A mail-order Sears house gets a double makeover
You might have seen identical twin sisters Jana and Dana Smidt on the HGTV show, “House Hunters,” when they were featured in an episode called “Twins for Twins” in 2015.
Jana was looking for a house in Galveston near the beach, and Dana, a licensed Realtor, was helping her decide between three properties they’d been shown. They eventually chose two Craftsman homes, side by side, on one lot.
The sisters were enamored with the fact that the houses were Sears Craftsman kit homes, popular from 1908 to 1940, which arrived via railcar and included a booklet of building instructions.
“We think they were built around 1935,” said Jana, who lives in one, while using the other for storage.
The savvy sisters have been investment partners for years and own seven Galveston properties that are either leased or being remodeled to become vacation rentals.
They also hold full-time jobs in the health care industry, travel extensively and share their love of real estate, especially properties that need some TLC. Having worked at Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn, they developed a keen knowledge of mixing high-end with low-end design elements.
Jana’s 950-square-foot house includes a living room, dining room, kitchen, two bedrooms and one bath. With help from Dana, they’ve made several improvements over the past few years, paying close attention to the bones of the structure, making sure the soul of the house stayed intact, they said.
“We revamped the front porch, painted the exterior Salty Dog Blue, and replaced the front door with an authentic Craftsman door that we got from Antique Warehouse,” Jana said.
After removing all the old brown paneling in the living room, the original shiplap walls were exposed, so the sisters got busy sanding and painting them white. They left the shiplap ceiling brown for contrast.
“We did have to replace some of the shiplap and wood flooring, but found matches at Antique Warehouse,” Jana said. “The original windows had been replaced by the previous owner, so we ended up installing hurricane windows. We covered up a few of the interior doors to add spaciousness. Back when these were built, all the bedrooms had doors leading to the center of the house for adequate air flow.”
To make the house even more spacious, the sisters widened the openings between the living room, dining room and kitchen, adding new crown molding they painted white.
In the dining room, they added dentil chair rail molding and painted the lower section of the walls white. The iron-topped dining room table with gold legs is actually an outdoor table from Restoration Hardware. Mid-century chairs came from a thrift store. The metal sideboard and hutch came from Restoration Hardware, and they inherited from a great aunt a small table they’re using as a bar.
“We like to incorporate the old with the new,” Dana said.
Remnants of the original chimney occupy a narrow section of the kitchen wall. Dana found matching brick to complete the rest of the kitchen walls and laid the brick herself, including the vent hood over the stove. An island made from raw wood, topped with marble, under an industrial pulley light fixture, completes the period look.
A back door leads to the back deck, where they plan to build a master bath, closet and screened-in porch.
The tiny bathroom got several updates, including new tub, tile and basket-weave marble floors. They tore out a closet to make room for a vanity repurposed from a chest of drawers. The mirror is one of Dana’s finds at a yard sale back in the 1990s.
“We buy stuff randomly knowing we will use it someday,” Jana said. “We just don’t know where or when.”
The hallway, painted a soft taupe, leads to both bedrooms. The master is furnished with pieces from Restoration Hardware and antiques the sisters have collected. Inherited art pieces, old movie posters and photos decorate the walls. They bought the Berber rug during a trip to Morocco.
“We travel a lot and have taken numerous international trips over the years,” Dana said.
The second bedroom is another mix of décor. A nightstand is actually a rusty safe from Antique Warehouse, the iron headboard is something their uncle found in the trash, and more art from their great aunt hangs on the walls.
Jana and Dana were born one minute apart, and were a complete surprise to their mother.
“We were supposed to be one big boy, but when our mom was in labor they discovered she was having two girls,” Jana said.
Although identical, they look slightly different after Jana had nasal surgeries related to sports injuries. They haven’t dressed alike since their kindergarten days, and although they’ve shared almost everything their whole lives and often have the same thoughts, they are individuals, they said.
Even with busy schedules, they’ll never stop dealing in real estate or storing items that might work somewhere down the road.
“We love doing this stuff,” they both said in unison.