Tom and I met at SUNY Morrisville in 2008. He was there for Automotive Technology and I for Landscape Architecture. I had a 17 year old car that wouldn’t start and he knew how to fix it... Long story short. When he fixed my car, he fixed my heart.
After dating for a few years we got married in 2011 and decided we wanted to find a house in Schenectady to restore. We had fallen in love with Schenectady when Tom had moved to the Stockade Historic District in 2010. The city was going under a ton of revitalization at the time so it was really easy to find a home in a good neighborhood that needed to be fixed up. Cue The Parkwood House.
Image taken from google maps (Summer 2016)
Seen here in winter 2018. At this point we still had mainly focused on the interior of the home and were waiting till the last minute to take on the exterior, which would prove to be one of our biggest projects yet.
It took us eight long years to finish this project and in the end it was all worth it. We learned how to DIY in this house, we learned how to be a team here and we welcomed our two beautiful daughters here. We didn’t want to just do a quick flip to make money and run onto the next adventure. We wanted to breathe life back into this home that had sat lifeless for a number of years. It had been decades since this home was filled with the love of a family. It was tired and almost sad when we started to restore it.
before photo of the living room
Photo by Ann Gazdik
In 2015 I asked Tom if he could build a radiator cover that could double as a changing table for our first daughter. He had learned some light woodworking skills through our home renovations and willingly took on the project. After I realized my husband’s new found talent, I asked what else he thought he could build.
For our anniversary that year he built me a kitchen island made of reclaimed wood. It lasted in our kitchen for about 3 weeks until he sold it on Craigslist.
Close up of the slatted shelves. He later used this same style in a few bathroom vanity builds.
That winter Tom (and I) made the first table. This was a gift for Tom’s Mom for her 50th Birthday. Looking back at this build we see some many ways we could have improved it. This table really shows us just how far we’ve come.
I feel like I need to skip ahead a few years so I don’t lose you all!
In November of 2018 we were asked to wholesale some of our smaller items in a local store. That month we were also getting ready to be vendors at a Christmas Market. I walked into the Clinton Street Mercantile to check out the newly opened cooperative storefront in downtown Schenectady.
I remember walking around the still fairly empty space with the overwhelming feeling that we needed to be part of it. I talked to the owners, Michelle and Brandon and that even more so reaffirmed my feeling. I left the shop and immediately called Tom. I told him that we needed to be vendors. I wasn’t sure how we would be able to afford the rent or how we would be able to fill our booth with items. Tom still has a full time job and at the time was a stay at home mom of two kids 3 and under. On top of that, We we’re working out of the small, wet basement in our 1921 Transitional Victorian. We decided to pull out of the market and bring everything we had to the Merc. Our first booth set up was sparse to say the least. The only thing helping was the 8 foot barn wood dining table that took up most of our space.
Over the next year God strategically put people in our lives to work out the plan he had for us in 2019. We looked at a mixed use property in Schenectady to hopefully live in and run a larger woodshop out of. This building didn’t work out for us spatially. However, through this we were able to find a warehouse that was being sold privately by a not for profit. We were told later that the realtor didn’t want to show it to us because he thought it would scare us away and that it would be a waste of time. Little did he know, we don’t scare easily!
Over the last year it felt almost taboo to talk about this project with anyone but close friends or family. In order to fund the project we had to do a years worth of renovations on the Parkwood House in just 5 months. Somehow we did it though. And we must have done it well because we had multiple over ask offers on our house in just 5 days. We have met great people this year who have lead us through this process and have really been a support system in what is an unknown world to us. We are still waiting to close on the warehouse and the whole time all I can think of are lyrics to the song Yes I Will by Vertical Worship
In the waiting
The same God who's never late
Is working all things out
You're working all things out
Thanks for sticking around for all of that backstory. I know it got a little rough in a few spots. I’m far from a writer however, I feel like we have a story to share and I don’t think it ends with one house restoration. Let me know down below what topics you’d like to see more about and any questions you have for me or Tom!
When we started ABB Designs we knew we wanted to not just make beautiful furniture but also help our community. We love our city and are excited to join with others to revitalize it one building at a time. We take wood from blighted buildings that are being restored and create beautiful furniture for those spaces. We also create many beautiful and unique pieces for customers out of variously sourced reclaimed wood.
Ali & Tom Bland