Soon after they married four years ago, Allison and Everest DiSalvo moved to Marlton. Last year, with two children under 3, they decided to move closer to family in Cinnaminson, her hometown.
So when Allison, 31, heard that a two-story house on the same tree-lined street as her parents’ had been vacant for three years, she made it her mission to buy it.
Initially, the owner wasn’t interested in selling: She’d been raised in the house, and she’d stayed attached to it. But with some subtle persuasion, she eventually agreed to sell. Even though they knew the house was neglected, upon touring it, the DiSalvos were still surprised at its state.
“Walking in, it was as if we had been transported to the 1960s,” said Everest, 32, who grew up in Columbus, Burlington County. “Everything had been left as if the previous owners had just had dinner: Dishes in the drying rack, food in the cabinets, and paperwork on the dining room table.”
They were able to look past the mess and see the house’s good bones. But what really sold Allison was a plaque decorated with doves that hung in the house — it was identical to one they owned.
“I saw it as a good sign,” she said.
Since acquiring the house last July, the couple has been making the 2,400-square-foot dwelling their own, with the help of family. Their main goals — besides bringing the place into this century — have been to open it up and make it more light-filled, and to add a farmhouse styling that’s natural and casual.
“My motto in life is to live in an atmosphere of peace,” Allison said.
Part of the couple’s decorating philosophy is to install one “splurge” item in a room and furnish the remainder of it with yard sale finds, salvaged items, and furnishings from affordable stores such as HomeGoods and Target.
The living room’s footprint was left as-is. Anchoring the space are a brown jute rug and a tan microfiber sectional that wears well, considering the comings and goings of the DiSalvos’ 18-month-old son, Gianni, and 3-year-old daughter, Emilia. A wicker chair picked up at a store-closing sale for $50 fits nicely in a corner. Hanging on a wall are a wooden map of New Jersey and the number 13 (for the year they married).
Furniture pieces the couple have built are assembled throughout the first floor and are often used by Allison, owner of DiSalvo Events & Designs, as props for the weddings and corporate events she organizes. One such piece is the coffee table, made of lumber and stained a deep brown. On a large credenza are vintage Pepsi-Cola crates.
The wall between the dining room and kitchen came down, allowing a flowing floor plan that encourages socializing with family and friends. “We had to rework the HVAC system, venting, plumbing, gas lines, and electric,” Everest said. “But it was worth it.”
In the kitchen, appliances installed when the house was built in 1965 were replaced with stainless steel. New white cabinets, subway tiles, and granite countertops complete the more modern scheme. Allison’s favorite spot is the coffee center, a separate niche with all the essentials.
Meals are eaten on a distressed rectangular dining table built by the couple. Surrounding the table are a pew found at a yard sale and painted white, and white metal chairs bought off Amazon. The hanging window frame, not only a decorative element but a sentimental one, has grids that were actually part of the front window of their previous home.
In the botanical room, a sun-filled space, Everest and Allison’s brother lifted the ceiling several inches. They also installed an expansive window that her brother, a construction worker, found discarded at a job site.
Among fun finds in the room are a children’s table-and-chairs set, snapped up at an antiques store for $15; a piano found at a yard sale for $20; and a venerable Smith Corona typewriter retrieved at a yard sale for $20. The vintage globe belonged to Everest’s grandfather.
There’s more to accomplish, such as a new bath and walk-in closets in the master bedroom. But the couple said they’re enjoying the process.
“We realize that we like doing fixer-uppers,” Allison said. “Watching it come together, blend together into our style, is worth the hard work.”