Dan and Charle Hornby describe themselves as a couple of real estate junkies. Early in their marriage, they bought a three-family on the West End as rental property: an Italianate Victorian, a popular 19th century style known for asymmetry and narrow windows. After their first child was born, they decided to move into the building’s second-floor apartment. Research soon revealed that the home was originally built by a cabinet maker for himself and his family back in 1849. “We are very inspired by the history of the West Side and all the historic buildings,” says Dan. “We thought it would be amazing to restore it to its former self,” adds Charle.
For some couples, this process of converting a house back into a single-family residence might seem daunting, but together the Hornbys own Elm Real Estate & Design, where their combined skills plus Charle’s design talents inform the work that they do. “It feels important in all our projects to honor the lives these homes have had before and the people who built them by making them practical for modern living, but also keeping or restoring that beauty that you can only find in old homes,” says Charle.
Over the years multiple owners had renovated away many details original to the home; however, parquet floors, the staircase, and a large stained glass window in the entry remained. “We found a piece of the original plaster molding tucked behind a drop ceiling and were able to recreate it for the majority of the first floor, which really makes a huge difference,” Charle notes with excitement.
When it comes to decorating the grand old home, Charle enjoys mixing styles in an eclectic way, while staying true to the architectural type. “I think paint can be one of the most transformative things for a home, and it’s so cheap! I love what you can do to a room just by changing the color, or doing something unexpected like painting the ceiling. I’m also really happy we went for it with the wallpaper in the front entry/stair,” she says of the flock-effect Morris & Co. paper. “It’s something that felt uncertain at the time and now I can’t imagine it any other way.”
“I wanted to make sure we honored the house without making it look like a set of a period-set movie. It feels comfortable and warm and welcoming – nothing too precious but lots of things to catch your eye, to read, to inspire.”