Whole House

Salvaged Materials and Creative Concealing Restore Character to 18th Century House

July 31, 2004


Designer: Orsini Design Associates Inc., New York

Remodeler: Lutz Contracting Inc., Clinton Corners, N.Y.

Project location: Hyde Park, N.Y.

Age of home: 200-plus years

Scope of project: gut renovation to restore vintage look and create a second-floor master suite; restoration of two guest suites; kitchen addition
Structural members hide inside ceilings and decorative beams throughout the house. In the master bedroom's cathedral ceiling, Lutz Contracting covered laminated beams with 18th century hand-hewn 9x9-inch barn beams acquired from a salvage company. Co-owner Rob Lutz cut 11/2 inches off the ends and hollowed out the beams. Then he cupped the beams over the structural members, lag-bolted them to boards between the members and put the ends back on the barn beams. "It looks so good, you can barely see the seam," he says. In the flat ceiling of the great room, he sliced the back off barn beams, wrapped them around the I-beams, fastened the old beams into place and covered the system with drywall so that only the barn beams show.

Built in the 1790s, by the 1990s this eyebrow colonial had become a neglected antique compromised by ill-advised 20th-century updates. "It was a wreck with very good bones," says Susan Orsini of Orsini Design Associates. When the new owners bought it, they asked Orsini to erase the mistakes, burnish the remaining original features and bring back the 18th-century charm.

Built on a sloping lot, the clapboard house contained a sitting room, parlor, kitchen and 1960s guest room wing on the main floor; two bedrooms under the eaves on the second floor; and a great room and second guest room in a lower level added in the 1970s. The owners didn't want to make the 3,800-square-foot house bigger, but they did want to make it brighter and incorporate a master suite as well as space for entertaining guests.

Orsini's design raised the second-floor walls, replacing the two bedrooms with a lofty master suite. Tearing down the dingy 1970s kitchen allowed the homeowners to restore the sitting room to its original, expansive size. It now opens onto a library that replaced the parlor, while a new kitchen (the one area of the project that gained square footage) with a cathedral ceiling and adjacent dining balcony overlook the great room. On the exterior, narrow lap siding and spare white trim lend a crisp, colonial look to the main house and accumulated additions.

Inside, Lutz Contracting made the most of the 18th-century features that remained, including wide-plank flooring, ceiling beams, window glass and the sitting room fireplace with paneled surround. The remodeling firm spent nine months on the finish work, meticulously preserving the authentic colonial components and introducing new materials that blend in perfectly. To give the wood flooring a uniform, period look, Lutz staggered new, shiplap pine floorboards with old boards from the house and others retrieved from a salvage company. The brick floor in the great room was missing many pieces, so Lutz Contracting co-owner Rob Lutz patched it with bricks from the moss-covered patio that, he discovered, were identical to those in the room.

Extra trusses added to support the new load overhead raised the first floor 18 inches, so the stairs no longer met code. Lutz Contracting built a new staircase, reusing the antique treads, mixing in a few new ones stained to match. New colonial-style molding runs up the side of the staircase, and the original newel is back in position, now on a base that boosts it to the required new height.

Handcrafted ribbon molding and vintage beams lend a classic look to the interior. Lutz retrofitted antique cabinets as bathroom vanities. The sideboard Orsini found for the master bath was too shallow to hold sinks, so Lutz pulled it out from the wall, dropped in a marble top deep enough to accommodate under-mount sinks, bolted the cabinet to the wall and used the original cherry top to make longer cabinet sides.

Appliances: Broan, GE, Kenmore, Viking Doors and windows: Marvin Insulation: Johns Manville Kitchen fixtures and fittings: Elkay, Waterworks Roofing: Owens Corning

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