Old House, New Life – Inventing the Next Chapter for the Lawrence Homestead

At LandVest, we love asking our sellers about their origin stories with their properties. It isn’t often that we have a chance to tell the story from the beginning. With the Lawrence Homestead , we are fortunate to have the chance to sit down with Lisa Hicks  who, with her husband, children and dogs, are all in on a complete renovation of this spectacular grand dame.

Lawrence homestead, exterior 2019
The Lawrence Homestead, 2019

Lisa, this isn’t your first rodeo with renovating an old house. How did you and Ken get started?

I guess you could say we always had it in us. Ken and I are not known for taking the traditional path in our life decisions and when we purchased our first home (built in the late 1700s), everyone thought we were getting in over our heads. True to form, we moved forward and created my favorite home to date. Every home we’ve ever lived in has brought out our love for restoration and design just a little bit more.

It’s important to find a career that you love and one that inspires and motivates you. How lucky we are to have turned our passion into one of the things we do professionally through Lisa Hicks Interiors. That’s what makes it so easy: It works for our family, too. And it teaches our children an important life lesson. To take care of things and to find value and beauty in everything around us, and lastly, to leave everything around us a little bit nicer than we found it.

Lawrence homestead, exterior 1881
The Lawrence Homestead, 1881

The conventional wisdom is that young families don’t want old things anymore. Do you think that’s true?

At my very core, no!  We live in a world full of instant gratification and this has seemingly trickled into how many families purchase their homes.  There is such a misconception about old homes. Often we hear, “But it’s old; it’s too much work,” when the reality is that, yes, it IS old, but old, to us, translates to built well, built with thought and built with incredible attention to detail, which is something not common in new builds.

Based on the reaction people have had to our restored homes we believe that there is still great interest from buyers for historic homes. However, today’s buyers typically have less interest in undergoing extensive renovations to create a more open layout and to install the modern amenities that they need.  After watching our local market for many years, we noticed that historic homes would typically sit and then undergo several price changes while newer builds would often sell quickly and closer to their listing price, even if the newer builds were in less desirable locations or had less character.  We saw this as an opportunity for Lisa Hicks Interiors and, therefore, began doing all the heavy lifting ourselves to bring a beautiful vision to our historic homes, while making sure to maintain their character and history, so that a prospective buyer feels right at home right away!  And now we are once again taking on an historic restoration for our primary residence, which is definitely our biggest project to date!

Ken and I are so happy our children are growing up in old historic homes. Sure, we make the improvements to allow for more modern systems and technology that a modern family desires but, in every house we’ve owned, our kids have grown to love and embrace the beauty and uniqueness in the “old”! We’ve also been imparting the wisdom that the old honors and respects those that came before us; their stories and their hearts live within the walls. And, yes, the walls may change slightly, but the true essence and core beauty in each house always remains.  Our kids are fully engaged in picking their bedrooms and designing their new spaces at 44 Farmers Row, but all changes are done with a nod to and with an acknowledgement of those who have come before us.

Lawrence homestead

Are we moving to a new phase where authenticity and sense of place matter in a generic big box world?

Yes!! Fewer and fewer homes are going up with character and charm. History matters. Where we come from, those that came before us and our homes are what grounds us and makes us feel safe. We have a vision for 44 Farmers Row: To make it a home that feels comfortable but that also celebrates the history therein. It will be a mix of original charm and new design; we’ll make it our home through the love and traditions we’ll share together.

Lawrence homestead - Moulding
19th century take on 18th century moulding

Give us the full story – what was your first inkling that the Lawrence Homestead might be your next child?

The moment we saw it! We all felt it when we walked through the door. Sure, we had a healthy dose of trepidation at the magnitude and possible disruption of history when we began seriously considering it. However, what’s interesting is that we had been driving past this house almost every day for 10 years and I had declared the neighboring house “my dream house!” When that house went on the market, for some reason, we didn’t jump.  But when 44 Farmers Row was listed, I felt a spark.  It was never the house we dreamed about, but as soon as we walked in, Ken and I both knew it–this was our home!! 44 Farmers Row was our dream house. This was the house we would build into a home together with our children. We just felt it. All of us.

What is it about the soul of the place that spoke to you?

There is something to be said for a feeling. Many people have walked through the house and have told me that it’s eery. This amazes me because, while you can feel that there are conflicting energies at play within the walls of the home, none of them feel negative. The feeling I received from these energies was that of needing to be settled, needing a home, needing to feel wanted, needing to be saved.

When we walked through the door, both Ken and I felt like we needed to oblige these feelings, and we simultaneously felt we needed to save this incredible gem. I initially struggled with truly making the changes needed to make the house function like a modern-day family home, but was gently reminded (thank you, Ruth!) that it’s ok to update the past. Once we embraced this sentiment and sat and quietly asked permission from the house to move forward, we knew: This was it. Decision made. 44 Farmers Row would be our new home.

Lawrence homestead - windows
Windows: Eyes into the soul of a house

How do you know if it is “your” house or if it’s just old and neat?

A dichotomy certainly exists within when trying to make a decision to take on a project like the Lawrence Homestead. I asked myself more than once if we were doing this because it was just “old and neat.” But it comes back to that deep, intrinsic feeling again and allowing yourself to put your trust in it and not feeling pressure to follow the easiest path ahead (we bask in the face of a challenge!).

And, now, we know that it’s our house, but, more importantly, we know it’s our home. As we walk around planning and dreaming, memories are registering. Seeing our children playing outside or reading one of the historic books that was left behind by the large beech tree confirms that we made the right decision. We haven’t even moved in yet and we’ve experienced so much love and excitement together as a family hosting our first holiday on the grounds.

Lawrence homestead

How do you think about making an old house your own?

It will be the perfect blend of design choices that feel comfortable and warm, but most importantly a special place to raise our family. A home that will become ours and feel like ours. We’ll spend countless hours choosing the most perfect design options—appliances, furniture and flooring, but it will all come together when that first piece of the kids’ artwork is placed on the fridge or when the school backpacks and shoes are strewn (neatly!) in the mudroom built-ins.

Many thanks to Lisa for sitting down with us. Follow Lisa’s journey with the Lawrence Homestead on Instagram at @lisahicksinteriors and www.lisahicksinteriors.com. We are excited to watch her progress!

If we can help you find a great new project or the right steward for your legacy property, contact us!