Noble Avenue: An American Foursquare Reborn

We see a ton of renovations all over the city. Some are absolutely phenomenal, some are good, and others are downright laughable. Worst of all are the ones that look nice in photographs and preliminary viewings, but the flippers left old wiring, plumbing, and structural issues unchecked so they could make a quick buck.

We believe there is a right way to do renovations: Keep the historic architectural charm but everything else needs to go. A renovation should respect the history, while also giving the consumer new electrical, HVAC, plumbing, windows, roofs, and just about everything else that will cost you money down the road. Our hope is that when someone buys one of our renovations, they don’t have to touch anything for the next 5 to 10 years. It is not the most cost effective method of renovation, but it is the right way.

We hoped to have a large open house and be able to really showcase all the changes we made through the renovation. But after just two days on the market, and we ratified a contract with a couple coming from Williamsburg moving to teach in the city.

As happy as we were to get the offer, it was a bit of a let down not to show off what we had done. We hope these photos do a sufficient job of demonstrating what can be done to these properties, the snags that can pop up along the way, or just provide some inspiration for your own design adventures.

Some details about the renovation:

The exterior of the property had the typical problems of a 100 year old property. The bricks needed minor repairs and repointing, there was some minor slate work to be done on the roof, and a few cracked windows needed repair. All in all the exterior was in pretty good shape. We removed the asbestos siding on the back and replaced it with a white vinyl.

Directly to your right as you walk in is the family room. This was probably one of the least complicated rooms to renovate. We painted the fireplace, removed the broken glass from the built-ins, and replaced it with new glass we had made. Refinished wood, paint, and staging made a world of difference in this room.

The foyer was a simple fix as well. We replaced the old door and transom and picked out a new light from Shades of Light.

The half bath downstairs had substantial subfloor damage. We removed all the fixtures and vinyl, replaced the subfloor, and added porcelain tile.

We expanded the opening from the dining room to the living room. Matching the opening of the foyer into the living room seemed to be the right way to respect the original architectural design and we were happy to see how well it turned out.

This is where the fun really began. We wanted to give the new owner a nice open feel to the kitchen, but the wall between the old kitchen and the dining room was weight-bearing. As you can see from the photos, we ended up having to hide the beam and posts in plain sight. Normally you can hide the posts in the walls, but unfortunately the space would not allow that.

We added a cabinet above on this side to camouflage the post a bit. This process is a substantial endeavor for a home renovation, and our contractors had to work with a structural engineer to make this work. The cost of this one opening set the renovation back by almost 7 thousand dollars. (So, if you can stay away from weight bearing walls, STAY AWAY!)

We removed the door here, which led to the basement to give us more room for the oven and cabinet space. Closing up this staircase allowed us to run the electrical and HVAC systems up the unused staircase unobstructed.

Now we move to the second floor. Most of these Four Squares have four bedrooms with a central bathroom next to the staircase. This house had two staircases, both of which led upstairs, one form the foyer, and one from the kitchen.

This is the master bedroom. We removed the radiators to give the room more space and added a second set of closets that you will be able to see after we walk through the master bath.

Most people really do not need a fourth bedroom upstairs, so we decided to take the smaller of the bedrooms and turn it into a bathroom for the master suit. We were able to reallocate the square footage of this room to give the master a larger closet and used the old closet as a space for the toilet. When you add a bathroom to a home, the largest concern is how to get the plumbing down to the basement/crawlspace. We were lucky enough to have enough clearance inside a wall below the bath to run it down without anyone ever noticing. This is usually the most expensive part as you have to cut into walls and run plumbing down to the water supply and waste pipes.

This is the second full bath upstairs. We had to pull this bathroom down to the studs as the subfloor was literally falling apart from years of leaky pipes. Our contractor had a brilliant idea for this bath: In taking the secondary staircase out we had a few square feet of unused space on the left side behind the wall, so we pushed the wall back a few feet to be able to use that space as a new shower and bath.

"The third bedroom is by far my favorite room in the house." -Scott

We were able to keep this almost exactly as it was originally intended. We sanded and refinished the builtins and rebuilt the deck off to the left side of the room.

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