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Home Renovations: Preserve the exterior structure of an antique home while enhancing the interior for today’s living.

Dudley Front(1)

When Jeff Titus bought an antique home in Wilton, CT he knew from the start that he wanted to preserve the exterior structure, but the interior of this 3-story house had fallen into disrepair; been remodeled several times over the 200+ year; and, had endless chopped up tiny rooms. The windows were narrow so they didn’t afford views of the property or let in enough natural light. “Most of the plaster wall were uneven, the front door opened directly into the main staircase to the second floor, and its location didn’t make any sense,” said Jeff.

House before home renovation
Exterior Home Renovations

After Jeff bought the house, he hired a dendrochronology lab to take samples from the fireplace lentil, front wall and floor joists to run scientific dating tests. (Dendrochronology or tree-ring dating is the scientific method of dating based on the analysis of patterns of tree-rings. Dendrochronology can date the time at which tree rings were formed, in many types of wood, to the exact calendar year. From Wikipedia) The lab results were inconclusive; the best likely dating was somewhere between 1740 and 1760, but during this period it was not uncommon to reuse wood from an older home when building a new home. The Wilton Historical Society dated the home’s origin to 1791.

Dining Room Demolition

When remodeling an antique home you never know exactly what you’ll be dealing with until you begin to demolish part of the structure. As Jeff points out, “whenever you open up walls, particularly in an old house, you know you’re going to find things that need to be fixed. But when I ripped out the walls, I found a lot of problems I hadn’t expected”. There was no insulation; the wiring was old and of frayed covered cloth; there were two buried (blocked-in) fireplaces; during one of the previous renovations someone had placed steel beams incorrectly (sideways); and, as with most antique homes the walls and floors were not plumb and there was a lack of space for today’s mechanicals (i.e. duct work).

Central Fireplace Renovation

Although Jeff didn’t go into the project planning to replicate the 18th C details, he did want to design the new space with respect for the home’s history. The beams were sound, and of history of the house, so they were left in place. “It’s hard to replicate this type of detailed post and beam construction today”, Jeff explained. The original center chimney remains the core of the home; although it had to be rebuilt from the top of the first floor up through the roof. And, another noteworthy fireplace in the dining room remained intact. In 1943 John Bransby and his wife purchased the property and carefully restored much of the home. One of the most historically significant additions made to the home is a fireplace decorated with ceramic tiled bas relief’s depicting important events and places in the Bransby’s lives.

Renovation Before and After Fireplace Photos
Wilton Congregational Church C 1790 Tile

Above is a close up of one of the ceramic bas relief tiles from the fireplace. The tile featured is the Wilton Congregational Church c.1790, the third church built in Wilton. The tiles were made by Bransby’s long time friend Svea Kline and were glazed with the ashes from an apple tree on Dudley Road.

In designing the new space with respect for the home’s history, Jeff built bookshelves and closets in nooks and crannies under eaves and stairwells. “I like to use all the space, and the nooks and crannies give the house character” Jeff explained. He also installed bead board, paneled wainscoting and custom molding in many of the rooms.

Kitchen great room remodel
Bathroom remodel leaving antique characters

Walking up the stone walk to the front of the home brings you back in time with its broad expanse of front porch, but inside brings you to the 21st C with a professional kitchen, walk in pantry and mudroom, central air conditioning, central vacuum, a whole house sound system and cable TV/Internet network – A home of nostalgia past with a fusion of 21st C comfort for today’s family.

Basement Wine Cellars

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Basement Remodeling Popularity on the Rise

Basement Remodel - exercise room and pool table

Increased value and enjoyment from an often overlooked area

According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2010-11 Cost vs. Value report, the top interior projects for resale value are a basement remodel and an attic remodel. Both add living space without extending the footprint of the house.

Finishing a basement is one of the most cost-effective remodeling projects for return on investment when homeowners sell their home in the first year. A finished basement allows you to add more finished square footage to your home at a lower cost and with less environmental impact than if you were to build a new addition.

Since finishing a basement is a complicated job, it is usually beyond the scope of most do-it-yourself homeowners. There are building code issues to consider, along with accessing electricity and plumbing, waterproofing, mildew and mold control, and insulation. Using a good design/build consultant upfront will help you achieve your goals.

Remodeling a basement can provide families with essential space for necessities such as an extra bedroom, a children’s playroom or a workout area. A remodeled basement can also make room for luxuries such as a spa-like bathroom retreat, a billiard room, a state-of-the-art home office, or a glamorous home theater, wet bar or wine cellar.

Renovations can be accomplished to fit your budget. For instance, installing a wine cellar ranges from $10,000 to $100,000, depending on the level of options desired.

A finished look is achieved by using a mixture of both natural light and alternative lighting options. As natural light is limited in a basement, and there may be issue with two paths of egress, window wells with covers or egress basement windows are a proven solution. See some examples at www.wellcraftwells.com. Quality finishes, including upscale millwork, stone, tile, and high quality wood paneling ensure a cohesiveness appearance throughout your home. There are many options to arrive at your desired environment: a gas fireplace provides warmth and cozy ambiance, while using pale colors on the walls creates a feeling of spaciousness.

Basement Remodel - Kitchen
Basement Remodel - Bedroom
Basement Remodel - Entry
Basement Remodel - Wine Cellar

Finishing your basement turns under-utilized space into an asset that will increase the selling price of your home and decrease the market time when you are ready to sell. However, the true value comes from the renewed livability and enjoyment of your home that a basement renovation can bring to you and your family.

Have You Considered a Wine Cellar?

Wine Cellars

If you have a passion for wine, perhaps you have dreamed about creating a space in your home to properly store and care for your collection. Wine cellars are not just for seasoned wine connoisseurs. Jim Brewer, a local wine sales distributor, points out that there is a great selection of quality wines for under $20. Jim suggests that part of the fun of collecting wine is buying some of the less expensive wines, which will be ready to drink in a few years, and seeing how they turn out; you will have some wonderful wines (and some not so wonderful) to enjoy in a few years.

When designing a wine cellar careful consideration to temperature and humidity control insures the value of aged fine wines, and therefore are an essential element of the design.  It is also important to factor in vibration, lighting and racking as well as the overall design.  A stepped display and open shelving allow for the proud presentation of favorite finds. All these features play essential roles in creating a stylish, highly functional wine cellar.

Imagine the freedom to purchase a good deal on a favorite wine by the case knowing it can be properly stored, the simple pleasure of sharing a special wine with friends by making a short trip together to the cellar and choosing a bottle, or entertaining at a new level… invite your friends to enjoy a relaxing evening in your wine cellar.  A wine cellar is a wonderful addition to the home of seasoned wine connoisseurs and burgeoning enthusiasts alike.

Enjoy wines at home in your custom built wine cellar: bit.ly/jiWiYE