TRANSFORMING A 1918 NEOCLASSICAL COLONIAL MANSION FOR THE MODERN DAY FAMILY
Article by Tamara Day
Photography by Paul Versluis
When I first saw this neoclassical colonial house, I was blown away! You stand outside and it’s just massive (5,000 square feet!) and in amazing condition. This home was built in 1918 and done so, so beautifully! You could tell from the phenomenal exterior and overall craftsmanship that this home has loved for over a hundred years. The quality of all the woodwork had been maintained and kept up. Not a single spindle was broken, the woodwork had been oiled and cared for over the years and was in really fantastic shape so immediately I knew that was a feature I had to preserve.
The first thing you see walking into the initial vestibule and the entryway, is the grand staircase and original woodwork. It just takes your breath away! I thought this was the perfect place for a darling settee and this one in particular featured a fabric that perfectly complimented the wallpaper I chose for the dining room and so it was a great way to tie the two spaces together.
The living room to the right of the entryway was in such great shape that we kept the tile work and everything original—simply applied a fresh coat of paint and added a new light fixture.
This dining room to the left of the entryway was also in really great shape but had terrible colors and the floors needed care. The woodwork had a few damage spots that we were able to repair easily, but the tile work on the fireplace needed a facelift. We chose the beautiful matte black tile laid in a traditional herringbone pattern, and paired with white grout to give it a touch of a modern vibe and make the fireplace really standout when you walked through the front door. We embraced all the original woodwork throughout the room and chose an earthy wallpaper that is so similar to the fabric on the settee in the entryway. It felt like an elegant way to literally bring the room to life. We added this particular light fixture because of all the lines in this room – the windows, trimwork, box beams, everything was so linear and it felt like the box chandelier continued that pattern.
The kitchen was such a fun transformation because it was in really decent shape but desperately needed a touch of style. It’s amazing what fresh paint can do! Since it’s not the largest kitchen ever, I wanted to add color while also keeping it light and airy so I went with the gorgeous green color for the lower cabinets to make a bold statement but balanced that with the white uppers. I kept the countertops very clean and crisp, and chose this gorgeous backsplash tile because it has so much texture and just glistened in the space – it really is incredibly beautiful (everyone who walked through reached out to touch it!) but I also loved that it brought in style without competing against the other elements. The farmhouse sink was an upgrade for the space as well, tying everything together.
The eat-in kitchen nook is another bonus space we don’t typically get in our Bargain Mansions. It was an interesting space – it was almost like there were two sunrooms in the back of this house because you have all the windows in the back but also windows in between the office and kitchen nook that bring in so much sunlight into the back of the house.
We carried the green cabinets and white countertops into the eat-in kitchen nook for continuity but wanted to do something fun and do an entire wall of tile that really compliments all of the surrounding spaces but gives the room an old-world feeling. This unique tile looks like it could be 100 years old, and the shape has a lot of dimension. But also taking it literally floor to ceiling is the “wow” element I was looking for in this room!
It’s rare to find a 3-story house with a staircase as grand as this. Positioned right in the middle of the house, the staircase made itself known with impeccable woodwork and stature running up all 3 floors.
I wanted to make sure when you came up the staircase onto the second floor landing, that you are wowed right away by the fantastic laundry room and bathroom for this floor. This house had so many bedrooms, but the laundry room was originally all the way in the basement which is obviously a chore if your master bedroom is on the third floor and you have 4 other bedrooms on the second floor. It seemed like a no-brainer for resale and modern functionality to take over this bedroom and turn it into an incredible laundry room. With it’s location right off the stairs, it’s the perfect drop zone for the 3 levels of the home – I can hear the collective nod of laundry-doers everywhere!
In addition to it’s placement, we added so much storage to the laundry room to even further stretch it’s functionality. But the design is really what I love. The mural butterfly wallpaper in this room is one of my absolute favorites! We continue to tie in this branch theme from the first floor and all the tremendous original trimwork in this house but adding the fun butterflies is a whimsical way to infuse charm in what might be an unexpected space. I chose the blown glass chandelier because it felt a little over the top but not too glam, and gave a lot of vintage charm but illuminated the wallpaper perfectly. I just love how the light bounces off the walls and makes the mural feel alive – like it’s fluttering down the walls of the space. Lastly, we chose to do the boxcar lumber on the countertops to tie in with the wood branch theme some more. I could have gone with a solid surface quartz but the wood felt a little bit more natural and rustic in the space and gave this brand new room a little bit of 100-year-old charm.
