Making Old Things New Again

History buffs Steve Culp and Liz Swaine share a passion for making old things new again. When they purchased their current home on Southern Avenue six years ago, they knew they’d found their next project.

Built in the 1920s during the area’s heyday, the Southern Avenue Grocery store was originally owned by a Sicilian family who lived upstairs and operated out of the store downstairs. After almost 50 years of business, the store closed and the building sat vacant. With no one looking after the property, it began to deteriorate. It was in a tremendous state of decay when two men purchased it in the early 2000s. They repaired everything from plumbing to electrical and put it on the market a few years later.

After months of house hunting for a historical home in the Highland area, Steve and Liz decided to buy the long-standing store.

“We like history. We like historical buildings, and they’re going by the wayside so quickly,” Steve said.

Determined not to let this one fade away, the couple decided to convert the whole building into a residence. Six years later, they couldn’t be happier.

“The space is so fluid,” Liz said. “I think it really has the feel of an open concept loft with the high ceilings, the exposed duct work, the exposed rafters, the brick walls, and the wood floors.”

Since it was built for commercial use and had an industrial look, Steve and Liz focused on changing the aesthetics when they moved in. They haven’t stopped changing them since.

“Every time you come in here, the furniture is going to be in a different place,” Liz said. “I love moving furniture. I love experimenting with color.”

From the bright blue vinyl flooring to the burnt orange curtains, the home is brilliantly colored. Liz describes their decorating style as eclectic –– a mix of antique and modern, metals and plastics, crispness and coziness. Most of the décor, refurbished or repurposed, is as rich in history as the house itself.

Although the space has been updated, there are still some elements that reflect its past life. The steps leading upstairs are beautifully tattered from the thousands of footsteps they’ve supported over the years. A butcher’s block from the original grocery store, last used 90 years ago, still stands in the kitchen. All around are reminders of the house’s incredible story, and because Liz and Steve came along, it continues to be written.