Home sweet renovated home: Eleanor Brown talks about house transformation

House renovation tips ...

1. Think about how you live and what you need to live comfortably in your space.
2. Create a detailed set of specifications that enable you get the same end product when you interview contractors and get bids.
3. Get professional advice: architects, designers and experienced contractors and suppliers can save you time and money.
4. Set a budget and stick to it; projects tend to expand and run over. Good planning from the beginning helps you stay on track.
5. Invest in quality materials and workmanship meant for long-term use.
6. Your contractor choice is critical. Interview several, get referrals and look at work they've done before making a decision.
7. Set a schedule with your contractor, and establish timetables for each phase of construction.
8. Select all your materials and details in advance to save on costly delays and surprises. If you are given an allowance, shop before you begin so you know if the money meets your needs and wants. If not, adjust your budget in advance.

9. Set up a system for regular communication with your contractor – maybe meet on a regular basis or get e-mail updates.
10. Speak with one voice. If you are a couple, let your contractor know he can speak to one of you or that both of you must be part of any decision.
“Despite the best planning, there are always surprises in these projects. You never know what you will find when you open up a wall. Be flexible. Expect and demand quality, but realize that some things just can't be changed.” – Eleanor and Bill Brown

Read about the Brown house renovation in the Cedar Point Drive neighborhood of Hampton: http://www.dailypress.com/features/family/home-garden/dp-fea-brown-house-20120715,0,95528.story

Core contractors

Architect Eric Hepler

Builder J.W. Wallace

JR's Custom Framing

Dennis Hall Custom Cabinets

Jeff's Hardwood Floors

Custom Tile and Stone

Chisman Creek Plumbing

Interior designer Rosemary Kulp

Landscape designer Jim Chappell

Breakwater Custom Pools


Eleanor Brown talks about house she and husband Bill renovated in Hampton


When and why did you buy the house and its history?

