Inside the ModeReModel

A look at the craftsmanship and quality products that make this project a standout

November 14, 2016
Model ReModel

All photos: courtesy Patricia Sims

Anything worth doing is worth doing well. It’s an old adage, but it reflects the work put into this whole-house remodel in Batavia, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. The Model ReModel—part pictorial, part how-to journalism, and part reality TV for remodelers—tracked the project from demolition to final walk-through when the new homeowners proudly took possession of the keys.

“I enjoyed working on this project, but now I can take a couple of deep breaths and rest,” says Mike Spillane, owner of Spillane & Sons Building & Remodeling, the firm that purchased the home, completed the remodel, and then sold it. “I don’t think the average person realizes the work it takes to coordinate every single trade and decision that has to be made in a process like this. It’s tremendous.”

Committed to the Era

This 1940s Colonial Revival–style house is an example of how careful planning, attention to detail, and salvaging key items can yield a contemporary look with a nod toward its historical roots. Spillane reused the doorways, doors, hardware, and stairway handrails to maintain the home’s charm.

With three well-placed bedrooms and an existing upstairs bathroom, he saw no reason to alter the layout of the existing rooms on the second floor. Instead, he focused on expanding the square footage and creating a master bedroom suite. This entailed building an addition above the first-floor sunroom to make space for a new bathroom and large walk-in closet.

Luxury Bathrooms

The master bath features white marble flooring with a touch of gray. It’s similar to the floor in the hallway bathroom, but has the added benefit of Schluter Systems’ Ditra-Heat electric radiant floor warming system under the 12-by-16-inch marble tile. A touchscreen thermostat controls the temperature so radiant heat can be emitted during the cold Chicago winter. 

The new marble flooring in both upstairs bathrooms complements the white subway tile used on the walls in the shower areas, and the master bath features a built-in seat and glass enclosure in the shower as well. It also boasts a Mirabelle handheld shower, as well as a rain showerhead that provides increased water flow.

All three of the home’s bathrooms have high-quality fixtures provided by Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery. Spillane selected and installed items from Ferguson’s product lines including valve trim, a shower hose, towel bars, paper holders, and robe hooks. The minimalistic look and brushed nickel finish extends to the vanity lighting, too.

White, wall-mounted toilets are installed in every bathroom. The water tank is hidden inside the wall, with the cistern accessed via a flush plate mount opening. The small footprint makes this type of toilet popular in Europe. It’s easier to clean and is considered to be more sanitary. 

Panasonic Eco Solutions North America supplied the WhisperRecessed LED fan/light combo units to protect the bathrooms from excessive humidity, which can result in unpleasant odors and mildew growth. The all-in-one design has a powerful 80 cfm fan located behind an elegant recessed light, and is one of the most efficient Energy Star–certified combo units on the market, the manufacturer says. 

White sinks were installed in all of the bathrooms to complement the clean lines and soft details of the vanities from Wellborn Cabinet. The master and hallway bath feature Wellborn’s Sonoma door style in maple wood. Both are painted a shade of light gray called Dove from Wellborn’s extensive selection of color choices. The hallway bathroom showcases the company’s Elegant Bath Upton Suite Collection

Maximizing Storage 

Historically, older homes lack storage space in the bedrooms. While each of the three bedrooms in the house had a single-door reach-in closet, Spillane created a large walk-in off the master bathroom. 

Interestingly, the new closet is accessed via the home’s original front door, which was salvaged when the exterior was being remodeled. The door was painted and installed as a barn door on a track mounted above the closet door frame. “Barn doors are a big trend right now,” Spillane says. “They have a unique look and take up less space.” 

The interior cabinets in the closet were also designed and manufactured by Wellborn, and the organizers accommodate a variety of items. From adjustable shelves and shoe storage, to a pull-out mirror and built-in tie rack, every bit of the space is now maximized. 

Old Meets New

The installation of new white-oak hardwood flooring on the first and second levels was a time-consuming process. The floor is now seen in the bedrooms, sunroom, family room, kitchen, and hallways. It was stained and then finished on site, creating a sanded, seamless look. The staircase flooring is original to the house and was stained to match the new floor.

“There’s a reason why our grandfathers put this type of flooring down 110 years ago,” Spillane says. “It lasts, it’s renewable, it wears well, and it always brings value to a home.”

The banister on the upper floor is original, as are the bullet-shaped handrails. Only the basement staircase received a small aesthetic improvement with the installation of hardwood spindles on one side.

Enhanced Ceiling

Armstrong Ceilings supplied its easy-to-install 5-by-84-inch WoodHaven Ceiling Planks as a decorative focal point in both the sunroom and the adjoining family room. The planks add textural contrast to the walls and floor while reflecting light from the windows and new recessed lighting.

