Living the Dream - Victorian Village


When you walk past this Victorian Village home, it's hard to imagine that this award-worthy home was once an old and dilapidated house that needed to be made livable before the owners could even hope to have something remotely comfortable.

Upon purchasing the home in 1989, the new owners took on deficiencies that were left behind from several previous owners. They started by changing the zoning for the home from a two-family to a one-family. Then they replaced the water main, gas line and over 50 windows, except the street-facing ones, which are the only remaining original windows. The owners then ended up basically rebuilding the 1800s home from the ground up.

Due to the home's historical nature and location, the question of what to keep and what to add in (ultimately what becomes new and what stays old) was always frontal lobe. The idea of cost also came into play, but luckily they were able to complete the entire renovation for roughly $50/sq. ft. plus a lot of sweat equity, thanks the owner's architectural know-how and shop teacher background that and a lot of bargain shopping!

The finished cost is an amazing feat, considering the eccentric facade and its granite brick (they found it for a steal at an old rail yard). An original column is still in use on the porch (the other four were taken apart and put back together). Great care and detail was also taken into account in the landscaping outside as all lines are either tangential or go through the middle of the street's roundabout circles. The lines ultimately take the eye to either of the two circles. An oval window, not original to the house, was then added to the front to celebrate the relationship between the street circle and the ellipse.

It's obvious that great care was taken in the reconstruction of the home, and a lot of sweat and hard work, too. The theme of the renovation was to transform a historic home into a modern space for a family of four. They wanted to keep certain significant aspects of the home's former glory without neglecting the conveniences and privacy their family needed.

The first step was to separate the parents from their teenagers by placing the master suite on the third floor (complete with a unique shower), the kids on the first (in a two room suite with hardwood floors and fireplace) and their major living space on the second floor with a kitchen, dining room, living room and guest space. What was originally cut up into six boxy spaces now flows as a cohesive, yet free-flowing space. An old drywall ceiling was also opened up to a 14-ft. vaulted ceiling with skylight to address their desire to be closer to nature.

Sunday morning pancake breakfasts with the neighborhood kids are now a regular event thanks to their upgraded kitchen. It is a space that was not only affordable, but is now functional, utilitarian, pleasant and comfortable with its three windows overlooking neighboring garden space that serve as the focus of the space. Stainless steel appliances, solid maple cabinets, a 100% custom 9-ft. solid maple baking center and a horizontal pantry below complete this dream kitchen.

The family truly met their goal of uniting the old with the new, and a symbol of this is the original oak staircase that had its original handrails torn out and replaced with a modern aesthetic. Other features of the home include a brand new staircase for the third floor (built to be a showpiece, sculptural and reminiscent of origami); natural slate tile in foyer and mud room; two fireplaces with original slate; all new maple flooring; restored and repainted interior doors; as well as a secondfloor porch with beams and decorated with original outdoor siding that had been covered in drywall. A recent addition also includes an intimate, 130-sq. ft. rooftop deck made of natural cedar that accommodates a table and chairs, plants and lounge chair.

For now, the owners have reached a point of contentment with the space and are focusing on fun stuff to change, like purchasing new furniture and creating built-ins, rather than major restoration and construction. Through it all, the owners compare the true success of the project to that of an Amish barn raising, thanks to the support of the owners' parents, friends and neighbors who would either offer a hand or even dinner when their kitchen was out of order.

A home in the city with a neighborhood feel was a major goal when the home was purchased. It's obvious that was attained along with much more.