These are the Kings of Muncie. Literally. Their last name is King, and you should really know them.
Name something cool--like, having a working Edison cabinet, having photographs in local galleries, working at a non-profit, or being a historic preservation officer--like anything cool that can be done, BRAD AND DENISE KING DO IT. I had to interview them.
I initially connected with Brad while selling a 100-year-old craftsman home, which had an honorific historic designation. I called the officer of historic preservation to determine what, if any, guidelines may be in play for renovation, and he explained. I remember feeling super impressed that he was so committed to historic homes. About 2 seconds later, I saw him leaving a lunch date with Denise, his wife, who works for United Way. At this point, I was thinking they might even be cooler than I thought.
THE PLOT THICKENS. At the next First Thursday Artswalk (out of towners, this is a super cool event in which downtown businesses display art, and this also involved a soup crawl), Denise had some amazing photographs featured at Studio Exhale. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE. Obviously, like any normal person, I went to the Beech Grove Historic Cemetery Tour (‘cause I was prepping for Halloween and I love this stuff), and Brad was one of the tour guides.
So, to recap so far: the Kings are amazing.
I was thrilled when this super interesting couple allowed me into their home to conduct an interview. There are so many cool things they do, I didn’t know where to start. Their home, which they restored beautifully (using what they describe as “historically sympathetic” details and decor), welcomes you with a stately grandfather clock on the front porch. Step inside their foyer, and you will see beautifully arranged antique photographs (family members), a working Edison cabinet phonograph, a hat rack.
It’s clear these are people who love homes. They purchased theirs in 2009, noting that it was a “buyers market.” Brad and Denise were ready for a project, and they found their house in...well, prime project condition.
“It was horribly disgusting,” Denise explained. “It was an old rental, holes in the wall…”
“Taupe and white, with fake wood laminate,” Brad added.
“It had the most terrifying bathroom...tub and shower broken, leaks coming out from under the sink for a long time. The side was rotten, veneer splintered up. They had put builder grade things in, the cheapest they could find. We worked with what we could. We had a little bit of rose colored glasses, and we could see the potential.”
That’s where they started the rehab, but that is NOT where it ended.
Repairs went on, and design choices were made to reflect the original aesthetic of the home. Denise describes it as, “Victorian funeral chic” (someday, I aspire to coin such a phrase, which will inevitably start a movement in interiors).
“We painted too, because it was dirty white and dirty taupe. We were like, we’ve lived with ‘renter white’ all our adult life, so that’s how we ended up with yellows, blues, and reds—we were picking a historical palette for the interior—these are the colors from the beginning of the 20th century—they are sympathetic to the time period,” Brad explained.
In fact, they were lucky enough to find a box in the basement with art nouveau and Victorian wall paper, along with exterior paint chips on the ground. They used these artifacts to inform paint choices, and the outside of the home now looks similar to when it was first built. Some of the wallpaper can be seen in a shadow box display in the living room, a beautiful reminder to visitors that this home has had a long and beautiful life, with lots of good years ahead of it.
The Kings also serve on the Old West Neighborhood Association, and have observed the number of owner-occupied residences increase--in 2010, there were approximately 70% rentals, and Brad says that the 2020 census will likely show that number to decrease by at least 10%.
When I asked which neighborhoods are next for revitalization in Muncie, Brad suggested South Central and Gilbert, which have been previously overlooked, but have a number of fascinating historical homes, and great opportunities for investment:
“South Central has some nice architecture hiding down there—1900’s and teens style homes. Our house was finished in November of 1901—there are homes down there like ours, but even larger. But again, divided into units, and the average citizen may not have the skill set and finances to fix that. But houses aren’t grown—it’s just a built structure, and any house can be fixed. It’s a matter of having resources.”
Brad and Denise stated that they have been raised to “leave things better than they found them.” Clearly, this extends beyond the rejuvenation of their own home, with the scope of their impact extending through the local landscapes of arts, philanthropy, and community spirit. Kings: Muncie is lucky to have you.