Saturday, May 21, 2016

A House Restored: They Saw the Vision of this 1846 House

By Anna Patterson

Photos Melissa Donald 

As the wrought-iron gate swings shut, the door to a beige historic home opens before me. I am greeted by an ecstatic golden Labrador, Major.

I step through the doorway, and splashes of color overwhelm my senses — from the purple neon kitchen banner to the blue-green pelican hanging over the fireplace. The home is filled with sunshine, and I can’t help but smile as I take it all in.

Mo McKnight Howe’s Butchertown home was built in 1846 but has since been brought into the 21st century. Her white-washed walls are covered with works of art — both from her gallery, Revelry, and her own pieces.

Restoring this home was a labor of love. When Mo and her husband Scotty first moved in, most of the home’s history had been covered up. They removed three layers of flooring before reaching the original hardwood. The fireplace had been bricked up, which required a specialist in historical renovations to restore. And last but not least, an additional 3 feet of ceiling height was covered up by drop-down ceilings.

Able to see a vision through the mess, Mo and Scotty, along with artist and contractor Adam Horton, gave new life to the 170-year-old home. Mo designed, Scotty built, Adam restored. Piece by piece, they ripped out and rebuilt. They found pieces of history along the way, including a postcard revealing the actual year the house was built.

 Most of their furniture is from flea markets, Goodwill or Peddler's Mall. The two chairs, which Mo purchased for $15 each at the Peddler's Mall, were reupholstered in orange fabric by her mother-in-law. "I look for shapes and styles of furniture instead of getting distracted by the awful patterns and colors of fabrics," she says.   

“We thought we were buying just a simple shotgun home in Butchertown,” Mo says, “We weren’t going to renovate at all. But once we found all the history, we couldn’t just keep it covered up. We decided to go all in.”

It took a great deal of time and money to make the house into their vision.They chipped away paint and smashed through the ceilings. Mo returned from vacation to find her husband had demolished the kitchen.

Everything in their kitchen is either new or refinished.  "The island has become a hub for creating, cooking, baking and just hanging out with friends," she says. 

“It was tricky,” Mo says, “We had to move back in with our parents while it was all happening. Very unexpected. That was the hardest part of renovating. Not only did [my husband and I] want to kill each other over the renovations and the money, but we also had to move back in with Mom and Dad.”

But every penny spent, all the blood, sweat, and tears — worth it.

The fully restored home now features the best of both the past and present. Mo’s personal favorite is the kitchen. The combination of stainless steel appliances, wood countertops, and original brick create an eclectic but classy ambiance. She is greeted every morning by a favorite saying of hers: “Make the life you want” etched out in glowing violet letters. The home’s original pocket doors give the space flexibility. Open the doors, and the house has a open floor plan — living room and kitchen flowing seamlessly together. Close the doors and the kitchen becomes an intimate chat room.

The collection of artwork also gives the home a modern yet personal touch. Mo has a story for each piece. “The last thing you want is to have a piece of art and not be able to talk about it,” Mo says. “Know about the artist, know about the story.” Her collection consists of work from her travels, friends, favorite artists, and even her own.

Mo’s shop, Revelry, caters to all things local. She sells handmade art, furniture and accessories – all created by local artists. She likes to think Revelry has something for everyone, from college students to high-end art collectors. And the best part is every purchase goes directly to support a neighborhood artist. Her business mantra: “You have to be 100 percent passionate about what you’re doing, or it won’t work.”

"We decided to take advantage of our one large wall and cover it with art. We hung it salon style and decided to add to it as we collect," she says. 

What’s your favorite room in your own home, and why? Also, read another woman’s expert tips on choosing art for your home.


  1. Oh my goodness! I am so surprised to see this! My father and his brother whom are both now deceased, grew up in this house. While growing up I was very close to my Grandparents(their parents) and my precious Grandmother was always talking about the times "at 911". She lived to 101 years of age and died in 2010. Boy she would have loved to see this! Beautiful! So glad to get to see the interior as it gives me an idea of how it may have been back between the 30's to mid 50's when they lived there, of course I know it would have looked a lot different. Look the picture of the front of the house. When I saw that it took my breath away, and then the "911", Haa.

    1. Mo McKnight HoweMay 25, 2016 at 2:41 PM

      DoveNative! I love that you know some of the history. We often think about the many generations of people who have lived here. E-mail me if you ever want to take a tour! There is a lot more than just these 2 rooms :)

  2. I meant to say "Love" the picture of the front of the house. Too much excitement I guess.

  3. My grandparents raised their 5 boys in that house. I grew up in that house as well. I became very close to the couples from whom you guys bought the house. So many memories. There used to be a tricky hallway and a drop down stair case in the master bedrooms closet that entered the upstair apartment. Where the tree is in the right of the yard there was once the famously hated bird bath ( it weighed sooooo much ) I leaned how to do cartwheels in the front yard. I so miss the house but it is still very beautiful. I think my father ( he lives directly across the street still ) has a copy of the 1890 deed on the house. So much history.

    1. Mo McKnight HoweMay 26, 2016 at 2:36 PM

      We know your father, Stacey, Jenna! He has told us a lot about the house and some fun stories about all 5 of the boys growing up there. Stop by if you ever want to re-live some of those memories :)


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