At first glance, the sprawling, 20-year-old house looked fine. Nestled in the woods, it possessed a sublime charm. But lurking beneath the veneer of stability was a whole mess of trouble.
It started with the ominous drip, drip, drip of water from a small hole in the roof. Rotten wood was detected on the exterior of the house. Inside, ceiling fans squeaked and wobbled while carpets showed wear, floor tiles were cracked and faucets corroded. Oh, yeah, the paint was peeling, light fixtures were outdated and toilets were stained.
From the paint on the ceiling to the carpet on the floor, the home cried out for renovation. This is the story of how it was transformed from a wounded bird into a lovely swan.
The homeowners knew the algae-stained, brittle shingles had to go. Any roof is a complex animal consisting of many parts, but this one's extra angles and height made it especially challenging to replace.
The couple investigated every roofing material from slate to shake to metal. They considered manufacturers as well and eventually choose CertainTeed, an industry standout.
After cruising the Triangle scoping out a variety of CertainTeed roofs, the homeowners selected its Landmark line. The dual-layered, laminate shingle, noted for its extra protection from the elements, came with an algae-resistance warranty. Perfect for their casa's wooded setting!
Designed to replicate cedar shake, Landmark comes in some 20 colors from Moire Black to Atlantic Blue. After getting advice from friends, family and the UPS guy, the pair settled on Pewter, a deep gray with blue specks.
A trip to the local hardware store yielded about a dozen samples of Benjamin Moore's top-of-the-line Arborcoat in bluish gray and, uh, grayish blue.
Each sample was painted on a different section of the house. How did it seem during the day? At night? Near the garage?
Opinions were divided, but finally the die...or dye...was cast: Benjamin Moore Oxford Gray, a real chameleon, won. In the bright sunshine, there was no question it was blue. As the day turned cloudy or dusky, however, it took on a charcoal gray cast. Morning or night, it was a daring choice that contrasted handsomely with the bright white trim of such accents as the columns and brand-new hand rails.
Out-of-date lampposts were removed, exchanged with fixtures from Kichler, a highly regarded, Ohio-based maker of designer-quality lighting. Its Tremillo lamp rocked a Frank Lloyd Wright-era vibe. The satiny expanse of glass was anchored by strong, black metal lines.
The largest Tremillos were positioned on either side of the front door while medium versions were stationed everywhere else. These luminous sentries combined with the home's dynamic coloration to create a stately yet welcoming facade.
Traditional door locks were jettisoned in favor of Schlage's keyless entries, Schlage Sense and Schlage Touch.
With Sense, a smartphone can lock and unlock doors or delete entry codes on the fly, offering security (it also operates as an alarm and lights up at night) with no fees or subscriptions. Sense also works with the Apple Homekit, enabling the residents to unlock the door using Siri voice control on an iPhone.
Some exterior doors got Touch, which substitutes a numbered pad for a key. No key means there's nothing to lose, and for would-be intruders, no cylinder to pick.
– First Floor –
Every Food Network fan knows John Boos & Co., famous for its thick, wood cutting boards that are front and center on TV cooking shows. The firm has expanded into butcher block-topped kitchen furniture constructed in the United States.
The householders are avid cooks and entertainers, so the Gathering Block III from John Boos got a big welcome when it took the place of the original, granite-topped kitchen island. The 4-foot-long Boos piece with a distressed finish boasted a maple slab as well as a slatted shelf and sturdy wicker baskets.
Strategically placed on the kitchen counter was a chunky maple cutting board from John Boos for times when more people want to get in on the food prep.
The resident foodies went gaga over the Beale pull-down faucet. This touchless wonder turns on and off with the wave of a hand. It's possible to select from either of two spray patterns or a pause button to stop the flow. A sensor offers the option of manual mode, too.
From feeling secure about the drinking water to no longer worrying about hardness destroying the faucets, Pelican's whole-house purification system saved the day. Happily for the homeowners, it was a maintenance-free, single-unit operation with no chemicals or additional equipment.
This green solution to bad water combined self-chlorinating mechanics with advanced electronics to remove iron and manganese, raise low pH levels and soften the H2O. In addition, it reduced odors caused by bacteria and sulfur. The result: The home got great water while the plumbing was protected from staining, scaling and mineral deposits.
Another kitchen problem: Food had a habit of getting lodged in the sink's disposal. Evolution Excel from InSinkErator came to the rescue.
Nothing grinds more with less noise than the Evolution Excel. Its three-stage multi-grind meant the homeowners no longer speculated about which grub they could or couldn't put in the disposal.
One InSinkErator product led to another. The Indulge Modern Instant Hot Water Dispenser, which provided filtered, near-boiling and cool drinking water, came with a high-curve spout that swivels and a dual-function handle.
Kichler's lighting dressed up all the rooms, including the kitchen, where mocha Crystal Ball pendants added a touch of whimsy.
The ceiling fan in the kitchen squawked and shook. The homeowners found excellent updates from Fanimation, a firm that's known for form as well as function and customer support. Fanimation turns out clever originals with ingenuity and craftsmanship.
The understated sophistication of its 44-inch Embrace, in brushed nickel, provided a brilliant finishing touch for the kitchen.
It was way past time for a paint job inside the house. The homeowners tapped Valspar Reserve, a long-lasting coating with zero VOC ("volatile organic compounds," which are bad for you). Valspar's formula makes the paint exceptionally washable and mildew-resistant. Lovely Bluff, a creamy beige, served as a neutral backdrop for the dining room and hallways.
The dining room was infused with casual elegance by the mid-century-modern Cirus chandelier from Kichler, which enhanced the owners' collection of furniture from the same period.
Finally, the worn rug was removed, exposing the hardwood floor beneath, and the threadbare chairs were switched with faux leather high-backs.
