Kay Volmar and her husband were vacationing at Disneyland when an advertisement appeared on their hotel television about a charming town called Mount Dora. “It was called New England South, that’s what attracted me,” Volmar recalls. The only homes the Northeast native had really seen in Florida were cookie-cutter construction, but in Mount Dora there were architectural gems galore. The couple were so convinced to move there that in 2013 they decided to buy a circa 1912 house without seeing it. The contractor who came to inspect the property after making an offer gave him advice: “Run.
“It had dilapidated vinyl siding, the porch was cramped, and there were wires hanging down there,” Volmar recalled. Many of these creepy details resulted from the house having been vacant for five years, while its “Frankenstein” layout stemmed from many years of previous owners randomly adding to the formerly one-story space. “It was reflected when you looked at it,” she adds. Volmar was determined to send a message to its new neighbors from the start: they were going to take care of this place.
Right away, she centered the new door and painted it a cheerful tropical hue called Benjamin Moore Hot Springs in a satin finish. “I needed something that said to other people, it’s going to be fun,” she explains. To give the porch a more uniform and substantial look, Volmar had the barely there posts removed and put in large columns in their place. For the floor, she purchased large 20 x 20 inch stone tiles from a local clearance center and some pool coping, which she used to create a curved front ledge to soften things up.
On the winning side
For a few years Volmar lived with the coating as it was by simply washing it off using a mixture of chlorine and water (this turned it from a dirty gray-brown to just gray ). “I was able to achieve a semi-fresh look without having to paint it right away,” she says. But when it finally came time for a glow, she had the siding primed and professionally painted in Benjamin Moore’s White Dove (a designer favorite for interior walls and kitchen cabinets) in a low-gloss finish. “I originally thought I needed a special paint for the vinyl siding, but it turns out that if you use something high quality, it will stick well,” she notes. The trim is swaddled great white in a soft-gloss finish to give it crisp definition.
Even though the house had been expanded over time, it still lacked dimension. Volmar “strengthened” things a bit by attaching thick trim wood around the windows (used a grinder to remove the previous J-channel strips). Next, she set up planters and filled them with begonias, petunias and verbena that she purchased from the clearance section of a garden center. “It’s better to overfill a planter than to underfill it,” she says. She even touched on the transformation from the inside. The grates you see on the second level are just strips of white electrical tape that she glued on to give it an old-fashioned cottage look.
Take this way
When it came to sprucing up the yard, the first step was to move the driveway farther from the house. After ripping out the old, cracked concrete, Volmar tapped into its northeast roots and laid down a combination of cobblestone and gravel, which you don’t often see in Florida. This made room for a curved path that leads to the main entrance. “The house was so square, so I wanted all the landscaping to be very round,” she says.
When the inside of Volmar’s house was a construction zone, she could at least retreat outside and drop into her new swing bench. “I live on a busy street, so there are a ton of people watching,” she says. You can be sure they are watching you.