Island couple adds character and charm to a modest two-story house
Esther and RJ DeLange want to make Galveston Island a prettier place to live. And they’re doing that one house at a time.
The DeLanges, who own the remodeling company Galvestonish, recently moved into one of their renovated homes, changing its character from a modest storm replacement house to a modern, up-to-date comfortable home in a nice neighborhood complete with a garden.
The house, a 1,450-square-foot, two-story structure, was built in 2013 by the federal government to replace a home destroyed by Hurricane Ike in 2008. Dubbed an Ike House, it was one of about 97 built through a federal program. The house was up to code, but lacked style and needed work, the DeLanges said.
“The house was built well, except there were problems,” RJ said.
When they bought the house, the entire first-floor flooring had rotted because it had been improperly insulated, he said.
“This was a mess,” he said. “It was so nasty when we walked in.”
The DeLanges removed the plywood floors and replaced it with a durable vinyl tile that’s also waterproof. They updated the kitchen by painting it, replacing the appliances, redoing the backsplash in a scalloped tile design and installing white quartz countertops.
“It had been very traditional, and now it is more happy colors,” said Esther, who dabbles in art as a painter.
Before Hurricane Ike, a tired looking and frail house stood on this lot. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, working with the city of Galveston, replaced the fallen building and other similar structures wrecked in the storm. The original owners of the replacement house encountered some personal problems in 2018 and weren’t able to handle the upkeep of the new building. They sold it to the DeLanges in 2019, who evaluated the problems but liked the layout and decided to buy it and give it a new life with a new look.
“The house is built solid; those piers are so deep they go to China,” said RJ, who recently stepped away from a computer security business to work full time on island restorations. “Once we fixed the floor problem, the rest was easy.”
The dining area is a small nook, leaving a large open space for the living room. The primary bedroom and adjacent bathroom also are on the main floor. The house has high ceilings, lots of double-paned windows allowing for constant sunlight. Upstairs are two more bedrooms and another bathroom. Their son, Pepijn, uses one of the rooms during his extended stay from college because of COVID-19.
The DeLanges decorated the rooms with eclectic pieces, mixing antiques and other unusual furnishings. Everything they use for the restorations — supplies, hired help, crews, professionals, furniture — comes from Galveston Island, they said. They use a lot of repurposed materials and are constant customers at the Antique Warehouse on 25th Street in the island’s downtown.
“We buy from the island because we want to work with people who also live here,” RJ said. “And they know us, so we get good deals.”
Perhaps the most changes to the house are on the outside. First, they moved a heavy, metal elevator and replaced it with a spa. They put up new fencing and enclosed the driveway, making what Esther refers to as her “tropical paradise.” They selected colorful plants and flowers to decorate the area, comfortable furniture and a private dog run. They cut out a small section of the garden door to allow their dogs to peek out during the day and monitor local traffic. Large trees provide enough shade so that it’s pleasant outside, even in the Texas summer.
The couple, originally from The Netherlands, has lived in Texas for 23 years, mostly in the Sugar Land area. They moved to Galveston two and a half years ago and started buying, restoring and then selling homes.
“It has become my passion,” RJ said. “I wanted to leave a permanent mark. I hope that when we fix up these houses, they will last another hundred years.”