Junior Sarah Schutte said she took action when she noticed the Paul House needed some repairs. Luckily for the women’s residence, Schutte, a residence assistant there, said she likes home decorating — and she and her family are good at it.
During spring break and the summer, Schutte, her parents, and her brother worked hard to renovate the Paul House, also known as the Dow Residence, stripping wall paper, painting, tearing up old carpet, and redecorating to make the 19th-century residence a more welcoming space.
The college approved the renovations to the house and paid for paint and some supplies, but Rebekah Dell, assistant dean of women, credits the Schuttes for making it possible.
“It actually all happened because Sarah and her family was excited and willing to come in and spend a period of time working on the house,” Dell said.
Although Schutte said she “fell in love with the house” while living there last year, it was not ideal.
“A lot of it, to me, was aesthetic,” Schutte said. “Wallpaper was peeling, there were cracks. There were drafts, old water damage. The radiators were chipping. Just little things like that added up. And there were hardly any lights, so people didn’t want to come study, and that’s what we wanted. We wanted people to come.”
Schutte approached Dell and Dean of Women Diane Philipp in the spring about painting the dining room and kitchen. Her family volunteered to help. Her mother, Stephanie, said they just wanted to support the college.
“At this point in our lives, that is what we have to give, so we wanted to help Sarah create a place where people will want to gather to learn and build relationships and grow in the atmosphere inspired by Hillsdale,” she said.
After completing the painting during spring break, she said they had a vision for more they could do to spruce up the place. The Schuttes offered to come back and do more in the summer, and the deans consented.
“We wanted to show the college by painting that we were really invested in the house, and they’ve just responded to that so well,” said senior Emily Lehman, head RA of the Paul House. “It’s been a team effort.”
The residence now sports a fresh paint job, instead of wallpaper, in the living room, kitchen, and dining room. The Schuttes also patched cracks, and Stephanie Schutte reupholstered furniture for the residence. Her father, Greg, built a wooden coffee table.
The family also collected paintings to hang and redecorated several rooms, including the upstairs study room with a new map theme and a self-serve coffee bar in the works.
The college provided new carpet for the living room and piano room. It also paid for the installation of new lighting fixtures throughout the house and renovations to the main-floor bathroom, which both Dell and Schutte said was the most needed update. A few pieces of furniture from Mauck Residence and oriental rugs donated to the college are welcome additions, Dell said.
She said, however, the residence will eventually need further renovations.
“There are plans, but down the road, of renovating the Dow House, but it’s not in the immediate future,” Dell said. “It’s on our radar, but we don’t have a set date for that.”
Schutte and Lehman said they are excited for new possibilities that have opened up because of the renovations.
“Now it’s a much more livable space, and I think it’s not going to require quite as much work to make it feel warm and friendly,” Lehman said. “I’ve already seen people gathering in the house in a casual, friendly way. That just makes me happy to see.”