I’ve known Mallorie Rasberry for a couple of years. She’s always had a soft spoken yet fiercely kind and direct personality that people are drawn to immediately. Being fresh out of college and moving home to work for her, I have come to find comfort and inspiration in her kind of woman, who can be all of the above and more. You can see it in the way she runs her business, treats her employees, loves her husband and her spunky little girl, Lucy (who is one of our favorite shop kids at Laurel Mercantile Co.)
Her entrepreneurial, anything is possible approach to life inspires everything she does but her hospitality is the driving force and passion that brings outlandish ideas to existence. In hindsight, I suppose The Laurel Cottages was one of those ideas. To most, the idea of opening your home to strangers is unusual, but to Mallorie and Jim, it’s the ultimate way of welcoming people in to life’s sweetest gift – togetherness.
Since all of us here on the Laurel Mercantile team are big fans of a good renovation story (wink, wink) here's a quick recap from Mallorie on what all it took for the Laurel Cottages to have this amazing comeback.
When we purchased this house a couple of years ago, the guesthouse was in tough shape...actually, it was a pretty darn scary. It had sat forgotten for at least 50 years - the first floor, renovated in the 1950's was like a dirty, tattered time machine complete with ceiling tiles, awful paneling and a kitchen that looked like it should've been in roadside motel. We were fortunate that the upstairs had been left untouched since the early 1900's. Original wood walls, ceilings and floors - however, they were all covered with 100 years of dirt and crystallized paint. Oh, and the exterior...yikes! Flaky cedar shakes that hadn't been touched in decades.
After our initial walk through of the property, we quickly realized that the previous owners didn't see the potential in the guest house like we did and it actually played a large role in our purchasing of this property. We had big plans to bring this sad, dilapidated guest house back to life.
While I admire folks that can renovate in one fail swoop, that's not how the Rasberrys work - ha! Our life consists of constant renovation projects, one right after another, so we prefer to divide and conquer on our own schedule (and budget). We started on the first floor because it was the worst. We saved what we could of the first floor, which wasn't much, and did a complete 2 month renovation on the rest - new ceiling, floors, electrical, plumbing, air, kitchen, bath and laundry, taking out and adding walls.
After the first floor was complete, we took a much needed breather for a few months and then started on the exterior. Through all of our renovations since we've been married, this was by far our most challenging exterior to tackle. See, in south Mississippi you don't find many cedar shake houses so it's quite an oddity for these parts and has definitely taken us out of our wood siding comfort zone. We scraped and repaired the shingles where needed and painted...I'm always amazed at what a fresh coat of paint will do! And we were even more amazed at how resilient the cedar shakes were - after all those years of neglect, all they needed was just a little TLC and they quickly came back to life.
Most recently, we couldn't wait to take on the last phase of the project - the second floor that we refer to as the Carriage House. If I'm being honest, it's my favorite...only because we were able to salvage so much of the original character. We restored the beautiful floors (Mike Husers is an amazing craftsman - you can see his work on every episode of Home Town!), scraped the old paint and applied a fresh new coat to the original tongue and groove pine walls and ceilings, added new custom kitchen cabinets and refinished the century old bathtub and sinks. We did all new plumbing and electrical and added central air and heat and we are 100% certain that this is the first time that this space has ever seen that luxury! We widened the opening from the kitchen to the living room area and created a whole new entrance, complete with an amazing second story deck that overlooks both 6th and 7th Avenue.
Now that the guest house is officially complete, it's one of our prouder projects for sure. What has taken place in Laurel over the last ten years and renovating this space that has sat vacant for 50 years has a lot in common. It's confirmed that there is nothing quite like bringing something back to life—whether it’s a historic home or our small town.... it's incredibly satisfying to create value in something that has been worn, loved, then forgotten. And all it takes are folks that see the potential.
With the new addition of the Carriage House to the existing Cottage and Airstream, the Laurel Cottages is an open invitation to all of you who want an authentic experience to explore Laurel, America’s hometown.
Learn more and book your stay at www.thelaurelcottages.com.
A Laurel native, Lindsay Miller, is Laurel Mercantile Co.'s communication and social media manager. As a recent graduate from the University of Mississippi, with a degree in Integrated Marketing Communications, she loves to promote small town America by shining a spotlight on the small town that raised her.