Raianne Melton took one look at what would become her house and saw potential. Her husband, Michael, saw a headache. Fortunately, he trusted his wife and now they’re both thrilled with their choice, a quaint wooden-siding house built in 1924.
That was 10 years and many projects ago.
The house, which they call Evensong Cottage, has one bedroom, one bathroom, two living areas and an office.
The Meltons want to spend the rest of their lives in the house, which is in Glendale’s Catlin Court Historic District.
“The neighborhood drew us to the house,” Raianne said. “My husband, when he first saw the house, said, ‘Oh, no, you really don’t want to live here.’ But we loved the feel of the neighborhood. I thought, 'You just have to see my plan.’ And now this house is exactly who we are.”
Evensong Cottage is 950 square feet and suits the couple well, Raianne said. This was quite a downsize from their last house, which was 3,000 square feet.
“This is the perfect little house for two people,” she said. “We were looking for our retirement home, the house where they are going to carry us out feet first, and this is the house we ended up in. We’ve never had a home that was what we really wanted. We were always making do with where we were at and we did great, but we wanted to have a house that was a dream of what we wanted.”
Raianne’s favorite room is the kitchen.
“There’s not a day that I go into the kitchen that I don’t feel blessed that it’s mine,” she said.
She also enjoys features in the rest of the home, such as built-in shelves, original wood floors, crown molding and her big soaking tub.
“We had our bathroom floor retiled and everyone thinks we have the original floor — it’s beautifully done,” she said. “We only have the items in this house that are real treasures to us. It’s comfortable and it suits us. It’s not too big; it’s not too small.”
The Meltons have been married for 30 years and have three adult children. None of the kids have lived at Evensong Cottage, but one daughter has a house two doors down.
Raianne and Michael had lived in metro Phoenix in more common houses and wanted a stronger community feel. The neighborhoods they were in had cinderblock fences that discouraged interaction. Most residents entered their homes from their garages, rarely seen by neighbors.
The lack of walkability also frustrated the Meltons with having to drive everywhere and not being able to explore nearby businesses without accessing busy streets.
Their Catlin Court neighborhood is everything they wanted. Even with a side-facing house, the Meltons have lots of interaction with passers-by.
“You cannot be outside in our neighborhood without seeing your neighbors and greeting them,” Raianne said. “It has that small-town feel."
The Meltons renovated every room of the house and lived in it while they did the work. When they redid the bathroom, they had to bucket-bathe in the kitchen. The renovations were tough but the Meltons powered through.
“He’s such a good guy,” Raianne, a Banner palliative care employee, said of her husband, a hospice admissions nurse. “It was all a matter of figuring out how to do each project. I’m a get-it-done-fast kind of person, and he’s the deliberate, one-step-at-a-time type.”
The couple did the painting and demolition work and hired their contractor friend for more complicated projects. They worked on one room at a time and were able to stay on budget.
The key, Raianne believes, was to live in the space before making the renovation plan.
“That changed our ideas of what we needed,” she said. “We would have made some fatal architectural mistakes — such as by adding onto the house — changes that we wouldn’t have even needed and that would have hurt the house. Living in the house and getting to know it helped tremendously.”
She said a second bathroom would have been nice but that they’re doing fine without it. She and Michael believe they may even have a little more room than they need.
“There are whole days where we don’t use the dining area or the office,” she said.
Downsizing and shedding belongings was ultimately a great choice for the couple, but they don’t recommend it for everyone. Nor do they recommend a fixer-upper for everyone, either.
“People come to our home and say, ‘Oh my gosh, we gotta do this,’ but I think it’s a personal decision,” Raianne said. “Know that under every wall is a new adventure and nothing is going to go smoothly. You have to be patient. If you need everything done today, it’s the wrong choice for you. It takes time.”
That time, for the Meltons, was worth it.
“We like being at home,” Raianne said. And Evensong Cottage is that home.