The Gifford Mansion in downtown Napa had seen better days when Lauren Ackerman walked through its front doors in 2010.
The roughly 4,500 square-foot-home, built between 1884 and 1888, hadn’t been restored in more than a century, she said.
“It was desperately in need of repair,” Ackerman said. There was only one working bathroom. The kitchen had old appliances and no cabinets. Trash had accumulated on the property. A leaky roof had left water damage throughout.
Ackerman wasn’t deterred.
“I could see through it, and the bones of it were fabulous,” she said. “I’m not scared off by that kind of stuff.”
She bought the mansion at 608 Randolph St. for $875,000 from previous owner Michael Hamilton.
Since then, Ackerman has spent the past two years restoring the home with a team of contractors, painters, designers and other craftspeople. “I had been wanting to do this kind of project for years,” she said.
Ackerman, whose family owns Ackerman Family Vineyards in the Coombsville area, previously refurbished a 1922 apartment building in San Francisco, but this was her first project of such broad scope, she said.
“I fell in love with the house,” which was designed by well-known local architect Luther Turton, Ackerman said. “It’s a labor of love.”
Among the items found during the first stages of remodeling were period letters, newspapers from the 1920s, postcards, magazines and old tools. “We found an antique martini glass under the bathtub,” she said with a laugh.
All new electrical, heating and air conditioning systems and plumbing will be installed. Stained glass windows, original wood paneling, windows and floors will be restored. Layers of old paint and wallpaper have been removed and the walls removed down to the studs so new rooms can be configured and bathrooms added.
Instead of the pink and purple tones that once covered the home, Ackerman will use warmer hues such as camel, red and slate blue, she said. The outside already features a new paint job complete with gold leaf detailing.
Where possible, the original fixtures and other interior elements from the home will be reused. Otherwise, period replacements will be sourced. “To bring the house to life,” a large kitchen with modern appliances will be created in the back of the home, she said.
When all is done, the home will feature three bedrooms, three full baths and two half bathrooms. A former carriage house will also be remodeled into a garage space.
Ackerman said her goal is to eventually open the home for public dinners, fundraisers, tours and other special programs to be determined.
“It could be a mini-Copia,” she said, offering wine and food events or other such ideas. “It’s going to be a gift to the community.”
The homeowner wouldn’t say how much the renovations are expected to cost, only that “I’ve totally blown my budget.”
She’s not rushing the project. “I’ve given myself five years to get it done,” Ackerman said. “I want to do it right. I want this house to last another 124 years.”
Ackerman said she hopes to be completely finished with the restoration in spring 2014.
“It’s a big project but it’s really fun,” she said. “I’ve learned so much about the process of restoration. I want do another one.”