Better Than the Original

Thanks to a thoughtful renovation, a Victorian home goes from drab to delightful.

But rehabbing the house required more than simple upgrades. Recalling the once-dreary first floor, Cunningham says, “There was no access to the backyard, which is really an incredible property. So we put in new kitchen windows, French doors, and a wraparound porch. The idea was to open up the house; we wanted to have all the spaces flowing.”

The back staircase cut off the dining room from the kitchen and took up precious space on the second floor. Warner and Cunningham removed it and continued the main staircase down to the basement. Now the kitchen, with its neutral palette and wide oak floorboards, opens to the dining room through six-foot-wide pocket doors. To camouflage their modification to the Victorian staircase, the architects designed a 10-foot-long bench along the new balustrade. Finished to match the existing woodwork, it looks as if it has always been there.

For a crowning touch, wallpaper by British designer Neisha Crosland graces the hallways. “When my sister-in-law first saw the wallpaper, she thought it was old and said, ‘You’re going to get rid of it, right?’” laughs one of the owners. But the paper’s bold orange flowers lend the dark wood a cheery counterpoint.

The third floor, which once contained three servants’ rooms with low ceilings, is now a lofty master suite with exposed beams and wide-board floors. The architects vanquished any draftiness by inserting foam insulation into the exterior walls and installing a high-efficiency heating system.

Though the family spends much time in the kitchen, a charming “sleeping porch” on the second floor is also a favorite. Completely rebuilt with period details, the ambiance is magical. “Kids love to play in it,” one of the owners notes. “And it’s a great place to read a book. In fact, it’s so lovely, I’m thinking of moving my office in there,” she says with a wink.