Weary house now humming to a lively beat

DREAM HOME

Rehab: With much hard work and not so very many dollars, Jeff Shaney has transformed the house he found on 41st Street.

February 14, 1999|By Charles Cohen | Charles Cohen,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Hearing the pop punk band Green Day blasting in a 25-year-old's house on 41st Street isn't unusual -- except for how it's playing.

The pounding sound is coming from speakers suspended from the corners of Jeff Shaney's dining room. It's the same room with the buffet table, the Art Deco clock and the dining room table with a full set of good china -- all stuff that Shaney painstakingly picked up from used furniture stores and his friends at the nursing home where he used to work.

Yet, even with the 1940s-vintage sofa and lounge chair and the silver tray and pitcher set, the place is free of that musty, foreboding, yesteryear feel.

There's definitely a youthful vibe here that gives these old antiques a new luster.

But before Shaney could discover his inner decorating self, for six months after work he had to rehab a house that was begging for demolition.

Like his hero Frank Lloyd Wright, who was known to whip up plans on a napkin, Shaney has the ability to ad lib his plans as he goes along, in this case unleashing a series of spontaneous events as he took one room at a time.

"It just comes to me," said Shaney, sitting with Lester, his edgy St. Bernard that he got at an animal shelter.

"When I see a house, I can tell you what it's going to look like, what you should do to it."

Shaney, a pharmaceutical salesman, doesn't consider himself the handyman type, although, based on the walls he put up, the cabinets he installed, the bathroom he reconfigured, the deck he built and the windows he put in, the potential is obvious.

His first foray into home construction occurred after his uncle died in 1993. His parents asked if Shaney could help rehabilitate the uncle's Canton house.

For Shaney, the work was a chance to get together with crowbar-wielding buddies and get constructively destructive in reducing the place to a brick shell.

The family hired contractors to finish the job after the demolition, but Shaney, then 20, stuck around and learned how the floors were rebuilt, the walls were rehung. By the end of the project he was building closets.

And, when a drive with his mother and grandmother in 1996 through the neighborhood of Medfield led to a tour of a dilapidated home on 41st Street, he had the audacity to think he could rehab it.

He had toured a home up the street when he heard about a state-owned fixer-upper on the corner.

Pinpointing the exact reason why someone falls in love with a house can be difficult. But Shaney's moment came after he tiptoed up the rickety front porch through the living room with a linoleum-covered floor, walls worn down to the lathing and a hole in the ceiling.

He opened the back door and saw a majestic magnolia tree that dominated the back yard.

"If you look out of windows, all you can see is roof tops and stuff like that, so it's nice to have that huge tree there," said Shaney, who has since built a multilevel deck in the back that gives his yard a slightly tiki look.

Though wary at first, Shaney's father, Joe, had confidence that his son had the talent to take on such a mess.

"He can see so much that a layperson can't," Joe Shaney said.

In May 1996, Jeff Shaney, then an activities assistant at a nursing home, offered $20,000, about half the asking price.

After some negotiations, Shaney was able to buy the house in October for $23,700. He borrowed $65,000 under a FHA 203(k) loan that provides funds for home renovation.

But after receiving estimates, Shaney knew that the $40,000 the bank was offering for construction wasn't enough to create the kind of home he had in mind. He wanted more than the basics. He wanted to add on to the kitchen -- which alone would have cost $15,000. He wanted a basement clubroom. He wanted a third window on the back bedroom. He wanted his front porch redone with tiny quarry ceramic tiles.

The only way to make his money stretch would be to do as much work as he could by himself. Not only was he putting himself on the line, but he was taking a chance with the bank, which inspects the job and releases part of the loan only when they are satisfied.

From October to March, Shaney slept at his parents' house while he spent all his time at the Medfield home.

"I didn't have a life for six months; I spent my weekends down here," he said. "This was my life."

Shaney took the basement, which he thinks used to be an apartment, and removed the rotted floors and added walls and a bathroom.

In the living room, he uncovered and restored inlayed hardwood floors. He resurrected an unusual feature, a working light in the banister.

He configured the upstairs bathroom and rebuilt his kitchen using wall cabinets to create an island. Shaney did all his own work except for the plumbing and wiring.

For Shaney, old furniture is a chance to give his place a new look. At the same time, he has no problem mixing contemporary features with four of the rooms wired for sound.

Some of his friends from the nursing home gave him furniture, and his roving eye selected some items at local thrift stores.

In the upstairs parlor are two gorgeous Art Deco chairs.

In his formal dining room, the blue china with the gold stars that matches the upholstery, which in turn matches the wallpaper ceiling trim, all look suspiciously like the guest chairs from late-night TV talk shows.

When asked where he got the china, Shaney, a tad embarrassed, says, "They were on sale at Target."

The man knows a good deal when he sees one.

Pub Date: 2/14/99

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