The second floor hall bathroom I had a lot of fun designing because I pictured it being a kids bathroom. We utilized the same gorgeous glass tile in two different colors and patterns – this tile was my favorite because it has a beautiful iridescence to it. For the shower tile, we went with the traditional subway pattern and let all the natural light coming in from the shower window bounce off the tile. For the entire vanity setup, I really went for the details. I love a good herringbone tile and the backsplash tile is no exception. We even went a little further and did a double stacked herringbone. For the base of the vanity, we did custom stacked trim, painted it a fresh white which contrasted the charcoal gray countertops, and added the show-stopping Addison Weeks hardware. This room needed new flooring so I chose beautiful and durable wood-look tile to bring warmth to the room. Finally, the beautiful light fixture that feels a little vintage in the space – adding to the charm.
The hardware we chose specifically because the stone was such a compliment to the tile – all the tile had an iridescent finish with green undertones – plus the hardware brought a splash of color to the face of the cabinet doors. I wanted to go bold with the backplate so I went with the circular shape to contrast all the straight lines in the space, add whimsy and tie in to the light fixture.
Designing a master oasis around the massive staircase in the center of the third floor attic space was no small feat. Finding a way to maximize the flow without creating choppy spaces was a challenge, but with all the dormers it felt like the perfect opportunity to have an open concept flow between all of the spaces.
Third Floor Bathroom
There weren’t any straight and obvious lines in order to create a private bathroom without making the bedroom feel confined so we embraced the openness of the space while defining each individual area. Who wouldn’t love to lay in bed and look at that fabulous shower?! This was one of my favorite shower/tub takes on a wet room space because we decided to put the tub in front of the shower and utilize this incredible blue tile to make it a truly standout space. The tile has a lot of dimension and contrasts nicely with the black plumbing accents and black edging in the shower, plus we carried it overhead for a dramatic effect and continued it forward into the tub space to add depth. We chose a hexagon marble shower floor that pairs nicely with the more traditional marble tile we laid under the tub, which also matches the stunning vanity backsplash.
I wanted to bring a little bit of a modern vibe to contrast the old-world textured feeling of the beautiful blue tile from the wet room so we did a custom floating vanity that had clean lines. But of course, you know I had to have a pop of vintage with the vessel style sinks! The beautiful charcoal gray countertops anchor the space and the black fixtures tie into the black detailing around the shower. We carried the same marble tile that we installed as flooring under the tub, as a backsplash all the way to the ceiling. I love when we can utilize a material on multiple surfaces and tie a room together like this. Lastly, we wanted to make sure there was tons of light and while the pendant lights are gorgeous, with the ceiling height here I knew they wouldn’t be enough light. We added these luxe hardwired lit mirrors to the space and as soon as they were installed, I knew they were the way to go. It’s so important to have both form and functionality in here!
Lights: Kichler (Contact Growing Days Home to order)
Third Floor Bedroom
The brick face of this house was one of those stunning features that needed to be preserved. Luckily it was in fantastic condition and we were able to leave it so the beautiful brickwork can be appreciated and the natural light could pour into the space.
The windows that are surrounding the staircase was another element we were able to preserve – the glass is original textured glass that we had cleaned and reinstalled.
The third floor suite certainly does not lack space! Another defined area we were able to create with all the dormers was this fun, cozy sitting room off to the side of the bedroom. And that trunk was something Dad found in the attic, restored and brought back to life!
This was no small project, but it was such a great feeling when we were finished. We kept the historic charm and character of this 1918 mansion but brought modern amenities and functionality for today's family.
Seeking to make the aspirational attainable for her clients, fans and the future homebuyers of her notorious renovation projects, Tamara Day specializes in large, neglected houses that would intimidate most.
A talented designer and host of HGTV's hit show, Bargain Mansions, and a busy wife and mother of four, Tamara's "laid back luxe" style is synonymous with blending...