Vibrant North Lawrence home is ‘deeply pleasing’ to storyteller’s heart

photo by: Mike Yoder

The first time Howe saw this second-floor room, with windows on three sides, she fell in love with the space. She uses the area for her creative and business work space now.

There is a room in Priscilla Howe’s house at 415 Elm St. that she says beckoned her to buy it.

The room is an enclave upstairs — a small, private space to be alone. Howe works there nearly every day. The room is saturated with the natural light that pours in from seven windows. This is the room where Howe, a professional storyteller, conducts her Zoom storytimes on Monday and Wednesday afternoons.

“This room is the reason I bought the house,” Howe says. “It’s like a little tree house. When I am not on the road, I am in here every day. It just feels nice.”

photo by: Mike Yoder

Priscilla Howe, a professional storyteller, has done much of the work in restoring her 950-square-foot home at 415 Elm St.

Howe, who has hosted storytelling events around the globe, bought her North Lawrence home in 2015 after asking for leads on Facebook. Having lived in Lawrence years before, she was contemplating returning. Her search for a home yielded quick results: A friend shared that the house across the street from where she lived was for sale but not yet on the market. Howe pursued it.

“When I first bought this house it was dark,” she says. “Everything was dark, dark, dark and horrible. There were curtains on all the windows. (An) east window was totally covered up. It hadn’t been lived in for a while.”

Though Howe loved elements of the house, it needed work, which initially overwhelmed her.

“I didn’t know what to do,” she says. “Everybody told me ‘make a list and go prioritize,’ and I just couldn’t do it. … Then my sister-in-law came over and she said, ‘Just prime this room. Just prime it.’ So I did. Sometimes I can’t make a big list because I get frozen. Once I could get started, then I could continue. So I (primed), then painted the (main bedroom).”

photo by: Mike Yoder

Priscilla Howe, a professional storyteller, performs at schools and festivals and in her own backyard at 415 Elm St. in North Lawrence. Howe has done much of the work in restoring the 950-square-foot home. Howe has a collection of 200 puppets that she uses in some of her presentations.

The bedroom is a storyteller’s color: “Jack and the Beanstalk.” Flashes of bright color adorn the walls of each room in the house: The kitchen and living room are yellow, the dining room is burnt-orange, the upstairs office is green, and the bathroom features turquoise tile.

Howe did a lot of the aesthetic renovations herself: In addition to tiling the bathroom, she plastered three rooms, learning the craft from Tim O’Brien, a letterpress instructor at the Lawrence Arts Center.

photo by: Mike Yoder

After getting some instructions on how to plaster from Tim O’Brien of rural Lawrence, Howe began plastering her walls, creating a rich surface that looks like handmade paper – visible at center. The framed image at left shows one of the original layers of wallpaper that Howe uncovered during the project.

photo by: Mike Yoder

After the plaster work, Howe created painted designs on the plaster and around some of the wood trim.

“(Plaster) is recycled paper mixed with mineral lime and water,” Howe says. “It’s almost like papier-mâché, and oh my gosh, it’s so labor intensive. (But) it feels nice, and it makes the sound nicer; it sort of dampens the sounds a bit.”

Acoustics are important for the virtual storytimes Howe does. Also a puppeteer, Howe has one room reserved for guests — and puppets, maybe 200 of them. They spill from the shelves.

Howe hangs very few items on her walls, a fact she prides herself on. Her dining room features historic photos or drawings of family members, including a drawing of her mother, and an 1840s painting of her great-great-great-great-great-grandmother.

photo by: Mike Yoder

The dining room in Howe’s home features a painting of her great-great-great-great-great grandmother, Sarah Visscher Schuyler Hoyle.

Touches of her family grace her home in various ways, Howe says.

“I feel peaceful in my house,” she says. “I love the light and color in every room. I sit in my mother’s chair, sleep in a bed made by my brother-in-law, work at my grandfather’s desk, water plants given to me by friends and family. There’s a story behind almost everything in my house; this is deeply pleasing to my storytelling heart.”

photo by: Mike Yoder

Priscilla Howe, a professional storyteller, has a collection of 200 puppets that she uses in some of her presentations.

photo by: Mike Yoder

An antique chair in the living room of Howe’s home wears small socks.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Several small doors lead to useful storage space in Howe’s home.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Howe learned how to tile so she could redo the shower and bath. She found some green glass tiles at the Lawrence Re-Store shop to incorporate. When Howe bought the house there was no window in the bathroom, so she had a glass block window installed to provide more light.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Unique details, like this small built-in wall cabinet, are some of the features Howe loves about her home in North Lawrence.

photo by: Mike Yoder

This view is from the dinning room into the kitchen, where Howe redid the cabinets.


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