The renovator with a passion for the past

Passionate historical home renovator Tammy Jo Long basks in a sumptuous kitchen.

Story highlights

  • Savannah, Georgia's Italianate and Victorian homes became Tammy Jo Long's obsession
  • Long researched floor plans and fixture resources to get a historically accurate renovation
  • Long's renovations are available to rent for a vacation in Savannah
When Chicagoan Tammy Jo Long visited Savannah, Georgia, ten years ago, she was delighted by its fountain-filled parks, corner cafés -- and grand architecture.
Long had always been a design aficionado, but the Italianate and Victorian homes she encountered in Savannah became "an obsession," she says. "I saw a mansion with enormous cornices and cast-iron window surrounds, and I was hooked." So hooked, in fact, that she decided to buy a second home there, closing the deal on her next visit.
Her learning curve:
Long was determined to restore her new house to its original glory. Though she'd remodeled a few kitchens and bathrooms over the years, a historically accurate renovation that did justice to the Savannah architecture she loved was daunting.
But the all-nighters spent poring over floor plans and scouring eBay for doorknobs paid off: Every detail of the home -- from the crown moldings to the brass finger pulls -- is as it was in the 1800s. Yearning to share her handiwork, Long turned the home into a vacation rental. Soon, enchanted out-of-towners were eagerly booking their stays.
One of Long's renovated Savannah, Georgia homes.
Her business model:
In 2003 Long quit her job in sales and bought and restored four more homes, traveling between Savannah and Chicago (where she and her ex-husband share custody of their 9-year-old son). "Some of the properties had been vacant for 20 years," Long says. "They had rats you could put a saddle on."
They're now certified landmarks -- with 14-foot ceilings, elaborate plaster medallions, and sweeping staircases -- and can be experienced firsthand through Luxury Living Savannah, Long's vacation rental company. As much as she adores re-creating these relics, Long loves sharing them even more. "People get to stay in a piece of history," she says. "Women get to be Scarlett O'Hara for the weekend. I take great pleasure in that."