Lorraine Matuschak sent her husband an urgent request.
“You have to meet me here on my lunch break,” she told him.
She was working in real estate at the time and had just spotted a listing for a 1925 Craftsman style home in Everett’s Riverside neighborhood. It was described as having hardwood floors, a fireplace and a living room with built in bookcases. And it was being sold “as is.”
It was 2009, and even though the economy was in recession, there were four offers on the home.
“We were lucky enough to get it,” she said. “We knew it needed a ton of work, but we thought we could do it ourselves instead of having to pay out thousands of dollars for labor.”
It still had its original trim, and the fireplace, she said, was beautiful. “It had tons of character,” she said. “It just needed some love and sprucing up.”
She and her husband, Sean Matuschak, who works for a design firm, had previously lived in Snohomish and had fixed up rental properties. “We loved doing it,” she said.
So they felt prepared to take on the upgrades needed in what was then an 84-year-old home, beginning with a “secret garden,” and then moving on to major renovations to the kitchen and two bathrooms.
Over the years, others recognized what the couple had accomplished. In 2012, it was named a Monte Cristo Award winner, annual awards given to homeowners and businesses across Everett for their beautification efforts.
This year, the home won a second honor — the Marian Krell Award — which recognizes superior care on an ongoing basis by a prior Monte Cristo Award winner.
It was one of a series of neighborhood awards announced during ceremonies at the Historic Everett Theatre Thursday evening in four categories: neighborhood-friendly businesses, pride of the neighborhood, rejuvenation and transformation, and, new this year, green gardening for properties with environmentally-friendly landscaping.
One of Lorraine Matuschak’s first projects was adding a garden. When the couple bought the home the “garden” was a tree and a bush. She fenced off the side of the property, enclosed the garden, and later installed a deck on the back of the house.
“I did that shabby chic style,” she said. “We were on a budget. I salvaged a bunch of old shed doors and barn doors.”
Then the couple started work on the downstairs bathroom, initially so tiny “you could barely move in it,” she said. It had to be gutted.
Next, they moved on to the kitchen. Among other challenges, there were no electrical outlets on one entire side of the kitchen — a problem that wasn’t apparent until you started looking for a place to plug something in, she said.
The original kitchen cabinets had been replaced in the 1970s. Lorraine Matuschak knew someone whose husband was a contractor who had some spare kitchen cabinets sitting in a barn — and that were being offered for free.
“We looked at those cabinets, and that got the kitchen remodel going,” she said. Their philosophy was: If we can salvage something, we will.
With two kids, the kitchen remodel took several years, having to be divided into steps so they could still prepare meals.
“These old houses, once you start digging in, you realize how much has to be replaced,” she said.
Most of the home’s remodeling was done over the first five years they lived there. But those projects were mixed in with other necessities — a new roof, water heater and furnace. Overall, they estimate their improvements cost about $40,000.
The goal was to retain as much of the home’s original character as possible. The Matuschaks have a message for those considering buying an older home: Everything costs more and takes longer than you think.
“If you’re buying an old house, you really have to love it,” she said.
The couple, now both 39, have two sons, Nolan, 10, and Ben, 5. They plan on making the Craftsman their longtime home.
“The house is big enough for all of us,” she said. “I’m glad I was able to bring an old house back to the good old days.”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year’s Monte Cristo Award winners, listed by neighborhoods, are:
Rejuvenation and Transformation
South Forest Park: Wesley Briscoe and Jennifer Lazara
Twin Creeks: John and Marilyn Ellis
Lowell: Marcelino and Susan Chavez
Lowell: Jose and Michelle Padilla
Riverside: Carl and Randi Breeden
Bayside: Donald and Kimberly Wayne
Glacier View: Brent and Kathryn Watkins
Port Gardner: Kyle Mindemann and Megan Monroe
Port Gardner: Allan and Deana Upton
Northwest: Geoff and Sandra Grice
Northwest: Ted and Carole Jacobs
Holly: Fairway Estates: Senior Mobile Home Park
Lowell: Laura Wilson
Port Gardner: Port Gardner Bay Winery
Glacier View: Sharyn Gerhardt
Northwest :Diane Loop
Pride of the Neighborhood
View Ridge: Darren Frazier
View Ridge: Lisa Siefert and Chuck Tondell
South Forest Park: Malaki and Linda Seanoa
Valley View: Randy and Donna Karg
Valley View: Babby Skowyra
Twin Creeks: Arthur Young
Cascade View: Mike and Barbara Patrick
Cascade View: Tom and Judy Vang
Delta: Victoria Jonas
Delta: Jennifer McKinney and Gerry Donathan
Evergreen: Athena Doolittle
Evergreen: Devon and Nettie Midkiff
Holly: Alan and Linda Jesmer
Westmont: Tara Austin
Pinehurst: Donald, Jenny and Neil Hoyt
Pinehurst: Dan Nickel
Riverside: Carolyn Kelly
Bayside: Rafe and Kathryn Anders
Bayside: Paul and Kerri Bernhard
Glacier View: Linda Falleen
Boulevard Bluffs: John and Hazel Beiermann
Harborview-Seahurst-Glenhaven: Nancy Jo and Ted Lombard
Port Gardner: Greg and Andrea Meuret
Port Gardner: Nathan and Alisa Muntz
Northwest: Liesa Postema and Chad Bullock
Northwest: Clint and Alyssa Seal