Special/Signature Issues » Home Style

Elements of Style

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The house on Franklin Street doesn't have any turrets, beautiful curved windows or great rooflines, as the other buildings on the block do. Its unassuming beige brick exterior might lead you to think the interior of the home is unremarkable -- that is, until you step up to the entrance. There, the front door's beveled glass invites outside light to flood the interior and play along the surface of the stone floor.

The home was built in 1913 by architect Marcellus E. Wright for Dr. Paul Howle from Sussex. "It was built later than the other houses on the block, probably on a lot divided from another property on the block, or from a house that was destroyed, thus making it what was called an 'in-fill' house," owner Dave vanBlaricom explains.

In the entry is a small light green elevator, used only occasionally, trimmed in burgundy and gold fringe. "The elevator is one of many things Dr. Howle put in the house that were very ahead of their time," vanBlaricom says. Those innovations included a dumbwaiter and a central vacuum. When the house was built there was a doctor's office and servants' quarters on the ground floor, a space that's since been converted into apartments.

VanBlaricom is an architect who works at Trammell Crow as a project manager. This house is one of many he has redone over the years. He started redoing his parents' house as a young man and has never looked back.

"My intention when I bought the house was to turn it into many apartments," vanBlaricom recalls, "but then I decided to make the top floors my residence instead. I really loved the details here and couldn't believe they had remained intact even with all of the tenants in and out of the building over the years."

The white carved wood fireplace mantels are the same ones Dr. Howle had installed in the home in 1913, as are the floors, the staircases, the trim in the dining room, the bookshelves in the library and the arch details.

Up an L-shaped staircase, with dark cherry-wood treads and risers, are the home's living quarters. At the center of the second floor sits the dining room, its walls covered with a gorgeous white paper tinted with soft taupes and gray browns. The wallpaper, like a French toile, only grander in scale, is filled with scenes of large trees and people and is beautifully understated. On the large antique dining table lie the 1913 blueprints for the house. The yellowed paper bears the name of Dr. Howle, the year the house was built, the architectural firm and the initial plans for every detail of this elegant home.

At the other end of the dining room lies the entrance to the kitchen. First made up of four rooms -- a butler's pantry, the butler's kitchen, the cook's kitchen and another pantry -- vanBlaricom knocked down the walls to create a one-room space. The deep green walls, the dark cherry cabinets and the dark granite surfaces are warm and welcoming and make a smart contrast to the stainless steel appliances.

Tucked away in a corner of the kitchen is a quaint seating area. Antique dark wood furniture and comfortable upholstered pieces are placed strategically to view the small television or watch the action in the kitchen. A small porch overlooks the charming backyard, which has a little pond, a brick patio and plants softening the lines of the wood fence.

Moving down the main hallway, vanBlaricom reflects on his favorite area of the house. "I think it would have to be my front porch. Since it is on the second floor, I have a great view of the marathon and the parades." Large French doors open out to the ample space, which offers views of the historic homes in his neighborhood.

Standing in the living room, vanBlaricom recalls several daunting renovation projects. Though much of the house was in good condition when he bought it, he decided the wiring and plumbing needed an overhaul. Contractors had to tear out the ceilings to gain access the wires and pipes in the walls. This part of the renovation went off without a hitch, but vanBlaricom started to sweat when the contractors began tearing out the sagging beam in the living room. As he stood underneath a gaping hole that allowed him to see two floors up, he became very nervous about the outcome. Thankfully, it was pulled off without a problem, making the interior of the house sounder than it had been in years.

Next to the living room is the sitting room, where vanBlaricom points to a large white urn on a glass-topped table. "I came home one day and this urn was filling with water, leaking from the ceiling above," he remembers. "The plumber had made a mistake when plumbing my tub, and when the water drained it came right through the light fixtures and into the urn. That is when I almost gave up. It was just too much."

Occupying the third floor are guest bedrooms, a television room, VanBlaricom's bedroom and a gorgeously renovated bathroom -- "my other favorite place in the house," he says of the expansive, luxurious room. The double shower with a large stainless rain showerhead stands next to a large bathtub, the culprit for the leak into the urn below. The floor is covered in a warm beige tile and the walls are painted a soft coordinating beige.

Finally, back on the main floor vanBlaricom shows off his library, nestled between the living room and the dining room. Quiet and gracious, this is an inviting space, with many personal touches and family mementoes. A large, white wood-trimmed fireplace with simple details stands on one wall; white painted bookshelves filled with books, family photographs and small paintings line the opposite wall from floor to ceiling. "The old pictures in this room are my family, the furniture is from my family, as are a lot of the books in the bookshelves. It is a really comfortable room," vanBlaricom says.

There is elegance in this quiet house that mirrors the tastes and inclinations of its current owner. The home is a blend of his past and the lives of those who lived here before him. For now, Dave vanBlaricom will stay in the house, even though it is a little too big for him, because there just seems to be something that keeps him there. It must be the charming warmth he has created that beckons as you enter and invites you to stay.

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