In the second of the 13-part Southern Romance Project house renovation series, Phantom Screens CEO Esther de Wolde and home improvement expert Danny Lipford examine the historic 1906 Ford house she purchased in Mobile, Alabama, and discuss the many decisions that will need to be made when renovating the home.

Southern Romance Project:

Esther de Wolde: So we ought to start with introductions. I’m Esther de Wolde, and I’m CEO of Phantom Screens. I’m one of the people who founded our company 20-odd years ago in Abbotsford, British Columbia in Canada.

You may well be wondering, “What in the world is a Canadian doing in Alabama anyways?” Truth is, I fell in love with the South many years ago—more years ago than I care to remember. The porches; the wide, oak-lined streets—it’s just a wonderful part of the world. And the people, the people are so friendly.

I had my dream. It was bucket list item number 67: to take a neglected Southern home and restore it to its former glory. To make a long story short, I reached out to my friend and corporate spokesperson, Danny Lipford, to see if I could make this dream come true.

So here’s my story, the story of my Southern romance.

Esther de Wolde: All right, OK.

Danny Lipford: This is a big screen door.

Esther de Wolde: It is. It doesn’t look very original.

Danny Lipford: A little door adjustment.

Esther de Wolde: Yeah, I think so.

Danny Lipford: Write that on the list.

Esther de Wolde: Yeah. Add that to the many things.

Danny Lipford: You’ve been working to get rid of all the stuff that was in here. I call that stuff—you probably have other…

Esther de Wolde: I call it treasures.

Danny Lipford: …treasures.

Esther de Wolde: Treasures.

Danny Lipford: So at least you can see everything. Now that it’s cleared out, are you seeing anything that scares you?

Esther de Wolde: The whole thing scares me.

Danny Lipford: It’s all yours now, too late to turn back.

Esther de Wolde: I know, I know. How very true!

Danny Lipford: But when you have a house like this that’s been original and hasn’t been a dozen different owners, it’s a lot easier to bring it back to its original look.

Esther de Wolde: Well, I think that’s what’s so exciting to me is the fact that, yeah, one layer of wallpaper, original floors. Like everything is just so original.

Danny Lipford: Yeah. So what are your thoughts as far as some of these other areas?

Esther de Wolde: OK. Oh, they are just gorgeous. Look at the high ceilings.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, it’s really nice.

Esther de Wolde: So that, Danny. First of all what is that? I’m not used to ceilings like that.

Danny Lipford: Yeah. Well it’s just plaster over lathing.

Esther de Wolde: Do people still do plaster?

Danny Lipford: Uh, they do—very, very rarely. You know because it still will crack—it still has this—and it’s crazy expensive.

Esther de Wolde: Yeah, I guess. OK. Fair enough. So, I have questions about the fireplace. What do people do with a fireplace like that? And I mean, obviously, it’s gone through a few transformations.

Danny Lipford: Yeah. It originally…

Esther de Wolde: It looks cute, but…

Danny Lipford: It used to be coal burning.

Esther de Wolde: Right.

Danny Lipford: And because it’s very, very shallow—you know—you can see. And, of course, they converted it to gas, which a lot of people do because of the smaller vent that you have for coal burning. That works great for gas. Not for wood.

Esther de Wolde: Right.

Danny Lipford: It would be really, really expensive to convert that to wood because we would essentially have to rebuild the entire fireplace all the way up.

Esther de Wolde: So, the same for gas?

Danny Lipford: Uh, I would stay with gas.

Esther de Wolde: OK, that was good.

Danny Lipford: More questions, I’m sure.

Esther de Wolde: But I’ve got some more questions out here.

Danny Lipford: So, you’re keeping all these questions in your mind, you don’t even write anything down?

Esther de Wolde: No, at my age I don’t have to. Another question, chandelier? Curious to know about, is this tile or is this like a laminate wall? How does that work? So, would they have tubs back in 1906? Can the whole thing go and be converted to gas? So, when we’re doing the house. … No, I was going to ask you, that can be restored, right?

Danny Lipford: OK.

Esther de Wolde: Danny.

Danny Lipford: Yes.

Esther de Wolde: Can you stay quiet while I finish my story?

Danny Lipford: How do you like that?
Esther de Wolde: Oh, my word. Now we can see if the hallway is straight or not.

Danny Lipford: I wonder if there’s any score cards in here?

Esther de Wolde: Oh, oh, Danny, it’s rolling.

Danny Lipford: That’s OK.

Esther de Wolde: Oh, oh. Is that a bad sign?

Danny Lipford: Need just a little bit, we can fill all that. It’s an old, old wallboard. Replace the toilet. They’ll take this, they have the solutions that they can dunk it in. I’m sure it is. So you would have to, we would have to chisel out there, then. … Have to take the moldings off. You got to have, you’re going to have to have a washer and dryer in here somewhere. Yeah. I mean this is pretty funky place. And we can match everything. You won’t know it, you just need to go away for a couple of months and then come back and it will all be … you won’t know it. You just can’t go in there with a bunch of yahoos and do it, it’s got to be. … Candy apple red, that’s you. You need candy apple red.

Esther de Wolde: That’s, that’s twisting. So we need to be moving it over.

Danny Lipford: I agree. And that will be fun, that’s a really nice idea. We’ve been here an hour or so, and you finally had a good idea.

Esther de Wolde: Oh, thanks, thanks.

Danny Lipford: You know, over the years I’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds of homeowners, and I’ve found that some homeowners can make decisions a little easier than others. I think Esther is going to have quite a challenge making the decisions—she’s going to have to make a lot of them in a timely fashion.

Also, her not being familiar with what actually is used in common practices in remodeling houses here in the Southern part of the United States, since she’s from Canada. It’s going to be a challenge.

Esther de Wolde: You know it’s great working with Danny. Obviously professional contractor and all, but there are times when I’m thinking he just doesn’t get me. You know, like there’s certain things—authenticity of the home—that I want to keep, and he’s just making it difficult for me.

You know, we were talking the other day—apparently there’s a bumper sticker down here that says, “We don’t care how you do it up there.” Well, I’ve got to tell you, I am bound and determined to make Danny Lipford care about how we do it up there.

Danny Lipford: Well, you know, I didn’t mean to sound so negative on all of the ideas. You did have one or two good ideas.

Esther de Wolde: Yeah, well, that’s what I thought about you, too, so we’re even.

Danny Lipford: Well, there’s a lot of decisions to be made. A lot of thinking about how you’re going to use the house—how it’s going to be used. The bathroom situation—the location and all of that. The good news is it’s in great shape …

Esther de Wolde: It is.

Danny Lipford: … for as old as it is, as far as the bones of the structure. And then, I can just see it though, I can see the, you know, the hallway going down and all of these good size rooms. And it’s going to be, it’s going to be a fine looking place.

Esther de Wolde: It’s going to be amazing, that’s true. So, what are the next steps from here?

Danny Lipford: You seem to be real content on the purchase of the home.

Esther de Wolde: Oh, Danny, I’m as happy as a tick on a hound!

Danny Lipford: … and how it will kind of lay out there, just so that you’re perfectly comfortable, because we’re about to start work around here.

Esther de Wolde: You’re insinuating that I might change my mind.

Danny Lipford: Oh, no, I wouldn’t think that.

Esther de Wolde: I think you are.

Danny Lipford: No, I wouldn’t. …

Esther de Wolde: Thanks so much for watching. If you’d like to know more about the project, please visit us at or follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and my blog.

Oh, man. The South is not friendly to the hair.

Editorial Contributors
avatar for Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford


Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio,, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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