Thrifty Livonia woman transforms 200-year-old house a little at a time

05:00 AM, Aug 03, 2013

DIY decorator Laura Dragone on the shabby-chic porch of her 200-year-old Livonia home. (CARLOS ORTIZ//staff photographer)/


Written By Mary Chao | Staff writer

Laura Dragone had been a city girl her entire life, growing up in Rochester and raising her family in the Maplewood section of the city.

But a visit to a 200-year-old Adams-style Greek Revival home in Livonia about a decade ago changed her way of life.

We love this area,” Dragone says. “We love the rolling hills, the scenery.”

So Dragone and her husband, DC, purchased the 1807 home, knowing that they would have to work tirelessly to restore it.

They did, and Laura Dragone put her eye for design and love for DIY on every room.

Whatever I put my mind to, I put 100 percent into,” she says.

The 3,000-square-foot historic home is now a showcase of country chic design. Except only the look is upscale. Dragone took great care to replicate magazine looks without the high price tags. She shopped tag sales and repurposed other people’s discarded items.

Look around her home and you’ll see hints of her creativity.

The centerpiece of her outdoor porch is a chandelier made by draping cloth around a wire planter. The porch table was purchased for $5 and dressed in lace and linen.

The kitchen is colorful and eclectic, with a gift of branches from Mother Nature sprinkled throughout. A sideboard was upcycled with paint and new knobs.

The Dragones have two daughters, Amelia, 15, and Abigail, 12, who share a bedroom that’s purple and whimsical, accented with white furniture and pastel quilts.

Laura Dragone is now ready to update that room to give her teens a more sophisticated look.

There’s always a new decorating project for Dragone to tackle in her home.

As a teacher’s aide in the Livonia school district, she is on a tight budget. So she decorates a little bit at a time.

We don’t have the money to redo the whole house,” she says.

Their home is one of the oldest homes on a picturesque main street in the small Livingston County community.

A history buff, Dragone keeps a scrapbook filled with all the details about the home.

The original owner was George Smith, who left Dorset, Vt., and headed toward Charleston, now Lima, traveling for 22 days with an ox team and wagon filled with agricultural tools.

He settled as a farmer but learned the trade of millwright, studied surveying and practiced carpentry.

In 1807, Smith married Sallie Woodruff and built the only log cabin in the area.

Smith joined a company of soldiers led by Col. William Wadsworth of Geneseo and became a commissioned colonel himself when he returned from the War of 1812.

After settling back home, Smith was appointed justice of the peace in 1819.

After Livonia became its own town, splitting off from another, he named it after the Russian province that he had emigrated from.

Smith was instrumental in Livonia and the area around it breaking off from Ontario County to become Livingston County.

In 1821, Smith added onto his log cabin and created the two-story structure that the Dragones now live in.

The beauty of the land sold the Dragones on the location. But the story of the house was important as well, and they feel like stewards to history

This home is such a rich piece of history in Livonia and we feel so honored to be raising a family here, and in this community,” Laura Dragone says.

No strangers to older homes, the family had lived in a century-old home in Rochester before moving to Livonia.

When you live in a property that’s this old, there are always things that need to be repaired,” she says. “But we’re resourceful people.”

Laura Dragone feels the energy in her old home as it constantly inspires her to be creative.

The wheels in my head are constantly churning,” she says.

Which means she’ll always find a new project to take on, whether it’s refinishing a pantry room or restoring another piece of furniture.

We have the utmost respect for the stories this home tells and will continue to take pride in preserving this beautiful piece of the past,” Laura Dragone says.