On a beautiful but still chilly March day in Pelham Manor, Carolyne Rainero sat in the brand new kitchen of her recently fully renovated 1910 house at 678 Ely Avenue and reflected on the process that brought her and her husband Julian to their new home. The couple was already living close by on Manor Lane with their three young girls and they knew that it was time to move up to a larger house and so they began their search, knowing they wanted to stay in the Siwanoy school district. “We had been looking for some time and this was the first one that we both really liked,” said Carolyne as she showed me around the impressively finished renovation.
They bought the property in October of 2012, but only moved in last November. After retaining the services of local architect Ray Beeler of Gallin, Beeler Design Studio and contractor Joe Viger of Town Common Building and Development (Ryebuilder.com), they soon came to the conclusion, as demolition began, that a complete gut and rebuild was the way to go. “We hadn’t originally intended such extensive work,” said Ray. “But with the demo work we discovered some unsound timbers and structural work that had to be done…basic infrastructure work.” So the decision was made to go the whole way. Ray drew up extensive new blueprints and the revised plan was put into action. The gutting also allowed Joe to level some floors that had up to a three-inch height disparity from wall to wall.
Carolyne credits her husband as the one with the design vision, but as the work progressed it became a team effort that took input from many sources including Joe, Ray and designer Cara Boyce who chipped in with final paint and wallpaper choices.
Interestingly, the floor plan remained virtually unchanged; a butler’s pantry next to the kitchen was disposed of to enlarge the kitchen space (a steel beam had to be installed to compensate for the loss of a structural wall) and an opening to adjacent rooms enlarged, but overall the main rooms retained the same footprint. One ceiling was kept—in the sitting room—because of the fine beam work, which they then mimicked in the adjoining dining room. The sitting room also features a minimalist gas fireplace that replaces the old traditional one; it looks like painted concrete in the European style but is in fact finished in troweled plaster, with a rough-hewn wood mantle; the fireplace itself is bedded with gray pebbles.
However, concrete is used elsewhere in the bathrooms and showers, fashioned by Jeff Kuryluk of Concrete Encounters, but the mix of materials (kitchen countertops are marble) has been well managed and the clean lines throughout the house are softened by these choices. Diverse detailing in furnishings and fixtures also helps. Despite changing all the windows to Andersons, the contractor managed to preserve several original stained glass windows that are reminders of the history and original style of the house.
The kitchen’s centerpiece is a one-piece, two-inch thick marble island from Marble Works in Yonkers with a sink that features a Grohe faucet system that provides not only chilled and hot, beverage-ready filtered water but also seltzer water, a family favorite; an under-sink gas bottle provides the fizz. Three unobtrusive, industrial-style LED lamps provide lighting for the island. A two-section Sub Zero fridge (the lower part for vegetables and other perishables) is partnered with a full-size freezer, and the double-sized range (with a pot-filling water faucet incorporated) is by Wolf. A GE dishwasher and twin wine coolers complete the appliances. The slate flooring tiles are pleasingly installed at an angle and radiant heating keeps the toes toasty in winter.
Moving to the outside we find few changes to the house’s exterior (a low decorative wall was added between the two wings in front), but directly behind the kitchen is a new flagged patio for summer entertaining that mirrors a similar installation that Julian had commissioned for their previous Manor Lane property. A bluestone worktop that houses a built-in sink, gas grill and storage flanks a sturdy stone fireplace, the perfect setting for summer cookouts and entertaining. The garage was also completely restored.
With plenty of room in the rest of the house, the low-ceilinged basement remains unfinished. However, improvements were made there too, with the addition of a French drain and sump pumps and foam insulation blown in between the joists overhead. Three-zone heating, new electric service, a Burnham boiler and quick-recovery water heater completed the updates in the house’s engine room. Joe Viger explains the hydro-air heating and hot water delivery that uses the furnace to warm the air that is circulated and also preheats the hot water going to the tank for showers and other use. This is an increasingly popular and efficient system used in newer houses and conversions.
Insulation was also added to the roof in the attic where the extra space is earmarked for the kids as they grow older. The master bedroom has built-in drawers along two walls finished with a dark stain that matches the floors, and has a cozy seating area next to a bay window. A walk-in closet keeps clutter out of sight. The girls’ bedrooms have been kept simple and all the bathrooms have glass-fronted walk-in showers and the clean lines and practical fittings that one finds throughout the house. By completely gutting the interior, the Raineros and their team were able to take their time over their design choices, which has resulted in a practical and harmonious renovation that will serve them well for years to come.