For almost as long as she can remember, Sue Gausch had a "crush" on the compact frame house in her Phoenixville neighborhood. She would walk past and imagine herself living there.
She was in her 30s before the crush became a relationship. Passing it as she was heading for the King of Prussia Mall in February 2003, she finally saw a "for sale" sign in front.
Now, 14 years later, the house near the eastern edge of the borough has blossomed into an architectural marriage, matching the real marriage with her husband, Mark Beekman.
But let's go back to the beginning, in 2003.
Gausch immediately called the Realtor and "as soon as I walked in, I knew."
It was obvious, however, that the place, built in 1929, wasn't in move-in condition. Her father — a draftsman, Realtor, and a jack-of-all-trades — had a somewhat different reaction on his walk-through. "He just shook his head," she recalls.
But Dad got to work — painting, plastering, and plumbing — and by the fall, she was able to move in.
Three years later, after Gausch's father died, "Mark took over the renovation reins."
Mark was Mark Beekman, who became her boyfriend in 2007 and her husband in 2014.
Beekman flips houses for a living and does much of the renovation himself. He relished the chance to do something he and Gausch, a software consultant, could have for themselves.
Together, they set out to make the three-bedroom, 1½-bath house a showplace. The effort was a perfect match of interests and aptitudes.
"I tackle as much as I can," doing carpentry and drywall, Beekman says. He avoids roofing – "because I'm afraid of heights" – and highly specialized tasks such as installing the backyard swimming pool to replace a gigantic oak tree, an insurance underwriter's nightmare that had loomed menacingly overhead.
He leaves the decorating to Gausch, who enjoys the trade-off. "I have no idea of color schemes," Beekman says.
"He does the grunt work, and I do the fun stuff," Gausch says.
The two agreed on two basic principles. First, as Beekman puts it, "we wanted to stay away from the trendy."
And "because it's a small house, we wanted to keep it light and airy," Gausch adds, emphasizing bright colors and pastels.
One exception was the main bathroom on the second floor, which Beekman redid in classic black and white.
Twenty-first-century designers often leave no wall between the kitchen and dining room or living room, but the couple wanted one.
"We didn't feel it was an 'open concept' house," Gausch says. Plus they preferred that diners not see directly into the kitchen.
There, Beekman added counter space and a new, tighter cabinet arrangement because, in a house that size, he says, "you can't afford dead space."
Gausch loves Paris, so she turned the third-floor attic into an eclectic, Parisian-themed sitting room.
The backyard became a tour de force, with the open space becoming a full patio, complete with a flagstone walk, a hammock, outdoor speakers, and a fountain, in addition to the pool.
And in addition to sharing the house, Gausch and Beekman are now sharing the real estate business. Both got Realtor licenses, studying and taking the test together. Although Gausch doesn't actively sell, "I wanted to share in something that's important to Mark."
"He's always been such a supporter of me and my goals that I was happy to provide the same to him," she says. "And it's fun to scour the listings and check out houses. At the very least it gives me ideas for our next home improvement project at our house."