The versatility of the tongue-and-groove planks makes this product popular among contractors because the pieces don’t require the use of adhesives or special tools. Instead, the planks simply attach to existing joists, drywall, or plaster ceilings using the clips and screws included in the manufacturer’s package.

Spillane was particularly proud of how well the ceilings turned out. That extra touch, combined with ceiling fans and recessed lighting, created a space that could be used for anything from a front office or art studio to a place to just relax.

The two rooms are separated by a large fireplace that opens into the family room. Although the original space remains unchanged, the fireplace mantel was resurfaced with barn wood and the fireplace interior was painted black—one of the most versatile colors in interior design, adding richness and elegance to the décor.

Charming Archways 

An archway can add interest and character to a space, and both of the rooms flanking the foyer were built with this decorative touch. Spillane made sure the arches remained to give the rooms greater presence. 

The finish carpenter had to develop his own pattern to replicate the original archways. Using ¼-inch plywood, he formed it to fit, shimmed it, and nailed it in place. He then flipped the pattern over and repeated the process on the second half of the archway, using a similar process on the outside trim. It took a lot of tweaking and readjusting to get it exactly right.

Kitchen Makeover 

A new layout significantly improves the footprint in the kitchen. Eliminating a powder room allowed for increased storage space, which was further maximized with Wellborn’s cabinetry. The full-overlay doors are in the company’s Winslow style, a transitional design with a cottage twist that serves to update the aesthetic while still remaining true to the home’s original character. 

Every cabinet was custom-crafted with this small space in mind, including large, deep storage areas over the refrigerator; undercounter garbage and recycling bins; and a lazy Susan corner unit to the right of stove top. Storage for pots and pans is located under the stove top for convenient access, and the shelves are adjustable. The beauty of the cabinets is further enhanced by quartz countertops and Whirlpool stainless steel appliances. 

The Whirlpool 6.4-cubic-foot Combination Wall Oven—an oven and microwave combination—and Whirlpool 36-inch 5-burner Gas Cooktop with EZ-2-Lift Hinged Cast-Iron Grates are separate units, which Spillane believes works well when a house has enough square footage to accommodate them. These appliances contribute to the feeling of a high-end kitchen when appearing alongside the Whirlpool French Door Bottom Mount Refrigerator, which won 2016 CES Innovation Awards in the SmartHome and Home Appliances categories. Other Whirlpool appliances include the dishwasher and the hood liner and motor.

Ferguson’s faucets and fixtures were installed in the kitchen to ensure that the contemporary style was carried throughout the house. Ferguson also supplied the plumbing and electrical fixtures, so everything is current. When it was discovered that some products wouldn’t work out as planned, the company’s customer service was excellent at resolving the issue, Spillane says. “When I called Ferguson, I was impressed by how well they knew their product and could quickly recommend something to replace it with,” he says. “As a contractor, that’s what I need. Because they have so much knowledge and expertise, it makes my job a lot easier.”

A Better Basement

Recessed lighting was installed throughout the basement, which not only makes the space appear larger, but the casings offer protection from dust and mishaps, making it a safer option. Exposed brick from the upstairs fireplace gives the room an urban, industrial feel, which is enhanced by the epoxy floor coating. 

The basement is where Noritz oversaw the installation of its 90-pound, wall-hung combination boiler, which takes up 80 percent less space than a traditional floor-standing boiler and water heater. Tankless hot water heaters are gaining popularity because they supply instant hot water on demand, can be installed in small spaces, and provide energy savings to homeowners.

The basement also includes a laundry area, powder room, and several storage spaces. A point of pride is the sleek bank of Wellborn cabinets with Bishop-style doors. The company has a program called ColorInspire available on all Maple, MDF Estate, and Premier Series door styles. ColorInspire allows homeowners to choose from thousands of hues from leading paint manufacturers, and after much consideration, Spillane selected Sea Salt from Sherwin-Williams. 

The laundry room has two large sets of cabinets, plenty of counter space, and a utility sink, making this room truly multifunctional. Housed within three of the bottom pull-out cabinets are full-size laundry baskets to help separate clothes. In the laundry room and powder room, the sinks, fixtures, and toilet are supplied by Ferguson.

After several months of hard work, Spillane is proud of the end result and is satisfied knowing the house can be enjoyed for another century. “People want something that’s older but is unique and has style,” he says. “They’re no longer satisfied with cookie-cutter homes.”  

About the Author


Patricia Sims is a freelance writer and the owner of PS Communications, a Chicago-area marketing consulting firm.

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