Ashley Sikora says her family’s painstaking home restoration has taught her children a great lesson: “They’re gaining the valuable knowledge that your home is what you make it.”
The Sikoras have made it a gem. Frontgate has chosen their Bridgeport, Connecticut estate as its America’s Finest Homes Spring 2015 winner.
A grande dame known as “The Chimneys” to locals for its distinguishing architectural feature – nine chimneys – the 15,000-square-foot brick manse boasts a rich and colorful 87-year history. It sits one block from Long Island Sound, and it has hosted a bevy of social luminaries over the decades. It even was commandeered as a Coast Guard headquarters during World War II.
Yet in 2011, after having sat empty for eight years, it was decrepit. Vines snaked in through windows and choked light fixtures. Birds and mice inhabited fireplaces. There was graffiti on upstairs walls, and holes gaped behind peeling wallpaper.
“This house was just longing for somebody to come along and love it,” Ashley said.
This is, indeed, a labor of love. For four years, Ashley and husband Steven – plus their three children – have tackled a mammoth DIY restoration.
They patched plaster walls, buffing and painting them. They stripped layers of paint off molding, sanding it smooth – even carving in areas where it was broken or missing. They plastered, painted and fixed the garden fountain. Ashley, who paints artistically as a hobby, even redid large sections of the hallway mural depicting the nearby Ash Creek wetlands area.
“This house was just longing for somebody to come along and love it.”
And the work continues; Ashley says “there’s always a project going.” She estimates her family has done 80-90% of the work. Since so much detailed design went into the home’s construction, she feels the thoughtful restoration helps honor the intention and passion of the original builders.
“This home was beautiful before we came along,” she said. “But we’re bringing it to another level, and that restoration and preservation is so important to me.”
“This home was beautiful before we came along, but we’re bringing it to another level.”
The Sikoras have enjoyed hosting formal fund-raising events in their home. And Ashley said the home shines just as brightly with 30 kids running through it with sparklers on the Fourth of July. Just as significantly, it’s become a warm backdrop for daily family life.
“The things that makes me the happiest is when people from the neighborhood come in and say, ‘Wow, this feels like a home,’ ” Ashley said. “We’ve put so much of ourselves into making it our home. That’s what makes me the most proud: to make a home, not just a house.”
Learn more here about how to enter your house in our America’s Finest Homes contest.
“The things that makes me the happiest is when people from the neighborhood come in and say, ‘Wow, this feels like a home,’ We’ve put so much of ourselves into making it our home. That’s what makes me the most proud: to make a home, not just a house.”