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Aging Gracefully

Written by Karen Marley
Imagery by Sandra Kicman

In Buffalo, New York, a stately, old Queen Anne Victorian proudly sits as a statement of elegant formality from another era. Built in the late 1800s, the regal home was converted into a duplex in 1902. The current homeowner, a Buffalo real estate broker, purchased it in 1978. She rented out the first floor and lived on the second.Forty years later the homeowner found herself entering a new stage of life. Widowed for five years, she has a new life partner, also widowed. Instead of moving out of her fabulous home, her partner left his suburban abode and joined her.
    “I recognize what’s out on the market and what people need in homes,” says the homeowner. “I decided to be proactive and make changes in advance so I can stay in my house as long as I’m alive!”

That Was Then
Built for a turn-of-the-century lifestyle, a hallway shot down the length of the house transecting the gracious living and dining rooms with their 12-foot ceilings and the congested spaces of the servant’s kitchen and back stairway. Narrow circulation paths and compartmentalized spaces kept social activity to the front of the house.
    “We had to reconfigure the home for today’s needs,” says Trish Bailey, Architect with Bailey & Harris Architects. This meant creating a first-floor master suite, laundry room, and powder room; and reprioritizing the kitchen as the primary entertainment space.

This is Now
The challenge was finding space for the new layout while protecting the glorious architectural details – millwork, window casings, cabinetry, moldings, paneling, and other unique assemblies that gave the house its character.
    Bailey created a larger kitchen by removing an unused, central chimney. Eliminating the hallway’s back half freed up square footage for the laundry, master bedroom walk-in closet, and powder room. Hollow walls, built for a pocket door between the dining and living rooms, were trimmed down giving the powder room an additional foot of space. The laundry room serves as an entry into the master suite.

Progressive and Traditional
The new layout and design preserved tradition while delivering modern functionality. The gutted kitchen now boasts a wood, parquet floor (matching the rest of the house), soaring 12-foot coffered ceilings, transom windows, and an island suitable for guests. Stainless steel appliances look crisp
against the white cabinetry and subway tile backsplash. A brand new BBQ deck has a circular footprint complementing the front turret.
    The Carrara marble master bath with wainscoting has a shower opening large enough to accommodate a wheelchair as do all of the home’s first-floor doorways. Bailey used abundant cabinetry to gain storage space in the kitchen and laundry room.
    The dining and living rooms received a makeover. The living room’s vibrant color palette of blues and tangerine pop against traditional furniture and pedigree antiques. The dining room, swathed in a baked terracotta color is radiant beneath a family heirloom: a crystal and brass chandelier with a center shaft forming a pineapple, the international symbol of hospitality. The remaining hallway walls are painted in linen white for a fresh, bright touch.
    “It’s an extremely beautiful mix of traditional home furnishings with fresh new fabrics, colors, and artwork,” says Mark Taylor of Mark Taylor Interiors.

Hidden Treasure
A fabulous tiger maple and cherry inlay door discovered in the pocket door wall cavity now hangs, barn door style, between the kitchen pantry and laundry room. Bailey and Taylor also revived a non-functioning copper sink they found in the old pantry. Today it works beautifully, complete with its original fixtures.
    “This renovation is really a story of aging in place for the occupants and the home itself,” says Bailey. “But you can’t do this as a DIY project. Success required due diligence and a team of experts. It was a fun team. Everybody’s happy.” 

Design Resources
Bailey & Harris Architects
California Closets
M P Caroll Harwood
Interior Design Resources
Italian Marble & Granite, Inc.
Mark Taylor Interiors
Markarian Rugs
Orvilles Appliances & Mattresses
Tiles Internationa
Visionary Baths & More     
Window Décor Distributors

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