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There’s no place like home

July 21, 2011

Micki Blackburn of Callaway glady opens her door to those who want to stop in and see the changes she has made to a building downtown which stood empty for years. Just this summer she hosted her class reunion in her new home.

•Callaway woman transforms vacant downtown bulding
into inviting living quarters

CALLAWAY - - While many women might tend to shy away from a fix-it or renovation project, Micki Blackburn of Callaway is not one of them. In fact, when she says ‘bring it on’ she means it.
Micki was born and raised in Callaway, and has always maintained a fondness for her hometown. When her father passed away a couple of years ago, she felt the pull even stronger to move back to be close to her family.
So, she put her Broken Bow home up for sale and began a home search in Callaway. What she found was not the typical home buyer’s choice, but it was a deal she just couldn’t pass up.
The brick building sits right on main street in Callaway, across the street north of the former Doxsee’s Restaurant. The building has a long history in the community, and had once been home to the Loup Valley Queen, the town’s newspaper. With all the presses and printing equipment in place, the building had also served as a job printing shop for a while.
Micki says she isn’t sure of the exact year the building was erected, but believes it to be around the turn of the century. The old charm appealed to her and gave her the vision to make it her home.
The west half of the building had been remodeled fairly recently by Greg Gascoigne, who planned to utilize the space for offices. However, that really never materialized and the building sat empty for about four years before Micki purchased it June 1, 2010.
Transforming an office building into a home is no small task for anyone, but this petite grandma was ready to take on the challenge. During summer break from her job at BD, Micki went to work framing walls, installing floors, painting and even installing kitchen cabinets.
Since the building was just office space there was no kitchen area, no shower and no laundry facilities. Running plumbing into the building for those items was one of the few tasks Micki had to hire outside help to do.
She also had to hire an electrician and someone to install two exterior windows because she was not able to cut through the thick brick outer walls. Everything else she did herself.
“The hardest part about doing it is trying to find the right tools. They make power tools for men,” Micki laughs.
But that didn’t stop her. She transformed one office space into a huge walk-in closet by building walls and sectioning off the area.
“I would put the wall together on the floor and then have to call my mom to come over and help me stand it up. She would hold it while I nailed it in place.”
The big room that had been a large office is now every woman’s dream closet, and the laundry room. The laundry room is highlighted by a beautiful wood beam ceiling.
“I would brace up one end of the plank with a 2x4 and start nailing it up from the opposite end, working my way up,” Micki explains. She continued the process until she had the ceiling in place.
She also used 2x4s to help brace the kitchen cabinets as she was hanging them. The cabinets themselves are nothing short of a work of art - but they didn’t come that way.
She purchased plain oak cabinets, then embellished them herself. When asked how she knew what to do, she says she just looked at pictures and did it.
“If it’s wrong or doesn’t look good, you just tear it apart and start over,” she says. “Most people are just afraid to try.”
The hallway leading into the home features an exposed brick wall and laminate flooring. Warm colors throughout the home invite guests to come in for a relaxing glass of iced tea.
What is now the kitchen was previously a conference room. This is one of the rooms a window was added for extra light, the other was her bedroom. Installing the cabinets is the most recent project she has completed in the home, having completed them just a couple of months ago.
She plans to eventually add concrete counter tops - which she is also going to do herself (she has been experimenting). For now she designed a “quick fix” for the counters, using particle chip board which she brushed with eight coats of polyurethane. She also stained darker and lighter patterns into the counter tops to make them more attractive.
The laundry and shower area posed a bit of a challenge. That is where the presses were located for the newspaper and print shop, so the floor was concrete. Therefore, Micki had to put down a sub-floor so she could lay her flooring.
She opened up between her bedroom, the large closet and the laundry/bath area by cutting out doorways in the walls. She still has to do some trim work around those doorways, and some other minor finish work, but for the most part the house is done.
The home is all electric, and had a new furnace and air conditioning unit when she bought it. It is also fully handicap accessible.
She has added some touches to the front of the building to give it more of a home than office feel, and says her next project will be working on the yard and doing some landscaping. Right now she is also unsure about what she will do with the east half of the building.
Micki is a true inspiration to women everywhere who think they might not be capable of doing something themselves.
“I think I can do just about anything a man can do,” she says with a somewhat shy smile. “The key is, I’m not afraid to try.”

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