Sara and Jacob Billingsley hadn’t gotten far in their search for a new home when one “just fell into” their lap.
“We weren’t really looking for a house,” Sara, 36, said. “We just signed up to get emails when stuff met our criteria.”
After looking at one of those emails, the couple immediately fell in love with a replica of a Louisiana plantation house, a style that is often two stories with a veranda on the second.
They said they put an offer in the first day they viewed the 5,600-square-foot home in Gainesville.
“You could see the potential it had,” Jacob, also 36, said.
They soon became the second owners of the house, which was built in 1976 and has five bedrooms and 4.5 baths.
The Billingsleys were looking for something with a bigger yard for their children, which is why they initially wanted to move.
“In addition to the yard, we were looking for maybe a little bit more privacy,” Jacob said. “This house definitely offered that. Plus, with three young boys, we needed more space.”
The family purchased the home and the 2.5 acres it sits on in April 2017 but made a few renovations before officially moving in February.
“It had great bones,” Sara said. “It just needed to be updated. Pretty much we’ve touched every room, every surface in this house.”
A wide staircase now leads to the second-story wrap-around porch and front door.
“It looks completely different than what it looked like,” Jacob said.
Inside, many of the features keep with the traditional look, such as floral wallpaper in many rooms and the use of tile in the kitchen and bathroom.
With the help of Lori Carter, architectural designer, the couple made some changes like switching the kitchen and dining room.
“We flipped it just because today, people like the open concept, and when the house was built that’s not what people wanted.”
Now, their kitchen flows straight into the living room.
“We need an area where we can all be,” Jacob said.
They also personalized the kitchen, adding an island as well as a custom wooden hood over a range from France.
“The company is Lacanche,” Sara said of the range. “One side is gas (and) one side is electric. They have a lot of different color options and different configurations for the oven and different sizes. They have a ton of models.”
The couple also added a new laundry room and pantry and refinished all the bathrooms.
“All the windows and doors were replaced,” Jacob added. “(And) all the lighting.”
But while renovating, Sara said she wanted to maintain the feel of the home.
“When we were renovating it, we wanted to respect the bones of the house and the Southern roots of the home when we were decorating.”
She described her decor as “Southern, comfortable and warm.”
“I want the stuff that I put in our house to have meaning,” she said. “My grandmother is a huge influence on my design. She had wonderful taste. I always think about what memory something sparks for me, whether it’s with my grandparents or something we’ve done or something that our family likes to do.
“I think it helps give people, when they walk in your house, a feeling of who you are, and it makes them feel comfortable.”
She incorporates memories throughout the three-story house, like a plate from her grandmother’s wedding in the dining room and even beds in the guestroom that were originally from her grandparents’ beach house.
“I just changed the color,” she said about the two twin beds. “I hated them when we were little, but I love them now.”
And while they have a few more projects left, such as screening in their back porch and adding a garage, the couple is happy with the home they created.
“I think it’s exceeded our expectations — the quality of living out here,” Sara said. “This is just a really great house to grow into.”