Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Where We Live: Couple turns Gloucester Point farmhouse into dream home

Tina and Mike Silberhorn make a great couple, not just because they have been married for 26 years and have three great kids, but they’ve also managed to restore an old farmhouse during that time.

For some, that may seem like a huge project to take on — one that could cause a lot stress, worry and disagreements — but the Silberhorns have enjoyed every minute of it.

The couple, who have both lived in Gloucester since they were kids, were intimately familiar with the old, white 19th-century farmhouse before they purchased it. Mike grew up only 2 miles away and remembers riding bikes and go-karts around it as well as playing in the nearby fields. At one point, when the house was used as a partial office for a local builder, Tina’s mom worked on mortgage documents there.

During that time, the home was in pretty rough shape. Plywood served as the flooring and crumbling mismatched wallpaper cemented the feeling of neglect.

Then in 1992, following their engagement, Mike and Tina were looking for their first home. They heard the old farmhouse was on the market.

“We saw it as our starter home,” said Tina. “We figured we’d buy it, fix it up and then sell it in five years or so.”

Though the “fixing up” would be extensive, Tina wasn’t worried. Her husband-to-be was a “jack-of-all-trades.”

“He can do anything,” she said.

They quickly put a contract on the house, but it was contingent on Tina securing a job as a teacher. As months went by, and there were no job offers. The couple would drive by the house already formulating in their minds how they would transform it.

Then they heard from their realtor that another contract was put on the house and they had 48 hours for Tina to secure employment or the couple would lose it.

“We just knew we had lost it at that point,” Tina recalled.

But the very next day, a local school called and offered her a job.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” she said. “That’s when I knew this was meant to be.”

Then the magic happened.

Skilled in painting, woodworking, flooring and practically every other trade (except plumbing, he joked)  Mike got to work on the house. Between his craftsmanship and Tina’s excellent taste, the couple began breathing life back into the once abandoned farmhouse.

As five, 10 and 15 years went by, and as the family grew, the house morphed in design and function to meet their needs.

Before their kids were born, the downstairs bedroom once housed a pretty elaborate bar.

Mike “was pretty proud of that bar and still misses it,” Tina laughed.

Post-kids, the bar area became a playroom, and then a master suite. What used to be a formal dining room is now a more casual sitting area, and a wall separating the kitchen and living room was changed to allow for more open space. The walls have been painted several times, and furniture is moved around and re-oriented.

“It’s a constant project,” said Tina. “We think we are done, but then we change this and that. We definitely couldn’t have done it if Mike wasn’t so handy. He’s saved us a ton of money.

“Every square inch of this home we’ve touched, he’s touched, he’s fixed,” added Tina.

The home’s aluminum siding has been painted white, cream, green and is now blue. The original tin roof is touched up every three to four years with a coat of paint, and the 157-year-old house still has its original windows.

“You should see my electric bill,” laughed Mike. “But I just love the wavy glass.”

Many antique glass panes installed in windows in the 1700s and 1800s appear wavy because of the bubbles and other imperfections in the glass.

“We love older homes and all their imperfections,” said Mike. “In my business I’m in new homes every day, but there’s something about the character of older homes. Sure, there’s a tradeoff. But it’s worth it to us.”

The inside of the Silberhorns’ home is very much in keeping with the farmhouse style. It’s cozy, warm and inviting, and filled with unique treats everywhere you look.

Custom-designed wood paneling installed on the exterior of the refrigerator matches the cabinets. Rustic antique pieces populate each room, and an old Texaco gasoline funnel now serves as a drop-down light.

One room features nautical elements such as propellers and tide gauges as well as vintage fox hunting prints.

The couple has even come up with their own term to describe that particular design feature.

“We call it ‘foxical’ — a mixture of fox and nautical,” said Mike with a big grin.

Though it’s a lot of upkeep, the Silberhorns couldn’t be happier living where they do. Even their children appreciate the home.

“We were just talking the other day about what we would do if we won the MegaMillions,” said Tina. “Nobody said the wanted to move — or if we did, we’d have to take the house with us.

“This really has become our dream home,” added Tina. “We just love coming home to it. We just love it here.”








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