Holiday tour of historic homes features 7 Olympia properties

The right house can bring a family together.

Bill and Rita Sjolin were undergoing family turmoil 10 years ago while living in a 1960s era home near Sea-Tac Airport. While working things out, they were asked where they saw themselves five years in the future.

“We both separately drew these pictures of an older home, surrounded by trees, overlooking some water. Six months later we purchased this place,” Bill said. “We had no idea it would happen that fast.”

“This place” is a 1923 Craftsman style bungalow home on Olympia’s east side. It, along with six other historic properties, will be open for holiday themed tours on Sunday. The Olympia Historical Society & Bigelow House Museum is sponsoring the Holiday Tour of Historic Homes. All the homes are on Olympia’s east side.

The Sjolins’ two-story house with a basement sits on a hill surrounded by an oversized lot, trees and with a view of Budd Inlet. They are raising two boys in the home known as the Meyer-Chitty House.

“For the first sixth months I really thought I was just a visitor,” Rita said. “Now, we’ve made it ours.”

Though the house had been remodeled in 1997, the Sjolins realized they needed to make some changes.

They completely remodeled the kitchen, widening the door to make it more open, and turning a shelf and blackboard into a pass-through. They also looked for opportunities to recreate the era of the home, including period styled appliances.

“I wanted an old stove to bring back the kitchen to the 1920s,” Rita said.

Bill, meanwhile, decided to remove the plaster surrounding the brick furnace chimney that runs up one corner of the kitchen. Despite carefully taping up plastic barriers, the scheme didn’t go as planned.

“I thoroughly dusted the ground floor of the house when I was done,” Bill said.

The Sjolins hired the same contractor who had extensively remodeled the 2,900 square foot home in 1997. “He came in and started doing things he had wanted to do in ’97,” Bill said. The contractor, among other things, leveled a sloping ceiling.

The Sjolins also upgraded the electrical, heating and plumbing systems. The foundation was retrofitted for earthquake protection, and a new roof was put on.

The home was built by the Meyer family in the early 1920s but was quickly acquired by the Chitty family. It had a slow decline, as many older homes do, eventually becoming a defacto “frat house,” according to Bill.

Today, the house is back to its glory with a fair amount of pink added — Rita’s favorite color. A row of pink jackets lines a hallway. A benefit: “The boys leave my stuff alone,” she said.

The boys’ bedrooms are in the basement while Rita and Bill have the master on the top floor. It has double doors that open onto a deck with an expansive view. Antique furniture fills the room. A claw foot tub that was in the carriage house on the property is now being used again.

The white house is painted with a light gray trim. “It takes more trim paint than it does house paint,” Rita said. There’s an impressive matching carport, built in 1997.

The Sjolins, who both worked in the medical field, have slightly different ideas on when they’ll eventually leave the home.

“I say we’ll live here until we can’t get up and down the stairs anymore. Rita says feet-first,” Bill said.

Other homes on the 2014 Holiday Tour of Historic Homes