Published: Apr 09, 2012 09:30 AM
Modified: Apr 09, 2012 09:34 AM
Investing in the future
Team transforms 1950s house for someday sale
Trish and William Bill Hussey make a busy couple. Hes executive director of Exceptional and Gifted Children for the Alamance Burlington School System. Shes director of Freedom House Recovery Center in Chapel Hill and Durham. Their daughter is spending some time at home completing graduate work at a local university. And the couple loves to entertain extended family and friends. So how do you update a 1950s-era home so it will sell as more than a fixer upper if you might want to sell in a few years? Enter an interior designer native to Chapel Hill, a general contractor based in Pittsboro and dozens of local subcontractors whove been honing their craftsmanship on area homes for years. The Husseys are not the first owners of this 1950s home, but they have lived in it for many years, raised a family, entertained guests, loved their pets currently an old kitty named Smudge for the black patch on her face. Trish said they knew a few years ago, when they started thinking about the future that sometime they would want to sell their home. The problem was the homes outdated layout. There was no master bedroom suite. There was no line-of-sight between the kitchen and the entertainment areas of the house. The entry had several challenges. The front porch was very small no place for guests to relax during family get-togethers. The front door, itself, was fairly hidden from sight coming up the driveway. When the door opened, the foyer, too, was small visitors would be just a few feet from a wall not very inviting. And where do you put all those coats? Interior designer Sara Davis Lachenman, who grew up in Chapel Hill, has known the Hussey family for years. They became her first full design contract after she left her position as director of Design and Preservation for Trinity Design/Build and started her own business, Four Over One Design of Durham. Since then Lachenman has worked on many designs for home renovations in Durham, Chapel Hill even one in Virginia. When she started with the Husseys two-and-a-half years ago, it took almost a year to get the plan finished because of the couples numerous commitments. Lachenman was patient. She says she knew that Trish always had a very clear sense of the way she wanted things to look. One of Lachenmans big concerns was to stay true to the period of the home and yet make the renovation work for the family. The 1950s as a very transitional time in home design, she explains, where private areas were tucked away and public rooms had a graciousness. Lachenmans first goal was to make the entry and kitchen as gracious as the living/dining area that was already there. She took out a wall between the old entry and the dining area that opened up the space, relying on white columns to provide support and visual separation. The new entry would become a large foyer and be part of a cantilevered addition that would include a master bedroom suite, laundry and wide, art-filled hallway that opens to a covered porch. All of this with wooded views and dappled sunlight. The next challenge was to improve the flow of guests when the Husseys entertained. First she created a space where guests entering the house from the back door could congregate. She turned a mud room/desk area into a prep kitchen complete with wine cooler, sink and a lovely window seat where people could gather and talk with the cook. Next, Lachenman removed an old laundry-pantry and hallway that were between the kitchen and dining room, which allowed guests to easily maneuver between the latter. It also provided line-of-sight from the kitchen through the dining and living room to the Baby Grand piano sitting at the back of the large foyer. Creating a space for the Baby Grand was a must for Trish. Making it a space that could have various uses for other families was a concern for all. Lachenman says another home owner might use it for a play space off the side of the large entertainment area for kids; as a formal entry hall; or as a little library/study nook with a comfy chair who wouldnt want to see that when they entered a home.
Making the dream come trueThe Husseys took another six months after working with Lachenman to plan how they would deal with the disruption construction can bring and find a contractor. Britt Keele of Red Dot Construction was young and innovative, according to the Husseys. He also paid attention to the details. In our conversations we were impressed with how organized he was with information as far as pulling together costs, Trish said. He could account for every bit of what we were looking for and what it was going to cost us. He told us, Im not the cheapest. Im not the most expensive. And the people I contract with are top notch. We looked at some of his other projects and they were very impressive. He had done a good job. When Keele came in the couple spent another six to eight months waiting for a special use permit. The county planning department had changed buffer requirements and the Hussey project as it was designed was six inches over the buffer requirements. Keele helped the couple get the special use permit and dealt with a cold winter of waiting. During that time their old oil furnace went bust. The deadline to benefit from an energy tax rebate was also looming. Britt had an HVAC contractor put in the first unit so the couple could make use of the tax rebate. Individual space heaters were brought in to keep the family warm until the total remodeling would allow the completion of the HVAC system. Because the Husseys really wanted a way to have the old thick parquet oak flooring remain in the living room, Keele helped find a way to transition from parquet to the new additions tongue-n-groove red oak by using a walnut inlay around the edge of the foyer. He also saved parquet flooring from the Husseys TV room, which was carpeted during the renovation. Doing an addition interrupts your daily life at many levels, and Britt was great to work with, Trish said. One of the most challenging aspects of the Hussey addition was due to the steep grade of the lot and staying within the setbacks. The master bedroom suite and foyer was cantilevered over that hillside and had to be connected back to the original brick structure without having any steps up or down on the main floor. He had an engineer come in to make sure everything was done well, Trish said. His flooring guy is phenomenal. Keele, who has been in the building and remodeling business more than 12 years, says he has been working with most of his subcontractors more than five years. On the Hussey job, he had electrical, HVAC, plumbing, foundation, framers, roofers, siding, insulation, sheet rock, trim and paint subcontractors. In addition to managing the budget and supervising the construction, Keele used his trim carpentry skills building the new front porch. The most rewarding aspect was watching the transformation of a house by recycling, which is the ultimate of building green, Keele said. A new home has 12 to 15 forty-yard dumpsters in the landfill. When adding on a new addition, its about five or six dumpsters, Keele said. Nothing wrong with building new, but I also see the advantages of remodeling where you are, Keele said. That oak tree in the front yard that you cant get your arms around you cant duplicate that in most new neighborhoods. Keele says he just likes watching the change, likening it to a reinvigoration for the homeowners. Whether it is adding bookcases or a new powder room or remodeling a kitchen or bath, the owners get to fall in love with their homes all over again, Keele said. We wander around and are finding how to live in this old, new house and that has been an interesting endeavor, Trish said. Just little things, like Where do I want to go sit and read? I have several choices now. I love the bedroom space, Trish said. It was a big surprise. We enjoy the privacy and space of the master bedroom suite. When we have visitors from out of town, they can stay in the bedrooms at the other end of the house and have so much privacy it ends up being like a separate apartment. Britt Keele can be reached at www.reddotconstruction.com or at 919-376-5716.
Sally Keeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-932-0879.
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