Returning to former glory: Bob and Sarah LaGore restore and update Murphy-Murdoch house

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 16, 2017

By Susan Shinn Turner
For the Salisbury Post

Sarah LaGore always wanted to live in an historic home.

“I decided it would be now or never,” says Sarah, 57, who moved to Salisbury with husband Bob, 56, in June 2015. Together, they meticulously restored the Murphy-Murdoch house at 229 W. Bank St., after the home sat empty for two years.

“We’ve moved multiple times with my husband’s work,” Sarah says. The couple came here from Louisville. “As soon as I know we’re gonna move, I start looking at community statistics.”

Her husband worked as a global manager for Akzo Nobel and was going to be in its High Point location. They wanted a town a bit smaller. That’s why they chose Salisbury. Bob has since changed careers and is now a truck driver. Sarah is a full-time grandmother to Odin, 3.

Sarah looked at historic homes from Greensboro to Winston-Salem to Salisbury.

“This one kept calling me,” she says of the Murphy-Murdoch house, a Greek Revival style dwelling built by Andrew Murphy in 1854 as a wedding gift for his bride.

The house required extensive renovation, Sarah notes. “Just about everything you see is new, except for the flooring and the walls.”

The house now encompasses more than 5,100 square feet. The
LaGores added 9 feet across the back of the house to accommodate a modern kitchen and master bedroom. Sarah has consulted extensively with the house’s previous owner, Katherine Murdoch, the fifth generation of her family to live here.

“She’s just adorable,” Sarah says. “I am thrilled she is around. If I have a question, I can ask her.”

Sarah calls herself a new generation preservationist. “We believe it’s better to encourage people to be in creative mode, but keep the outside of the house as it is. Inside, people want modern conveniences — big showers, great bathrooms, quality countertops. Most people do not want to live in a museum.”

The LaGores worked with Scott Crawley of Central Piedmont Builders.

“I feel like we did get the best,” Sarah says. “He made the difference.”

From the moment you step in the door, you find a home that’s peaceful, elegant, inviting.

The wide foyer is covered with a shimmery, blue-gray wallpaper, and functions as a receiving room. The parlor to the right was once covered in its original, brown floral wallpaper. Unfortunately, it had molded over the years and was not salvageable. Sarah saved the wallpaper and is now working with framer Jody Sedberry to create a display with a photograph of the house and the wallpaper receipt. This room now has silver paint and a modern chandelier with an antique look. The parlor holds artwork, books and family photos.

Sarah and Bob lost their mothers before the move, and have furniture from both sides of their family.

To the left of the foyer is the library which doubles as Bob’s office. Here, Sarah has covered the walls with brown, tile-look wallpaper from England. There’s no artwork here as to display its unique texture. Oversized leather furniture complements the room’s masculine look.

In all of the rooms, Sarah chose window shades with no window treatments.

“The architecture is so beautiful,” Sarah notes, and each window is framed with wide wood trim.

Continuing down the wide center hall — large enough for an upright piano — guests find the dining room on the left. Its focal point is an art deco-style fireplace with green and brown tile. Beyond that in the back corner of the house, a breakfast room is surrounded by windows on three sides.

By adding the extra 9 feet to the back of the house, Sarah now has a “decent-sized kitchen. I feel older homes need a great kitchen. I wanted a working kitchen big enough for a catering staff to use.”

She got it.

Custom cabinetry sets off beautiful quartz counters in shades of gray and black with gold flecks. Jonni Schmidt of New Salisbury, Indiana, a third-generation cabinet shop owner, designed the kitchen. The two women had worked together in Sarah and Bob’s house in Louisville.

“I wouldn’t have anybody else, ever,” Sarah says. “Her prices are less expensive than the big box stores. She worked closely with Scott, and everything fits perfectly.”

The new pantry sports a diamond-paned window Sarah found on the property. The new laundry room is filled with more cabinets and has a stacked washer and dryer set. The new half-bath is furnished in a Japanese theme, with items Sarah’s father accrued during his service in the Korean War.

The new master bedroom is appointed in shades of cool blues and greens. The original dressing room has new life as a master bath, complete with a huge shower, walk-in closet, vanity with double seats, and plenty of cabinetry. The shower comes in handy for bathing Sarah’s dog Buddy, a 140-pound Saint Bernard. And no, he doesn’t particularly like it, she says.

Upstairs, there are four bedrooms, one of which Sarah calls Workroom B. It accommodates her long-arm quilt machine. A second bedroom on the back of the house is, you guessed it, Workroom A.

The other front bedroom is beautifully done in shades of cream. Some wood flooring here has been replaced because of damage, but floors throughout the house in oak, maple and pine have been restored.

The guest bath retains the home’s original clawfoot cast-iron tub, lovingly restored and sitting atop a sturdy new base. A console sink and separate toilet complete this small room.

The other back bedroom now serves as the family’s media room, complete with fridge and sink. The attached sleeping porch is Odin’s playroom.

The second upstairs bath is decorated in shades of gray, red and black and is known as the Edison bathroom, to honor the inventor who once visited this house. The LaGores added a walk-in shower and fun, inventor-inspired fixtures.

The LaGores’ two adult children, Stephen and Amber, both live in Salisbury. Amber hopes to find a teaching job here. If she stays, Bob and Sarah will also stay to help care for Odin. For now, Sarah is happy on Bank Street.

“The town has been so fantastic and our neighbors have been welcoming,” she says. “Restoring this house was the only thing on my bucket list. I’m very happy.”

If you happen to be strolling by during OctoberTour weekend, come on by, Sarah says. “I feel this is a house for the people. We’ve had about 60 people come through at different stages of the renovation. We’re very open to having folks tour this house.”

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