By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly
Jessica Louie and her fiancé Alex Vo bought what they call the Hudson House in the winter of 2015, and that’s when their home restoration journey began.
Their home in Columbia City is almost 100 years old, and there was a lot of work to do, as it had changed ownership many times in its life, which, according to Louie’s website, “resulted in an interior and exterior clash of the decades.”
In fact, Louie quit her dream job of being a fashion designer to restore their house and start her own company, Hudson Louie, which is a home goods and furniture revival company featuring one-of-a-kind pieces. Louie had previously worked at big name companies like Free People, Ralph Lauren, and Eddie Bauer.
“At Free People, I learned to appreciate vintage clothing. At Ralph Lauren, I learned to honor and respect authenticity in clothing and design. At Eddie Bauer, I learned the importance of holding on to heritage and brand value rooted in rich history. What I’ve learned is my true passion for all things vintage, Americana, and preserving our history,” Louie explained.
Louie decided that she needed a change in her life when she began to feel trapped in her routine.
“Routine might be the number one killer of creative motivation. The higher you move up in the fashion design world, the less ‘creative’ you become and more time is spent with emails, charts, and meetings,” she said.
Purchasing their home and restoring it themselves reminded her that working with her hands was when she was at her best. She loved the restoration process, curating space from top to bottom.
Vo, who started his own land development and homebuilding company, spends a lot of time thinking about construction since it’s his day job and helps with restoring their home during his off hours. It’s been an interesting balance.
“It takes a lot of commitment, but mostly it’s because I love what I do, and there is nothing more rewarding than building your own company and building your own home with your two hands. Both projects need my love, sweat, and tears. My business is a balance between time, budget, and creative conviction. Our home has little balance. It is a culmination of how we feel and what we love, period. It’s more a test of endurance,” he explained.
Louie said that the experience has been positively consuming. It has managed to strengthen her relationship with Vo and changed the trajectory of her creative career.
The love of their home spiraled into the love of architectural salvage, then turned into a love for furniture repurposing and grew into a passion for curating beautiful spaces.
“The vintage clothing that I loved in the fashion industry transformed into hunting for vintage home goods and furniture. I love salvaging materials that other people have discarded and restoring [these materials] to their former glory with a modern twist,” Louie added.
The gratification of finishing a room together with their bare hands and learning new home renovation skills really motivated them to continuing renovating the house on their own.
In less than a year, they’ve already remodeled the entire second level of the home. In addition, they removed all of the wall plaster, vaulted the master bedroom ceiling, replaced the flooring, added a master bathroom with a restored claw foot tub, subway tiled the guest bathroom from floor to ceiling, exposed the brick chimney, refinished the original doug fir flooring downstairs, restored the original hallway that was turned into a storage unit, paint strip the stair handrail, re-shingled the roof, and painted the whole house.
They have found architectural salvage material from Earthwise Seattle, good furniture finds from Habitat for Humanity stores, as well as the Offer Up app.
Despite their progress, there is still much to be done. Their next projects will be the powder bath and kitchen.
How the kitchen will look in the end is still a mystery to them, but they know it will have some combination of marble, subway tile, and a front apron porcelain sink.
They’re taking their time to work out the details because they believe the kitchen is the heart of the home, where they will share wonders, worries, and laughs.
All this progress didn’t come without its challenges though.
Louie explained that one of the biggest challenges of DIY has been the endless number of trips back to Home Depot because they forgot something or messed up.
Not only have the two grown more patient with each other, but they have learned new things about one another that they never knew before.
“Alex surprises me with his ability to talk to anyone about everything! I’ve learned that, in construction, the personalities involved can be challenging, from contractors, to realtors, to city inspectors. Alex impresses me every day with his patience and charm and his amazing ability to win over the toughest audience,” Louie said.
“I learned that, above all else, Jessica refuses to compromise on any aspect of design vision. And I believe that it’s because she has an incredibly keen sense of what feels right and what doesn’t, and that is the separating factor of what makes our home special and unique,” Vo said.
Louie added that you don’t really know your spouse until you’ve worked with them. That being said, she wouldn’t recommend it to everyone.
“It takes specific personalities, but for us it works. To be honest, I was worried at first that working with Alex on our home and in both our businesses would create unnecessary stress in our relationship, but it did just the opposite. Now we share our worlds on every level, and the person you trust the most can now help you navigate through the toughest work decisions, which ultimately always affects both parties. Our love has become multifaceted, and it goes beyond, ‘What’s for dinner?’” she explained.
In addition to restoring the Hudson House, Louie works on creating home goods and reviving furniture for her company, Hudson Louie.
“Sometimes when you can’t find exactly what you want, you just have to make it yourself,” Louie said.
For more information on the progress of their home and other DIY projects, visit hudsonlouie.com.
Nina Huang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.