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Steve built the fireplace and flanking shelves in the living room. The coffee table is his handiwork, too.
who lives there?

A mix of old and new

The master bedroom now features French doors that open onto a rooftop deck.
Photos by Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
A compass rose Dawn photographed on vacation has been duplicated on their stairwell landing.
The basement has transformed into a family room with kitchenette and games area.
Photos by Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Steve and Dawn Thompson have given some “modern flair” to their 70-year-old home on Sheridan Court.
The living room shows off the Thompsons’ eclectic style and is their favorite room in the house.
A side-mounted clock hangs in the main bathroom. “You can find things anywhere,” Dawn says.
Steve added a touch of elegance to the dining room with a coffered ceiling.

When one thinks of the neighborhood near Foster Park, the mind’s eye tends to see sprawling, mansion-like houses occupied by the wealthy of an earlier era.

The home of Steve and Dawn Thompson on Sheridan Court isn’t like that at all.

On Sheridan Court, one of the side streets, and less than a block from the park, their house is more like the other homes in the 137-home Foster Park Neighborhood, which is now seeking to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The house is a two-story cottage-style dwelling that the couple has personalized with hand-crafted architectural changes and their own quirky decorating style.

“I think we have done over almost every room twice in the 11 years we have lived here,” says Steve, 41, who has worked in sales for area remodeling and building-supply companies.

“We do a mix of old and new, and we do a lot of the work ourselves and build a lot of our own furniture.”

When the house itself was built in 1942, Steve says, it was from standard-issue plans from a magazine. He and his wife are only the second people to own the property.

When they found it for sale, they were amazed by its price, which was low, he believes, because some features were a bit dated.

But, he says, he could see that relatively minor structural changes could really improve the home’s livability.

His major change was adding two sets of French doors – one off the living room and one that leads from the second-floor master bedroom to what is now a rooftop deck.

The doors make the interior space seem more expansive and bring the outdoors inside, Steve says, adding that he thinks the house demonstrates that it’s possible to infuse a 70-year-old house with “some more modern flair.”

Another major change was ripping down walls that divided the kitchen and created little but wasted space.

Updated in a Tuscan theme, the kitchen is now big enough to easily accommodate a marble-topped central island with a smooth-top cooking surface, a breakfast area and part of one wall dedicated to a wine bar for storage and serving.

“It has come in handy,” says Dawn, 42, of the wine area. “It’s a feature that we debated about – it wasn’t in our budget – but we decided to do it. If you don’t put it in right away, chances are you’ll never do it.”

Dawn says the kitchen remodeling took the better part of a summer.

“It can seem so overwhelming when you think about it,” she says of remodeling a kitchen. It was inconvenient for a while, but the project had a big payoff in the increased counter space the island provided.

“I’m not much of a cook, but I love to bake, and I do that a lot, so I need the space,” she says.

Other changes Steve made to the house include installing a coffered ceiling in the dining room, which is at the front of the house. The room makes an instant elegant statement when guests enter from the front door.

Steve also turned the basement into a family room with built-in cabinets, including one with a secret compartment. The room has a big-screen television, a dining and games area and a kitchenette for snacking. It’s handy, he says, now that the couple’s two boys – Cody, 16, and Tucker, 9 – are older.

“It’s like a little self-contained kingdom,” says Steve, who also constructed the fireplace and surround and shelves and cabinets that contribute to the living-room décor.

He also made a sideboard in the dining room and the living-room coffee table using barn siding for the top and legs from an antique table he found at The Wood Shack, a Fort Wayne house-fixture and wood-recycling business.

Dawn calls her decorating style “very eclectic.”

“I’d say French country, or cottage or shabby chic is what I’m aiming for,” she says.

The living room is a prime example. Along with the red-painted coffee table, there are puddled mauve drapes with black-and-white toppers in a toile print that matches lampshades and an upholstered chair.

The couch is moss green and covered with a variety of pillows, and flanking the French doors are urns with topiary-style artificial shrubs. Dawn gleefully admits they came from Menards and were designed as outdoor décor.

“You have to look in every store you go into,” she says. “You can find things anywhere.”

One unusual touch in the home is a medallion painted on the floor near the stairway. Dawn says she first saw the design in a store while on vacation in Michigan. She took a picture of it on her cellphone and the couple was able to duplicate it later.

Still another unusual touch is what she calls “a wall tattoo” over the stairway. It’s an intricate black filigree design that represents part of a bridge and is complemented by photos of Fort Wayne architecture.

“It was such an odd space to fill – we’d tried and tried to figure out what to do with it,” she says. “There’s actually a company online called, and we found this and it fit.”

Right now, Dawn says, she’s looking forward to longer days and warmer weather when she can retire to the deck off the light blue-and-dark brown master bedroom after the kids are in bed and relax in treetop peace and quiet.

“You can see the park from there,” she says. “During the summer, I like to sit out there and soak up some sun.

“And I do do coffee in the morning,” she adds. “It’s like my little getaway.”