Once again, the twosome deep-sixed the rug, highlighting the hardwood. Behind the sofa, they placed a glass-topped table that was handmade in South Africa.
They picked Fanimation's energetic Spitfire in brushed nickel to hang from the cathedral ceiling. The Energy Star-rated beauty has an impressive three-blade design that operates on three forward and three reverse speeds.
This spacious chamber had big issues: It was too hot and too dark. Easy fixes included painting the chocolate walls a light tone.
Fanimation Levon DC, in dark bronze, was dropped from the 16-foot vaulted ceiling. The fan isn't just swanky, but also economically smart and environmentally friendly. Its eight blades can be operated on six forward and reverse speeds to create just the right breeze.
Kicher's Zolder sconces were given a place of prominence on either side of the Palladian window. Their bronze finish, curved metal and vertical orientation added another wow factor to the generous bedroom.
The owners wanted their roomy master bath to feel more intimate. So, they artfully curated a mix of American Standard's premier brand, DXV, as well as its Studio and Serin lines.
The space was recast into a meditative sanctuary with the oversized, square showerhead, the bold contours of the tub faucet and the laidback aura of the single-lever sink faucets.
The pièce de résistance was what one might least expect: the toilet. DXV's Seagram, modern and comfortable, complies with ADA accessibility guidelines and is EPA WaterSense certified, using just 1.28 gallons per flush.
Nice, but that wasn't all because this was the throne to top all thrones. The toilet was fitted with a state-of-the-art SpaLet bidet seat.
Do you happen to know how toilets function in Japan? Well, now they can function that way in the Triangle, too. Let's just say that somebody around here doesn't need to buy Charmin anymore.
To quote American Standard, "It brings the luxury and benefits of the stand-alone bidet to the standard toilet by using the familiar refreshing action of water as a soothing and hygienic personal cleansing system."
Spray position and strength (including pulsating) as well as water temperature are adjustable by remote control. The seat is always warm and there's a built-in drier. Yee-haw!
The bathroom fans were no longer doing their job, so they were replaced throughout the house with Panasonic's game-changing WhisperGreen Select, the Cadillac of the category. Designed for continuous use, the fan moves more air using less power, so it's energy efficient and lasts longer. An extra that's especially valued: Its NiteGlo LED light, which can act as a night light.
Kichler's light fixture reinforced the cozier mood of the bathroom. Its Suspension displays a narrow bridge of chrome spanning three lamps of satin-etched glass.
The Fanimation Xeno LED, in brushed nickel, took center stage on the screened porch, providing a serene, cooling breeze. Included was a hand-held remote and wall mount to control fan speed, light dimmer and power.
Along with the fan, a playful wicker chair and fresh paint on the bead-board ceiling turned the space into a mellow retreat.
Years of hard-water buildup and oxidation had stained the showerheads and toilet. The Pelican Water purification system would make sure this never happened again.
Meanwhile, the homeowners tried unsuccessfully to fix the rust on the showerheads and the ruined porcelain.
Clearly, it was time to go shopping. In the shower, American Standard's Times Square handles, Lyndon DXV multifunction showerhead and Serin handheld brought Big Apple moxie to the Carolina house. The of-the-moment Seagram DXV filled the role of an ancient toilet.
Panasonic's WhisperGreen Select took the place of the lethargic bathroom fan. Panasonic's ventilation fan handled even the high humidity from the steam shower due to its Pick-a-Flow speed selector.
Kichler's minimalist Reynes pendants, which paired mirrored chrome finishes with subtle crystals, reflected light and brightened the bathroom.
American Standard's Prevoir stainless steel drop-in sink occupied the space of a "sink spa" that had ceased working within a year of its installation but was still taking up real estate.
The large Prevoir proved handy to wash delicates. Made from durable, 18-gauge stainless steel, the sink works in conjunction with the Isle DXV pull-down, a swiveling faucet.
– Second Floor –
While the main level of the house has hardwood flooring, the second is carpeted. For the two bedrooms and loft, the homeowners searched for a luxurious, stain-resistant carpet.
They discovered Phenix Flooring, a trendsetter in carpeting made from premium nylon and P.E.T. (recycled bottles and the like). The company is owned by Pharr Yarns, headquartered in McAdenville, N.C.
The couple weighed many Phenix options before singling out Bleeker Street, a multi-hued plush. Bleeker Street, which features Stainmaster, meshes a variety of individually colored yarns into a balanced whole. For the color, they chose Wall Street, incorporating bits of coffee, cream, slate gray and gold for a tasteful fusion.
Underneath the carpeting lies a secret: Memory Foam Carpet Cushion from a company called Healthier Choice. Before purchasing, the homeowners tested it out on top of concrete and said the half-inch-thick padding felt like a trampoline. At the core of this miracle is "visco-elastic frothed polyurethane foam," which gives the product the ability to resist crushing even after years of stomping.
Tiles that had cracked presented a problem because they were no longer available. What to do? Take lemons and make lemonade! The couple sought metallic tiles that could be incorporated into the floor.
Helping to ensure a successful transition were products from Laticrete, a family-owned, Connecticut-based company. It offered a comprehensive assortment of tile and stone installation and maintenance materials. Categories included adhesives and mortars, grouts, and caulks and sealants, which worked to protect, clean and transform the tile floors.
American Standard's Studio Monoblock faucets and European-design Seagram DXV toilet added a streamlined flair.
Panasonic's Energy Star-rated, recessed WhisperGreen Select fan with LED light improved indoor air quality.
In the high-ceilinged bathroom, Kichler's Hendrick light fixture, a hybrid of traditional, industrial and modernist styles, represented the transitional attitude that gave this now-updated house its eclectic spin.
Coming this spring: Phase 2 of the renovation!