Jessica Cabral is a Professor of Construction Management at Purdue University with the most amazing hobby. She transforms dilapidated old homes into modern masterpieces. Upon looking at the house for the first time she says she instantly knows what it can become.
I first met Jessica in 2008. She was getting her PHD in Construction Management at Purdue University and was looking to purchase a home that she said she was going to “fix up”. She settled on an 1100 square foot ranch on a basement that was being sold out of an estate on Rogers Street. I thought the house was too far gone, but Jessica saw the potential and went to work. During her summer break from Purdue, she gutted and completed renovated the main floor, and the following summer she renovated the basement. 18 months later she invited me back to see what she had done. I was intrigued. So many times, I have been told by clients that they were going to fix up their house, only to see, years later, that they put in minimal effort. As soon as I entered the house, my jaw hit the floor. She had gutted the entire house, reconfigured the floorplan and turned a dilapidate 1960s ranch into the most beautiful three-bedroom, two baths, on a finished basement I had ever seen. It was all new construction on the interior, plumbing and electrical too. Jessica was like her own HGTV show. I left her at the closing table all full of ideas and energy and returned 18 months later to the finished product. Even Joanna Gaines would have approved of this house. Open floor plan, master suite, finished basement with a wet bar and recreational space. It was amazing. When she sold that first property, 3 years later, it was a downturned market in our area, but the house sold in less than 3 days. She left town shortly after selling her first renovation, with a PHD in hand, to pursue her career as a professor at Drexel University.
The following year, when a position opened at Purdue University, Jessica moved back to Lafayette and bought her second fixer upper. This house was uglier than the first. It was an old Victorian two story on 21st Street with a tiny kitchen, and an even tinier half bathroom (think toilet in a closet) that opened directly into the tiny kitchen. A closed in, choppy floor plan made this house sit on the market for over 3 months. I didn’t see the potential, but Jessica did within an hour of seeing it. She bought the house once the school year had started, lived in the house for the remainder of the academic calendar, and renovated it in the summer of 2013. At the end of the summer she again invited me back, and this one was even more stunning than the first. She had knocked down walls and completely opened up the first floor, exposed brick, created a formal foyer with the staircase as the focal points, and she converted the obsolete dining room into a master bedroom. Not only was her design flawless, but so was her decorating. Every detail was perfect. Of all of her renovations to date, Jessica admits that this one was her favorite but also her most challenging. The challenge was that she didn’t change the floorplan on the second floor, so when she ran all of the new wiring, removing knob and tube, she had to do so through existing walls. She also thinks that this was her most dramatic renovation because you just don’t expect a modern, open floorplan in that age of a house. It’s true, it was stunning.
In early 2015 Jessica purchase her 3rd project, a 2-bedroom, bath and a half, brick ranch on Logan Street that was a foreclosure. The night before she found it, she met her now husband and as she was breezing through purchase paperwork like an old pro, she was telling me about him. When she was handed keys at closing, he was right there by her side. I brought them dinner the week they brought their twins home from the hospital and was able to inspect the amazing 3rd renovation. The house was now a 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom, open concept home, perfect for a family. I recently had the honor of listing it and it was under contract in 1 day.
Jessica’s fourth, and most recent, renovation is on Dehart Street in West Lafayette. They are now the owners of the prettiest home on the street. Since she and her husband work full time and have young twins, they plan on staying put for a while. When asked why she renovates, she says: “I do it because I love it. I love the challenge of taking something old and making it new. With new construction the sky is the limit, you can do anything. With an older home you must work within the confines that you are given.”
For now, renovating homes remains Jessica’s hobby. She currently has no plans for making it a career. Her next renovation project is for family. Lucky family!