 

She calls the house a work in progress.

“I still have a lot left to do,” she said.

Her wall color is Sherwin-Williams coastal gray. On the bright summer afternoon of the interview, it looked more blue than gray. It is the perfect backdrop for the white trim and décor.

“Oh, I didn’t buy those things that way,” she said. “I put a coat or two of white paint on things I already had.” 

She is using many of her furnishings from a previous house. She made her mantle piece. She took down the front door and cleaned a little at a time until she brought it all the way down to the original wood. 

“That took a couple of months,” she said. “The same labor went into the trim work.”

The master bath has been completed. It adjoins the master bedroom and a second bedroom that she has transformed into the perfect closet. Clothing and accessories are organized and visible. 

In the large kitchen, she has completed the enclosure for her washer and dryer and painted some of her cabinets.

“I would rather do my own work than pay someone she said.”

She is a bargain hunter. She has a genuine wood door with a glass inset that she picked up for $25, and she said the couple of new pulls she had to buy for the antique 5-drawer chest in the bathroom cost more than the chest. 

“I had to do some work on it,” she said. “You can find a Youtube to show you how to do just about anything.”

She loves doing yard work and secretly nurtures a desire to outdo her neighbor’s efforts. She was working in the yard one day when Pete Pauly stopped by. 

“I haven’t seen this place look this good in a long time,” he told her. 

He grew up in the house and told her that his mother, Rosemary Kuttner Pauley was born in the front bedroom. He was there when Audrey hit in 1957. Family lived on the next street and took on water. The Pauley house did not, so it filled fast with people, according to Pauley. 

What makes her house a home? Karrie Elter didn’t say anything about the work she’s put into it.  She appreciates her neighbors and a neighborhood that’s gaining popularity for its proximity to everything. 

To answer the question, she grabbed two photos, one of her two-year-old granddaughter and the other of her two-year-old grandson. Both her daughters had children at the same time.  

“I love it that my grandbabies love coming to Nana’s house,” she said. 

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