Mary Haugh's business of restoring century-old homes is years in the making. Growing up in the ′90s, she was told her dream of reviving aging homes was a hobby.

At the time, there weren't college courses or a related major for anything like that, Haugh said. "People said, 'You won't ever make any money,' " she recalled. "It just simmered in the background for a long time."

Then a few years ago, she was diagnosed with cancer. It gave Haugh, who worked for years in advertising, a new perspective on life. Shortly after that, her house caught on fire, giving her the opportunity to try renovating her own 1926 Tudor-style home.

"It was like all these things came together over the last couple of years," she said. "I have two brothers who are general contractors and another in real estate and they said 'Just do it, just do it.'" I told them, "All right, you're going to have to help me."

Haugh launched the Second Stripe, dedicated to purchasing old homes and restoring and updating them before putting them back on the market. That way, the next homeowners have a turn-key -ready place that, as important to Haugh, incorporates elements that preserve its historical charm.

The company just sold its second home — a 1926 colonial in St. Paul's Macalester-Groveland neighborhood. While she modernized the home with amenities like central air conditioning, high-end appliances and contemporary windows, Haugh focused on keeping its historical look. The 10-month project provided a much-needed facelift to the front of the house while maintaining character and charm, and new built-in shelving in the living room matches the home's original 1920s look.

In the attic, adding support beams allowed it to be used as a bedroom.

With another project under her company's belt, we asked Haugh why she started her business, tips for others who love their old homes and more.

Q: What made you start the Second Stripe?

A: I worked in c agencies in Minneapolis for 25 years and got really lucky with who I worked with — like countertop, cabinet and window manufacturers. I was never very far away from it. I got cancer in 2018 and then we had a house fire and we had to move out of the house. The mediation company took over all the smoke damage and they were super-slow and expensive.

So I took over. I told them to give me the money and budget back, and I'll find the right people. Then we dove into COVID and I kept HGTV on for two years and it was a constant reminder of all that. All these things came together and pushed me to renovate old homes.

Q: Why old houses?

A: I grew up in St. Paul and live in Longfellow in Minneapolis now. We have houses over here being torn down and replaced with big, suburban-style homes. It just hurts to see how it could have been renovated [with attention to the home's historic characteristics]. I grew up in gorgeous craftsmans and bungalows. Seeing these beautiful houses that get modernized and they don't reflect the original architecture anymore — that was the kick I needed.

Q: What is one of the biggest mistakes a person makes when remodeling old homes?

A: Ignoring the mechanicals at their own peril. They might come in and do a cosmetic update without looking at the wiring and the HVAC and the structural stuff. We try to balance making sure that things are going to work and last for a long time.

Q: What would you say is your signature design?

A: Highlighting all the natural elements and the original architecture that is there like wood floors and tiles — you name it. And freshening things up so that they feel clean and modern and joyful. You should walk in and feel happy and delight in the house. No gray.

Q: What separates your company from others in the market?

A: We feel like we're in this niche. There's flippers who want to do it as quickly and inexpensively and efficiently as possible. Generally, it is fairly generic. Everything is painted gray and they use the same materials and they want to do house after house.

On the other hand, you have folks who tear down an old house and replace it and build a whole new one.

We're in the middle — we do all the things to make it as functional as a new house while you get the fun parts of an old house with authentic pieces and historical design elements.