One-hundred-year-old houses hold many surprises. "You don't know what you will uncover when you buy an old house,” Nancy May said as she walked through the kitchen of her 1907 restored farmhouse in the heart of Oklahoma City. Nancy and David May found a collection of 45-rpm Elvis Presley records in the walls of the Heritage Hills home the couple bought in 1998. It's not their style of music, and neither was a brilliant purple powder room their preferred style of decor. The Heritage Hills neighborhood had everything they were looking for, and in time, they knew the house would, too, as they looked beyond the renovation challenges. In 1922, the house was divided into six apartments. It was restored to a single-family home in the mid-1970s. The remodeling additions and omissions through the decades caused numerous problems in the restoration process. Contractors tore things out of the house for six months, including layers of flooring, and wallpaper revealing styles from the past. The Mays combined two rooms into a spacious kitchen where there is room for friends to cook, talk and sample recipes. The open floor plan provides ample room to entertain and enough space for three work stations. Nancy and David May enjoy cooking and entertaining, and once a month, they get together with friends in a gourmet cooking group. Their focus is to create and share recipes, and they took a particular interest in the home's kitchen because of their culinary interests. Nancy May said she definitely didn't want the sink under the windows. She had the large farmhouse sink set to face French doors leading out to a pool. She has a beautiful view while standing at the sink. The beadboard ceiling, though not original, is a correct style for the house. White cabinets with glass doors reveal May's dishes, adding color to the room. One of the doors is etched with a white frosted dogwood blossom. Three brushed metal hanging lights salvaged from the field house at the University of Oklahoma add a nostalgic touch and provide the lighting needed for a center island. May selected granite countertops and slate flooring in earth tones. She said she couldn't decide what material to use for the backsplash over the stove. She considered tin, then she had an idea to use the remaining slate flooring. "My neighbor Anne Boozer came over, and we talked about how it could be done,” May said. "Once I got it figured out, it wasn't that difficult. I drew a pattern and cut the slate into squares, and I am happy with the way it turned out. It's my finest accomplishment.” She also designed a wine rack with clean simple lines, using sheets of stainless steel, to fill a small niche in the kitchen. May knew exactly what she wanted in most other areas of the kitchen. She selected brushed stainless steel appliances that suited her kitchen but didn't have an industrial look. "I wanted an open kitchen I could actually work in, a big island, a six-burner stove and double ovens,” May said. "I am not one of those people who must have everything from the era. I wanted a nice mix and a functional kitchen with Shaker cabinets all the way to the ceiling. I didn't want a ledge with crockery and plants to collect dust.” She said she likes bright colors and isn't a wallpaper kind of person. In keeping with the home's era, she selected white, earth tones and a simple wallpaper pattern in shades of tan with a touch of deep red. May sought the help of experienced people who could show her how to restore, re-create or buy the fixtures and other pieces she needed to keep the integrity of the historic home and have an up-to-date kitchen. Jane Holcombe, tour chairman for the Heritage Hills event, bought a house in Heritage Hills 20 years ago. She said people who come to the tours enjoy hearing the stories of the houses and the families who built them. There are volunteers at each tour site to answer questions. "The people who live in Heritage Hills and go through the process to restore these homes are investing in history,” Holcombe said. The 362 houses in Heritage Hills range from 20,000-square-foot mansions to postcard bungalows. All but a few were built before 1930. "This house has personality. It's been around 100 years,” May said. "It's not Gingerbread or Victorian style, and I didn't know anything about this style of house. I did some research, but I couldn't find much information.” May and her husband had a meeting with contractor Marva Ellard, the electrician, the plumber and kitchen designer Jo Meacham of Vintage Kitchens. She relied on Ellard's and Meacham's knowledge of historic preservation to tell her what was historically correct and needed to stay and what was not. May said she likes a challenge. She learned quickly that restoration of a 100-year-old home is a challenge in the time, financial commitment, patience and research required to accomplish the project. "It seemed like we would never be done,” she said. May said she appreciated the people she called on for advice. She said she asked many "what if” questions in regard to changes she wanted to make or ideas she expressed. Sometimes the answer was no, and she found another way to accomplish that part of the renovation. "We wanted the kitchen to look like it's always been there,” Meacham said. This was what David and Nancy May wanted, too. "Ten years from now, people won't see the kitchen and say, ‘What was she thinking?'” May said. Ellard, an Oklahoma City developer and preservationist, said people often feel overwhelmed with the decisions they need to make during the renovation of historic homes. She said people who own an old house don't need a hobby. The house is their hobby. May said she and her family love the Heritage Hills neighborhood and their home. "It's a fabulous kitchen and one of my favorites,” Ellard said of the Mays' home. "This house needed love and money to make it last another 100 years. The renovation was done in a way that is respectful to the era it was built.”
Historic homes, gardens•What: Heritage Hills Centennial Historic Homes and Gardens Tour in the Heritage Hills Historic Preservation District. The tour highlights the architectural heritage of the neighborhood that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. • Where: The tour features six private residences on NW 14 and NW 15 between Shartel and Walker, two private gardens, and three historic sites: the Mid-Continent Life Insurance building, home of the Edward L. Gaylord-Boone Pickens Oklahoma Heritage Center; the Sieber Apartment Hotel; and the Overholser Mansion. • When: Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. • Tickets: Advance tickets are $12 through Friday. Tickets are $15 on tour days and will be available at all tour locations. • Parking: Parking is available at the Oklahoma Heritage Center, 1400 Classen Drive. Shuttle transportation is available. • Information: www.heritagehills.org.