By Emma Bowen Meyer
For The Herald Bulletin
---- — ALEXANDRIA – Driving by the only log home on the block, you may think that Larry and Debbie Hymes chose their house for that outstanding building material. In fact, it was the potential in the structure and the appeal of the neighborhood that caused them to take root in the small community.
“We liked that it was a log house, but that wasn’t why we bought it,” said Debbie, bus driver for the Frankton/Lapel schools. “We saw that it had a full basement that could be finished. We wanted to be out in the country but not by ourselves. We were blessed to find this area with great neighbors who are always willing to help. It’s been ideal for raising a family.”
Thirty years has brought many changes to the home, mostly through the work of Debbie’s own two hands. By learning at her father’s side, she has become a proficient handyman.
“My dad wasn’t a contractor, but he also couldn’t afford to pay one when we needed work done on our house,” said Debbie, who also works in the cafeteria at Lapel High School. “He would find a friend to help him and I was always interested.”
As a loyal viewer of “This Old House” every Saturday morning, she has been a big proponent of “watch, learn and do it yourself.”
One of the big projects she tackled soon after moving in was the addition of closet space. Seriously lacking in older homes, closets were almost nonexistent in this log cabin, which was built in 1947.
“There were no closets in the bedrooms at all,” she said. “We never noticed until after we bought it. There was one that went across the hallway and a small linen closet, but none inside the bedrooms. Now we have six closets throughout the house.”
Taking advantage of Larry’s travel time at work during their early years together, Debbie went from project to project.
“At first my husband was a little nervous because nobody was showing me how to do these things,” she added. “But now he is on board with anything I say and is more apt to help because he isn’t traveling anymore. He does all the electrical work.”
Although the couple originally moved to the area when he worked for Hills Department Store, he currently owns Tek-Hed Computers, a company that repairs computers and sells used ones.
In addition to adding closet space, Debbie has renovated the kitchen twice (once in 1994 and again in 2009), added stone to the fireplace, added log planks to one wall of the dining room, refinished hardwood floors discovered underneath the carpet and finished the dream basement (and recently remodeled it).
Most of the aesthetically-pleasing work was born from a very practical purpose. For example, the log planks were added to the dining room wall due to the installation of a new furnace.
“We needed a new furnace in 2008 and the only way to run the new ductwork was through the ceiling, so we had this big, shiny duct running up the side of the dining room wall,” recalled Debbie. “We needed to cover it and blend it in with the rest of the room, so we chose the logs.”
Although a great deal of work has been completed over the years one step at a time, the look of the home is very unified. Debbie has taken pains to ensure that the woodwork matches and as many original items as possible have been reused or re-purposed. The result is a beautiful, updated home that feels like it was recently built or remodeled in its entirety.
Each week, Emma Bowen Meyer features a Madison County home. If you know of a home that should be showcased, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.