When we last talked to Dan and Simona Beldiman for our Fall, 2014 issue, they were in the early stages of renovating their 1920 Tudor at 620 Esplanade. The house had been gutted, framing was almost complete and a bump-out on the second floor had added 500 square feet to the floor plan. Wiring and plumbing were well under way under the watchful eye of lead contractor John Saravia of Landmark Construction, but it was still a construction site, not a home. In the yard, boulders had been moved to the bottom of the garden in preparation of raising and flattening the lawn and extensive new drainage was planned since an underground stream in the area and Pelham’s high water table demanded it.
It is now March, 2015, and the Beldimans have been happily installed in their new home for a mere two weeks. The renovation work is all but complete—the kitchen backsplash still needs to be installed, for instance—and final landscaping awaits improved weather conditions. But the transformation from a gloomy old Tudor into a sun-drenched, open-plan living space is evident. And the reorientation of the front entrance and addition of a curved driveway make it hard to believe it is the same house.
Entering the house through the new custom-made, solid mahogany front door of which Dan is justifiably proud, one mounts a short stairway in the hall and can either turn left into the kitchen, or go right or straight on into the living areas. The staircase to the upper floors is also adjacent, making access to the whole house more convenient than when the main entrance was on the other side. It had been an early decision to return the front door to its original location. The modern Anderson windows that lack the wide mullions of their predecessors let in much more light onto the dark-stained oak floors and dispel the cramped feel that so many old Tudors have. The Beldimans have deftly reconfigured the rooms so that there is an easy flow between sitting room, dining room, family room and kitchen, which is where we start our tour.
Dan happily praises his wife as the interior designer while he kept an eye on the heavy work. For the kitchen, which boasts appliances from Wolf, Bosch, and Sub Zero, supplied by Tiso (who she commends for their service and recommendations), Simona chose a three-inch Ceasarstone island and two-inch countertops in gray that resist heat and staining and complement the stainless steel appliances. The flooring, which has radiant heat underneath is a porcelain tile known as blackwood, a highly durable yet stylish choice that has the look of wood but the durability of tile. The under-counter cabinet layout features many deep drawers, and a variety of cupboard options. Beneath the island can be found the microwave and a wine fridge. A double oven next to the range allows for multiple food preparation and speaks to the fact that the Beldimans are frequent entertainers. Striking features of the design are the oversized industrial LED lights from Restoration Hardware that hang over the island and the steel and black leather stools clustered around it. Another interesting feature is the extra-powerful extractor fan in the range hood: the motor is located outside to keep the noise to a minimum.
Simona got her design inspiration from popular website Houzz, but also from the family’s extensive travels, particularly in Europe, where the older housing stock also encourages the “transitional” blend of styles between old and new. “Then I looked for materials that matched the look I wanted,” she said. When it was time to research vendors, Simona found high-end home improvement magazines very useful, where the advertisers tend to be of higher quality, but finally ordered a lot of the materials online; she was surprised to find price differentials of up to 25%, often tied to delivery time. Most of what she ordered only took two weeks to arrive. She added a cautionary note to online purchasing. “Keep the boxes and packing until you see the stuff in its final destination in the house,” she said. Workers had unpacked certain items that she ended up rejecting before she got to see them and thrown away the shipping boxes; sometimes resellers require original packaging for returns. Also, she notes that in getting the kitchen flooring delivered from Florida, she saved money initially, but was left with extras that were then not worth shipping back at her expense, so that buying locally might have been just as cheap.
In the basement we find under-floor radiant heating and a “mother-in-law” suite. Dan is also having a 20-kilowatt emergency generator system hard wired into the gas service, powerful enough to run the whole house in an emergency. The garage has been re-floored with a multi-layer epoxy coating that is not only extremely durable but also easy on the eye.
Upstairs on the second and third floor all is as expected in bedrooms and bathrooms, with tidy lines and unostentatious fittings; some of the roof angles on the third floor are particularly pleasing. Because of the attic conversion, a full fire sprinkler system had to be installed throughout the house.
The only thing Dan feels he might have done differently is to decrease the size of one of the bathrooms, allowing for a larger bedroom next to it, but it is a small detail, and given the size of the project, one would expect more regrets. Dan points to the fact that he was onsite nearly every day as crucial to heading off potential problems; as an example it was he who noticed that one of the openings for a flat-screen TV had been cut too small and too high. Another potentially huge catch was when, after a particularly heavy rain, and despite the French drain and sump pump system working fine in the basement, one of the channels that let water flow to the pumps had been inadvertently blocked and water began to pool. By good fortune this happened before the basement flooring was laid and was easily remedied.
Dan’s advice to serious renovators is to try to be on site at least two or three days a week. “There’s always surprises,” he said, and if the owner is there for face-to-face consultation it makes everything move along faster. He also warns that one should always plan to go over budget between 10-20 percent, even if that doesn’t happen.
Standing inside this gut renovation it is hard to remember what it must have looked like when originally built, and until you walk outside you have forgotten you are in a nearly hundred-year-old Tudor; the feeling of modernity prevails. This almost miraculous transformation is complete.