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Magnolia blossoms
Assisted living home gets modern makeover

An Olde Town Conyers landmark has undergone quite a transformation over the last year, and now the historic home is hard to miss.

The Magnolias Assisted Living Home at 964 South Main St., once an all-white structure with dark green shutters, sports a new look of bright blue trimmed in white complemented by colorful landscaping including red roses, yellow marigolds and white candy tuft, along with a tidy stone retaining wall abutting the public sidewalk.

The Magnolias owner John Shelley said he wanted to spruce up the house, built in the late 1800s, to make the assisted living center more outwardly appealing to those considering staying there and to improve the environment for current residents.

"We wanted our prospective clients to know that we care as much about our personal care of residents as we do the physical care of the facility," said Shelley.

The house became an assisted living facility in the early 1980s and Shelley took ownership of the business in 1998. He added a wing to the back of the house, increasing the number of residents it could serve from 14 to 28.

But beyond the expansion, no significant renovations had ever taken place at the facility, so Shelley set out to improve both the interior and exterior. He estimated he invested roughly $150,000 in the updates, which began in the summer of 2007.

"The house had gone a long time without major repair work," said Shelley.

In order to paint the exterior, all the wood had to be replaced because the old wood wouldn't hold paint, he explained, and gaps in the wood allowed cold and hot air to seep in. When workers removed the boards, the structure was wrapped in insulation before they put new boards in place.

Architects chose the bright blue color, said Shelley, and as in most cases with paint, it looked different on a swatch than it did on the house. But he's grown used to it.

"We didn't intend for it to be as startling as it is," laughed Shelley. "But we went with it and we've heard good things about it."

Electricians overhauled the electrical system, burying all the exposed wires that hung on the outside of the house underground to give the building a cleaner look and improve the safety of the structure, said Shelley.

Other exterior improvements include landscaping the front yard; replacement of all pillars and columns; re-roofing the entire house; painting The Magnolias signage, the gazebo and the well house; and construction of a pavilion in the back so that residents can participate in outdoor activities and be protected from the weather.

Shelley also decided to add some historic touches. He removed wrought iron posts on the second floor widow's walk and replaced them with wooden posts in the style of the original construction. The front door to The Magnolias is styled similar to an original door that still remains on the house in the back. Fan-shaped architectural features on the front of the house are highlighted by yellow paint.

Interior improvements included the removal of three dilapidated chimneys and the restoration of one; all new interior paint; redecorations with new light fixtures, furniture and other features; new hardwood in the lobby and foyer; and new carpet.

Residents appreciate the physical improvements. Dorothy Bland, a native of Eastman who has lived at The Magnolias for six years, called the building "mighty pretty" and her favorite touch is the new chandeliers in the dining room.

"Well, I'm enjoying every minute of it," she said. "It's an old fashioned home and that's why I'm enjoying it so much."

For more information on The Magnolias, visit www.magnoliaretirement.com.