COVINGTON, Ky. -- Diana Pulice and Andy Ponte never got to move into the 19th-century Italianate house he bought in the fall of 2015 and feverishly restored from top to bottom through the spring.
That's the sad part of the story. The happy part is that they brought back the historic Covington home, adding it to the grand old jewels that line the streets of the Licking Riverside Historic District. Since finishing the ambitious preservation project early last summer, Pulice and Ponte married and placed the fully furnished house up for sale at $950,000.
When Ponte accepted a new sales and marketing job in Northern California, oversight of the couple's ambitious preservation effort fell into the capable hands of Pulice, who is an interior design and renovation specialist.
"It wasn't in any condition you could move into," Pulice said of 228 E. Second St., which shares the building with a like unit. But Ponte, who was living in a condominium down the street, loved the walkable neighborhood and wanted a charming house there that had an Ohio River view.
"It had its original bones. The old floors and moldings were there, but there had been a lot of changes and modifications made over the past 100 years," Pulice said. "We had to strip it down before we could think what to put back."
The project list Pulice tackled ended up filling a page of double-spaced type. Huge effort went into replacing floor joists that had been dangerously compromised by makeshift remodeling. Wooden support beams were replaced with steel ones. Walls had to be re-plastered or replaced with drywall. Masons tuck-pointed the exterior brick, and Stewart Iron Works of Erlanger restored the original fences and gate. All new are the roof, plumbing, heating and cooling systems, bathrooms and kitchen.
At every juncture, Pulice said, great effort was made to save and reuse materials. Old rafter wood, for example, now lines the walls of the basement bar room and steel beams in the ceiling of the third floor.
Pulice gives a lot of credit for the authenticity of her restoration to Mike Radeke of the Kentucky Heritage Council. Not only did he hook her up with skilled engineers, carpenters, masons, electricians and plumbers who were passionate about historical properties, he guided her through prickly projects such as updating the fireplaces.
Pulice said she was going to tuck-point the fireplaces, but Radeke said they could collapse in the process. She took his recommendation and chose to install chimney sleeves and ventless gas systems. This and other careful decisions helped Pulice bring the first two floors of the house back to their post-Civil War condition, which was her ultimate goal.
"You have to appreciate its beauty and the craftsmanship that went into it," Pulice said. "I wanted that to show throughout the house."
When the construction ended, Pulice brought in furniture from Ponte's condo and supplemented it with antique and vintage mirrors, light fixtures and furniture she had bought at numerous area antiques stores.
Take the tour
Listing real estate agent Beverly Corsmeier brought us into the house through the basement door and into a cozy bourbon and wine bar in the basement, but most guests come in through the front door on the east side of the house and enter a hallway that divides the dining and living rooms and houses the original, stately staircase.
We started our tour in the kitchen of the 2,000-square-foot, 3-bedroom, 2 1/2-bathroom home. Designed by Annie Miller of Pease Warehouse & Kitchen Showroom in Hamilton, the room is a blend of modern and antique materials, the oldest being three Arts & Crafts-era pieces of stained glass that fit into new, classic cabinets.
"New" antiques in the room include a hammered copper farmhouse sink bought at Home Depot and a pair of Mazda-style pendants made out of Ball canning jars. Other throwback touches include a chalkboard on the wall just inside a door to the outside and dimpled-glass cabinet doors.
Not to miss off the kitchen and under the stairwell is a powder room with what could be the world's tiniest pedestal sink and a shadow box over the toilet that displays artifacts Pulice and her crew found during extensive demolition.
Adjacent to the 15-by-13-foot kitchen is the slightly larger dining room. Like all the other major rooms in the house, it features deep crown moulding -- which Pulice said used to be painted "grasshopper green" -- and high picture rails, original pine floors and a restored, working gas fireplace and period lighting Pulice bought at Wooden Nickel Antiques in Over-the-Rhine.
The living room is at the front of the house. Its two 7-foot-high windows face Second Street. All of their 13 pieces were either restored or replaced with authentic hardware, Pulice said.
Pulice made two major statements with the decor she chose for the hallway: a massive mirror made from a curved-top, steel casement window and a ballroom-sized crystal chandelier Ponte picked out at Wooden Nickel. The ceilings drop from 12 feet to 9 feet at the top of the stairs, which lead to a full-floor master bedroom suite fit for a magazine spread.
The bedroom is the smallest of three in the house but ample enough for a king-sized bed. The bathroom is all new with historically correct reproduction tile. The central bathroom vanity features nickel-plated legs and dual sinks and was salvaged from a home in Indian Hill, Pulice said.
Next to the bathroom is a walk-in closet with plenty of built-in cabinetry for two, and beyond it and two steps down is a sitting room with an exposed-brick chimney.
The architecture takes a dramatic turn and the style steps out of the 19th century on the third floor, which is vaulted with exposed beams. The ceiling slants in the front bedroom, but it is well-lighted by a 30-by-45-inch skylight.
The star space of the house is in the back, facing the alley running between Second Street and Riverside Drive. Beyond a sitting room similar to the one on the second floor and through two wide Pella doors is a 16-by-13-foot open deck with gas fireplace and a slate-tile floor from which the Cincinnati skyline view stretches from the John A. Roebling Bridge in the west to the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge in the east.
"It's just an awesome place to be out there and enjoy it," Pulice said.
The whole historic neighborhood, she said, makes it worth paying a high price to live along the river.
"It's such a lovely place to live. It has such great energy, and everybody is friendly," she said.
Kentucky Heritage Council's Radeke agrees and said he is always pleased to give technical assistance to people like Pulice and Ponte who love to restore historical properties, especially those in Covington.
"You get a sense of place there, and it's a walkable neighborhood," Radeke said. "These things make a place what it is. ... There's so much amazing architecture there. Covington is one of my favorite cities in Kentucky."
For more on the service offered by Kentucky Heritage Council, go to heritage.ky.gov.