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Restorations Advice

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 living room.

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.

HAPPY ENDING

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 gathering place.

"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.

 

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