A new floor plan was in order for the second
floor, and it needed to respond to the lifestyle changes of the
twenty-first century. A small bedroom found new life as a large
master bath, complete with soaking tub and fireplace. Several
small closets would be converted into one large walk-in. The
attic, now being used for storage, would be set up for offices
and gain a half bath.
Once the game plan was approved, Dennis hired
contractor Bill Antonick, of Stonecraft Builders Inc., knowing
that he would handle the project with kid gloves. They had met
previously on a sophisticated timber framed house where Dennis
was impressed with Bill's poise and commitment to craftsmanship.
Bill could also see the great potential under all the paint and
plaster and knew it would take not only experienced hands but
reverence for the original period to tackle such a project.
Because of the extent of the renovation, he advised the owners
to take up residence elsewhere. Not exactly what any homeowner
wants to hear, but Bill felt that "from a sanity and
relationship standpoint" it would be best. Sam and Carol
took his advice, but recognized that they were not to have a
vacation from their project. In retrospect Sam recently said,
"although we moved out while the work was underway, it was
still our responsibility to continually review costs and
production. If we'd stayed, the effort would have taken a lot l
onger than anticipated. We wanted the process to be as fruitful
as possible. By moving out we were able to give the contractors
room to perform their tasks and execute the game plan."
BENEATH THE PAINT AND PLASTER
When crews began to tear down layers of plaster,
it became apparent that the four concealed fireplaces were faced
with the same locally quarried limestone used for the exterior.
An exciting discovery, yet one that would necessitate a
difficult reconstructive process. Two masons labored for a week
and a half, digging out and cleaning up the mortar joints.
Stripping the woodwork proved to be just as
difficult and rewarding. The crews found rare woods, not easily
located these days. Gorgeous Brazilian cherry adorned the trim
and window seat in the dining room and there was a coffered
ceiling, and mantel and trim of quartersawn white oak in the
The intrigue continued when the living room
wallpaper came down. Beneath it, an original hand painted
stencil remained in its entirery. Demolition came to a halt
until Dennis could trace a template so that he could later have
it reproduced in the same location.
Restoring the home's original natural warmth and
beauty was what the owners desired, and exactly what they got.
The overall feel has changed from an irregular series of cold,
all white spaces, "noisy" with discordant elements, to
a rational flow of warm spaces, harmonious in form, proportion
and color. Fireplaces and natural wood coexist comfortably with
new appliances and data, cable and telephone lines.
"The purpose," says Dennis, "was
to restore the character of an old house and provide it with the
amenities of a new." The stained glass window is now lit
(with a halogen spotlight) for the first time in 96 years.
Entitled "The Enchanted Wood," it was fabricated in
Germany in 1907. A stereo sound system implemented throughout
the house, whirlpool in the master bath, and a new furnace to
replace the old hot water radiators, were some of the extras. A
built-in custom entertainment center and wet bar now enhance the
overall function of the family room and create more of a
"It's very satisfying," notes Dennis,
"to have the end result even better then we had
hoped." This antique gem has now been restored to its
original luster. Not only is it deeply loved by its owners, it
is also an example of the persistence of the ideals that so many
of us share... the ideals of the Arts & Crafts movement.
With the project now behind him, Sam advises
others who may be contemplating something similar, "the
budget is seldom correct. It's helpful to have a range in mind
concerning costs. Then you'll have a better handle on the likely
outcome." All things considered, the homeowners are content
with the outcome. "Yes," Sam says, "it was
absolutely worth the trouble. It's a great house and deserved to
be updated. We wanted to take advantage of new technologies, be
more comfortable, and enjoy the house more. We plan to live
there for a very long time.
About the author: Rebecca Bell is a writer
employed by American Furnishings, 1409W Third Avenue, Columbus,
Ohio. All photos courtesy of American Furnishings.
"After" pictures [C] Brad Feinknopf, Columbus, Ohio.