Purchased April 2010.  Originally built 1981. On the site of Cedar Hall, home of J. S. Darling.We bought it specifically for its location.  We knew we wanted to be on the water.  We looked everywhere from the Virginia Beach oceanfront to Smithfield to Williamsburg to Gloucester.  And we kept coming back to Hampton.  Hampton has so much to offer. Best access to the Bay, wonderful waterfront activity, fun things to do Downtown and at the Hampton Yacht Club.Bill (a retired builder) and I have worked together renovated several homes.  We started this project with a very clear vision of what we wanted.  We knew we had purchased the right spot but the existing house was built for a different kind of lifestyle.  We began by making a wish list of everything we wanted the home to be.  Bill and I had always done the designs ourselves in the past and thought we could again. But as we tried to visualize our wish list we ultimately realized the vision was going to mean a bigger transformation in actual structural form than we could do.  It also meant it was going to be a bigger and more involved renovation than we originally envisioned when we bought the house.  My sister, Rosemary Kulp is an interior designer.  She helps me all the time with interior design stuff.  Naturally, we conferred with her about the scope of the project and the difficulty we were having with our designs.   She had some thoughts but also recommended we collaborate with an architect with whom she had worked on her home in Richmond.  We met Eric Hepler and he was the right person at the right time to collaborate with us to make our visions a reality.  For example, we didn't know how to connect the two story addition we wanted on the back of the house with what was a one story living room on the front. Enter Eric.  Solution a big dormer which ultimately turned into my amazing dressing room/closet.  There are so many things about Eric's improvements that made the house the dream home we envisioned. His gift for scale and proportion, the sight lines as you look down a space. Outstanding.
The house is the culmination of our dreams and ideas and experience with the help of lots of folks:  Eric Hepler architect, Rosemary Kulp, interior design, Jim Chappell, landscape design, Dan Hayes, pool design, J. W. Wallace, builder, Dennis Hall, cabinet design and construction, Denise Pons, Ferguson Enterprises, appliances, etc., Chisman Creek plumbing, who made the antique ships sink a real working sink, Kevin Pankoke, dock and bulkhead design and construction, and many other subcontractors and suppliers. It was a great team.
 Major features  you wanted the house to feature?
    1.  Big open kitchen for lots of cooking with a water view and plenty of room for all to gather, open to the living space. 
    2.  Outdoor living spaces.  We had had a double porch in our prior two houses and Cedar Hall, the great house that was on our property before also had double porches.  We use the upstairs porch for a place to nap and rest like an old fashioned sleeping porch. The downstairs porch we use for dining and just sitting under the fan and shade and enjoying the waterfront activity.  We also wanted the veranda for sunning and for bigger gatherings.  Bill designed to the wall to give us privacy and to provide spots where folks could sit and put down their plate or cup if we are hosting a big family gathering or gathering of friends.  We wanted the pool for cooling off and relaxing and for our family to enjoy.
    3.  Master suite with fireplace.   We specifically wanted our room to take advantage of the view and to have a wood burning fireplace.  I especially wanted a master bath with a big shower and soaking tub. Our bath has all of that and wonderful views of the water too.
   4.  Storage. We have lots of stuff.  This translated into my glorious closet, the butlers pantry, the food pantry and lots of other good storage places. 
How the house showcases your art collection and passion?
Swan - Bill's grandfather was a hunting guide from Swan Quarter, NC. Bill shot the swan in 2006 on a hunting trip with his son, Will, on Mattamuskeet Lake, NC (one of the areas where his grandfather guided). We needed a big space for the swan.  We visit Monticello often.  We like the way the animals and maps hang in the front gathering room there.  It invites the guest to inquire about the objects and we enjoy sharing about our travels and our stuff reminds us of those journeys.The stairwell holds an antique map of Hampton. It has been in my family. The painting of the shrimper by Shannon Smith. We bought this painting on a trip to Charleston.  It is one of our favorites. We wanted it to be a focal point.  It hangs above the fireplace in our Creek Room.   We made sure the space above the fireplace would fit the painting. The rooms are open to one another so you see the shrimper from lots of vantages:  from the front door, from the kitchen.The bar was built with a niche for a painting. We have a big painting by Cameron Waff, a North Carolina native, who now lives in NYC, of a tablescape with wine.  It hung in our kitchen in our old house on Eastern Shore but we don't have many walls in our new house because we wanted as much of the view as possible so this interior space made a good spot for that piece.   We met Cameron Waff at an art show on the Eastern Shore called Art at the Farm, which is a wonderful art show at the Barrier Island Center.Bonefish.  We also got the bonefish one year at the Art at the Farm. We think it looks better by our pool in Hampton then it did in its original home at our pool on ES.   It has a platform and therefore can be seen from the creek.  The artis is an ES fellow but we can't remember his name. It is made of cedar driftwood and oyster dredge tines. (you already know how we love all things oyster)Shelves for duck decoys.  Bill collects Eastern Shore duck decoys.  Some are from carvers Bill knows and some are antique. We made the Creek Room a place where those could live along with his fishing trophies (Bill was the 2009 World Black Drum Champion) and my sailing trophies (from long ago:) as well as more of his stuffed ducks. Oyster chandelier.  I felt the breakfast area needed a special chandelier.  It is in the center of the house and would look like a hall if it didn't have something to anchor it.  We met Shannon Vebber on the  ES and had seen her work.  You know how much I love oyster shells.  I asked Shannon if she would work with me to create an oyster shell chandelier for the new house.  Shannon now lives in Va Beach.  She came to the house and we designed it on the spot, the shape, the size: the circumference, the length of the shells, the height, etc.  Shannon had the idea for using the oyster dredge chain for the chain to suspend it.  It might be my favorite thing in the house.  It is perfect!Features you like best about the house?The openness.  We wanted the house to have good flow, but it exceeds all expectations. The views are so good from everywhere.  It lives so well Comfort.  It is so comfortable for us when it is just the two of us, but it expands so well when we have lots of friends or our family there. We had 26 for Easter and you couldn't tell. Our rain shower. We hadn't planned this but on a trip we had one in our hotel and we loved it.   It feels wonderful.  The cabinets. Our cabinets were custom made and deigned by Dennis. They work beautifully for the specific purposes they were designed. I wanted inset doors so the cabinets would look like furniture. We have gentle close guides and the all the drawers are dovetailed.  The study has file drawers that later could be used as dresser drawers if we needed to convert it to a downstairs bedroom. The floors. The floors are original to the house and are very pretty old pine feeling.  The floor contractor was able to salvage and re-use flooring and was ale to get more to match. Nice job. Pool. The pool is perfect. Wanted a fountain.  Love the sound and look of it  The wall Bill designed makes it private and it is so relaxing. It is salt water and feels so good to be in. I swam night before last with the full mom rising. It was glorious!Ease of the dock.  The waterfront works so well. We had to put in a bulkhead, dock, floating dock and slip. It all works great. We can get right on our boat and go fishing or watch the sailboat races from HYC. Being in Little England. What a great neighborhood!  Everyone is so friendly.  The architecture is wonderful and all the big beautiful trees we love (unfortunately we lost a few in the tornado...) and being so close to downtown Hampton.  There is so much to see and do and we can just walk or ride bikes. The front door.  Designed by Bill and myself.  Custom made in Virginia Beach of mahogany by Woodcrafters of Virginia. Working shutters.  I commissioned hand forged shutter dogs by the blacksmith at Monticello to give Bill as a present.  The garden.  The garden is a work in process.  We worked with Jim Chappell, landscape architect from ES. He had designed our garden on ES and knows the plants I like (old fashioned flowers my grandmother had). So he has designed a formal circle grade in the front.   It is brilliant.  Makes what wasnt a circle become one.  We won't have any grass in the front. The perennial garden is formal and will have flowers to cut and bring in. The kitchen garden is on the west. We started with only one side of it this year. It is adjacent to the wall where the pool is and the warmth of the wall is great for the plants. What would you do different if you did it again?
Nothing. What does the house "say" to you?The house is truly us.  Designed for our lifestyle, to show case our stuff.  We love to travel but lately we don't even want to leave because nowhere is as comfortable for us as our home.  We love to be at home.  We love to entertain. The house is prefect for gathering around the big island while we cook and enjoy the view.  There is so much going on on the creek all the time. There are boats coming and going from Bluewater and barges and work boats in and out of the creek.  There are beautiful water birds and lots of rabbits. Our home is truly a haven.

Posted by Kathy Van Mullekomkvanmullekom@aol.com



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