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Best of Both Worlds
By Linda Montet | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
FEATURED REMODEL JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010
home :: home & garden :: featured remodels

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Here’s the restorer’s dilemma: Do you refurbish a period house to its original structure and style? Or do you renovate and update it with modern comforts for today’s living?

Scott Dean and Mark Matteo believe they’ve found the perfect balance in their 1907 Drake Neighborhood historic home. By updating to make the home livable while maintaining structural integrity, they now have a quality vintage home with today’s lifestyle conveniences.

“The trick is to first figure out how you’re going to use the space,” Scott says. He’s an interior designer who also helps customers modify their homes. “We’re casual people, and we don’t spend as much time in our homes as they did in the old days,” he says.

The house had served as a boarding house for many years. Mark, who works at The Principal Financial Group, purchased it in 1993 for $40,000. Undertaking a quick remodel to make it into a single-family home, he repaired the roof, siding, porch, and drywall; stripped pillars; and recreated the original arch between the living and dining rooms.

A few years later Scott joined the renovation. His background in general contracting brought new ideas for both interior and exterior redesigns. Work began in earnest. The challenge: preserve the basic structure and character of the house, but transition it into a home for today’s active living.
Because air-conditioning was not an option when the home was built, 40 windows on three floors provided necessary circulation. For energy efficiency and room usage, some of those windows had to go, but careful installation of new steel siding made their removal imperceptible. An interior chimney was also removed. This allowed for elimination of the interior wall between the original dining room and kitchen, creating the kitchen/great-room. 

“In the old days, families and guests sat formally in a sitting area,” says Scott. “They would have had a small kitchen pump for water, ice was delivered to the home, and a maid may have done most of the kitchen work. But we don’t live like that today. We like to entertain, and time is limited.”

“We gave this house a whole new life,” says Mark. He had built homes and refurbished rental properties before, “but it was in the worst condition of any restoration I had ever undertaken,” he says.

He and Scott removed interior doors in the house, a classic “four-square” because of its four rooms in four corners of the main floor. They knocked down walls to connect rooms and to open spaces in the three downstairs rooms where they spend the most time.

A restored quartersawn oak staircase greets visitors near the front door, and creamy, warm colors accentuate the downstairs areas. “Our goal was to bring in more light and air,” says Scott. “We wanted to make every room usable.”

A love for serving sit-down meals inspired them to make the front parlor into a formal dining room. A sun porch is now a home theater with room-darkening shades. And an expansive high bar with six stools allows guests to have a glass of wine while watching cooking in the kitchen.

Even the attic and basement are now active living spaces—rooms are expanded, bathrooms are modernized, and artwork and travel photos reflect the homeowners’ eclectic tastes.

A lush backyard with a feng shui corner, an English garden, a Venus de Milo statue, and arbor is home to herbs, fish, and a fountain. Nestled next to a newly constructed double-entry garage built to resemble a guest house, the garden is perfect for a relaxing evening stroll.  

Often asked why they chose to renovate rather than build a new home in the suburbs, Mark and Scott say they like their central city location. “We were never mortgage poor,” says Scott. “Restoring an older home, you have great quality and you can pay as you go.”

As for deciding on the nature of a historic renovation, Scott is resolute. “People talk about resale,” he says. “Forget resale. What about you and the way you want to live?”

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