Whole House

A hint of country charm gives an old house new life

September 30, 2004


Kaiser maintains a "lending barn," an area that holds a vast array of elements salvaged from the company's various projects. Incorporating reclaimed materials from the barn and reusing materials demoed from the actual remodel give the home its heart and charm, making it a true throwback to its centuries-old origins. Recycled bookshelves, windows and sashes, floorboards and cast-iron radiators work together with the 10 recycled doors the homeowner "borrowed" from Kaiser's barn. But the greatest old-for-new incorporation was hiding just above their heads. After stripping away a rotted and stained drywall ceiling, the home's original beams, which were in surprisingly good condition, were discovered and subsequently sanded and sealed. The exposed beams now serve as the architectural center of the office/sitting room.
Remodeler: Kaiser Building Co., Cranbury, N.J.

Designer: Gittings Associates PC, Princeton, N.J.

Project location: Cranbury, N.J.

Age of home: 163 years

Scope of project: Stripping away 100 years of remodeling to turn a 2,191 square foot farmhouse into a 2,751 square foot home within a historic district; adding a wood-burning fireplace and covered side porch
See the Floor Plan

The client's Southern upbringing attracted her to Cranbury and to the Southern country style of the main home of this old farmhouse complex, built in 1841. After looking at numerous other properties with the client, Kaiser Building Co. owner Michael Kaiser recommended this one because of the possibilities of the detached cottage. Accustomed to working on the aged homes in Cranbury, Kaiser often encounters brick line water wells and rudimentary septic systems like the ones on this land.

He began by making the necessary structural enforcements, first repouring the foundation and reframing the walls of the attached garage. As the work moved inside, Kaiser unearthed some significant fire damage in the home's core. The beams throughout this area were coupled with framing material to provide strength; then, the company added plywood bead board to mimic tongue-and-groove patterns. The beams and upstairs floorboards were respectively reclad and relaid with pineboard, and Kaiser Builder distressed the newer boards so the look remained consistent with the home's original era.

A modern yet homey cook's kitchen at the center of the home serves as the gathering point when the homeowner entertains. The master suite provides more modern conveniences, mainly via the adjacent sun terrace with the hot tub spa. Fashioned with a sanded fiberglass resin used mostly for boats, the roof deck has superior durability and protection from the elements. Mahogany posts form the rail system. A seamless, custom built-in gutter and drain system with downspouts diverts rainwater. The sun deck serves as both a literal and figurative linking of old and new, as it sits between the newer front elevation and the 11/2-story section toward the back of the home. Kaiser says the flat roof terrace provides "a delicate transition between nearly identical forms of old and new construction."

During construction, the homeowner moved into the cottage on the rear of the property, clearing the path for unencumbered work while still allowing daily homeowner input. The project's budget included maintaining the cottage with some general skin work - updating the roof, windows and siding - and it's currently used for rental income, which Kaiser says is helping the homeowner offset the cost of the remodel.

"This project kept the scene but didn't break the bank," says Kaiser, noting the seven-month project's $305,000 cost is just slightly more than the $250,000 the homeowner budgeted originally. "She didn't pay for someone else's taste, that $50,000 was spent on what she liked."

This project also won a 2003 Chrysalis Award in the Best Whole House $200-$500K category.

Insulation: Certain Teed Paints & stains: Benjamin Moore Windows: Andersen, Marvin Fireplace: Heatilator Doors: Morgan (Jeld-Wen), Therma-Tru

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