An American Classic
Architect: Daniel Contelmo, Daniel Contelmo Architects; Interior Designer: Melissa Adams Gruber, Adams Interior Design
Architect Daniel Contelmo raised the roof line on this home but stayed true to the original design while creating a fresh look.
Photographs by Roger Williams Photography
Before the reno, the 1820 home was showing its age.
The Greek Revival inspired the restoration of this 1820 Colonial in Hopewell Junction. Attention was paid to historical details throughout. Architect Daniel Contelmo conducted research before beginning the project and even brought in an expert to help him better understand the home’s past.
“In order to preserve the home’s antiquity, a local historian consulted with the team throughout the design process,” says Contelmo. The property was originally a bull farm in the early 1800s, and the house served as an inn for a period of time. “The historian determined that due to strap marks on the lower timbers, the house was most likely dragged by oxen from another location on the property.”
But it was in need of a lot of work when Contelmo signed on to the project.
“The floor and foundation were deteriorating, due to their proximity to the existing grade and its elevation being lower than the front yard,” says Contelmo. “We first designed a series of retaining walls and drainage systems to collect and divert water around the house.”
Because the homeowners needed a larger kitchen, mudroom, a new family room, and more headroom, Contelmo and his team designed a new foundation, to be constructed under the “superstructure” of the existing home, to support additions along with raising the roof.
“We raised the roof and constructed five-foot-high knee walls and secured the new rafters to them,” says Contelmo. “This increased the headroom while not changing the exterior moldings. [However], much of the foundation remains the original fieldstone.”
They preserved whatever original details they could.
“The original hand-hewn beams were carefully removed, stacked, then reinstalled,” says Contelmo. “We intentionally left some of the uneven floor structure as a way to remind you of the age of the home.”
In several rooms, the original hand-hewn beams were carefully removed, stored, and reinstalled to retain the charm and character of the home. Other touches included finishing the cabinets with milk paint and adding two fireplaces.
Because this is a home for a family of today, modern amenities were added to the kitchen, and a sound system was installed throughout. However, there were new details added to make it feel old. The cabinets were finished with a milk paint; two Rumford fireplaces were added; iron hardware was installed on the many custom built-ins, as well as horizontal wainscot and copper counter tops with exposed nail heads.
Construction on the home took 12 months. Older homes come with their fair share of challenges and cost, and Contelmo advises homeowners to realize this when going into an extensive renovation project.
“Older homes usually have settling, lack of insulation, poor windows, and undersized roof rafters,” says Contelmo. “If keeping the original structure, effort has to be put into shoring up what is to remain, to keep the home from further demise.”
In addition to the things you may not see after a renovation is complete, like insulation or foundation work, Contelmo cautions homeowners about windows and other elements that give an older home its charm. “Many times, older windows need to be replaced in order to meet today’s building- and energy-code requirements,” says Contelmo. “Original single-panel true-divided light windows have a charm that cannot be duplicated with energy-efficient windows. Making your new house or renovation look old is much more expensive. It may require plaster walls, hand-hewn beams, distressed or antique flooring, built-up paint on trim, or re-using hardware.”
The team opted for traditional Pine Plains windows to look out onto the eight-acre site complete with lake and Catskill Mountain views.
All of these things can be more expensive, more time-consuming, or both, but to restore a beautiful home to its original glory, they are worth it.
“I enjoy the simple lines of this home, along with the heavy exterior moldings,” says Contelmo.
Daniel Contelmo’s Historical-Home Tips
► Consider what makes the space charming. “When getting into a restoration project, you should first understand the essence of the space and structure,” says Contelmo. “What makes the space charming? Understanding the historical significance and the detailing, then maintaining them, is important.”
► Additions should enhance the space. “New spaces added should not overshadow the original home but enhance it,” says Contelmo. “Additions are a part of the history of a home and should tell a story about its use and development.”