By AIMEE KUVADIA
Kay Chambers always seems to get more than what she has bargained for.
Just looking for a dance partner at a nightclub in 1986, she ended up meeting Bruce McCann, her future husband.
Then in 1993, when she and Bruce as newlyweds bought a rundown Victorian home in Crescent Hill, she expected a few minor renovations. But she hadn’t imagined the 17-year overhaul that would follow.
Kay presumed the house, which was originally a duplex, would remain that way. So when Bruce destroyed it to turn it into a single-family home, and Kay found it in shambles, she was shocked to say the least.
“I grew up in old homes and wanted a project,” said Bruce. “I probably looked like a kid in a candy store with a sledgehammer.”
The home was habitable after six months of intense renovation, a feat Bruce undertook himself with the help of contractor Andre Faget and Barry Hunt of Hunt Remodeling. But there was still much work to be done.
“I was over here morning and night,” said Bruce. “Sometimes, I’d be here 13 to 14 hours a day.”
He even stripped the walls of their Victorian-style, patterned wallpaper. But it wasn’t until last year that Bruce and Kay had them painted. They were reluctant to do so because they felt the patchiness of the walls added a sort of whimsical charm to the home.
Bruce is an aircraft mechanic for UPS, while Kay is a retired special education teacher. They might seem like an unlikely couple. But their 20-year marriage has endured the test of time.
“We met in a bar,” admitted Kay. “People always say those relationships don’t last. But this relationship has been so profound.”
Bruce and Kay’s home isn’t much different from their marriage. It, too, has survived for many years. It was built in 1880 by the Gregory family and has had only one other owner besides Bruce and Kay.
“We know the home was well-loved because people stayed here forever,” said Kay.
It’s natural for such an old home to have character because of its history. But Bruce and Kay, with their vibrant personalities, have managed to give it even more.
Every room is painted a different color. The dining room is turquoise. And the master bedroom is lavender. There’s even a downstairs sitting room Bruce and Kay call “the yellow room,” which is painted a beautiful marigold.
The scarlet-colored guest bathroom on the second floor flawlessly complements the guest bedroom. Its most salient feature is the original black bathtub with gold claw feet.
The carrot-orange kitchen was originally on the second floor where the master bathroom currently is. Its gold- and copper-shaded porcelain tiles, purchased from The Tile Shop, are not only hardwearing but also provide just the right contrast to the color of the walls.
A beautiful, wooden music cabinet from the 1930s adds a hint of old-fashioned elegance to the living room. And Artwork by Dick Oxley portraying playful nudes in pastel colors and black and white perfectly accents its burgundy walls.
Kay elicits amusing responses having placed one of her decorative Derby hats on a wooden, life-size sculpture of a primitive woman. And in the main hallway a shiny, rotating disco ball doesn’t just eternalize Bruce and Kay’s initial meeting where they danced together, but also takes Kay back to the ‘70s when she worked at a discotheque.
Bruce rescued the sculpture from a Transylvania University art professor who was going to throw it away. He salvaged the disco ball from the former Club D&D, a property he now owns that he’d eventually like to transform into a neighborhood market.
“We’ve just collected a lot of stuff through the years,” he said.
Bruce and Kay are a testament to the endless possibilities of recycling. They acquired much of their furniture from the attic of a barn belonging to Bruce’s family in Winchester, Ky. Kay habitually attends auctions and flea markets trying to find items for the home.
She purchased the exquisite, third-floor, 19th-century stained glass window at a church auction for a mere $25. At Club D&D, Bruce found the striking depiction of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. hanging above a window on the same floor.
“When you live in an old home, you have a tendency to seek out architectural stores all over,” said Bruce. He and Kay have brought back furniture, artwork and accessories from many of the places they have visited, including Australia and Eastern Europe.
Their home is almost like a museum – the Museum of Bruce and Kay. They have implanted bits and pieces of their personalities into every corner. And because they’re so proud of it, they’re more than thrilled to share it with their friends.
“This house has been a wonderful place to entertain,” Bruce said. “We both love to cook and love giving dinner parties.”
It’s no surprise Bruce and Kay get visitors around Derby time due to the general warmth of their home and its abundance of space. Their friends from Canada have made it a tradition to stay with them every year when they’re in town for Derby events.
“People who visit this house say it’s so warm and inviting. It’s happy and there’s so much joy,” said Kay. “There have been a lot of fun times around here.”
UCHM 12th Annual Home Tour
The United Crescent Hill Ministries 12th Annual Home Tour will take place Saturday, June 9, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 the day of the event. They can be purchased online at www.uchmlouky.org, at the UCHM Community Center, 150 S. State St., and at select local businesses and churches. The event includes walk-through tours of seven restored Victorian homes that blend modern and traditional styles. Proceeds will benefit youth, seniors and clients in need of emergency aid in the Clifton, Clifton Heights and Crescent Hill neighborhoods. For more information, visit the UCHM website.
Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune