Designers Restore Mansion from the Ashes

Reading, PA— According to various cultural legends, when a phoenix is consumed by flames and dies, it rises again from the ashes more beautiful and powerful than before. The story of the Windsor Street Decorator’s Show House presents a similar tale.

The 15-room Colonial Revival/Georgian-style mansion sits on the edge of the Centre Park historic district in Reading, PA. Just five months after the homeowners had bought the property and renovated it extensively, it was destroyed by fire in January of 2007. The homeowners – undaunted – made the decision to transform the remodeled home into a Decorator’s Show House.

The homeowners not only raised money for charity with their endeavor, but were also able to transform their ruined home into something truly beautiful again. The proceeds were split between the Reading Symphony Orchestra and Co-County Wellness Services, a local AIDS charity.

A team of 20 designers and craftsmen from across Pennsylvania helped to transform the wreckage into this stunning showhouse.

Damage Control

“When I first entered the Georgian Colonial Revival style home in June of last year, it was a mess. Much of the fire damage had been cleaned up, but the smoky smell permeated the air and some of the rooms were still black with soot,” says Stratton Yatron, CFO and co-owner of Adelphi Kitchens and Cabinetry.

Creating a new kitchen for the clients became a project in which Yatron and associates fully invested themselves.
Yatron created the overall kitchen design, while Ranae Borden of Fromm Electric designed a complementary lighting scheme and C.H. Briggs Hardware designed and fabricated the countertops.

Yatron specified his firm’s custom birch wood cabinetry with a classic Churchill door style. Beaded insets and walnut accents continue design elements found in other parts of the house. The hand-painted snowcap with a mocha glaze adds a light contrast to other, darker design elements. The floor-to-ceiling framed cabinets were hand-assembled by the craftsmen for the kitchen which were tied to the approximately 9'5" ceiling with a two-piece crown molding whose assembly mimicks the crown details throughout the home.

The designers had to make sacrifices due to the size of the existing footprint; although the kitchen’s work triangle is small, work surfaces line the room leaving ample space for food preparation and presentation, despite the lack of a central island. DuPont Zodiaq countertops in Royal Brown, a new shade in the company’s OKITE collection, provide an attractive complement to the pale cabinets.

Space Race

“The kitchen is rather small by today’s standards, but has beautiful high ceilings,” explains Yatron.

The primary concern for the designers was how to keep the traditional feel of the original kitchen, add in suitable storage solutions while maintaining the existing footprint.

The sink and refrigerator formed the starting point for the design. The existing plumbing was such that the sink had to be placed beneath the large, central window. This narrowed down the choice of spaces in which the specified 36" GE Profile stainless steel refrigerator would fit.

The refrigerator was positioned opposite the sink, to provide sufficient wall cabinet storage space near the GE Profile dishwasher. The range and hood, also from GE Profile, were then placed on the remaining wall.

As with any project, there were some unanticipated challenges. For instance, “The homeowners wanted a professional range, but the openings and turnings leading into the room were too narrow to accommodate that choice,” explains Yatron. Instead, the 30" gas range, built-in microwave and small walnut range hood complete the kitchen’s work station.

The contrast of light wood and dark stains not only provides various focal points in the design, but also works to continue the use of materials specified in other parts of the home’s design. The walnut wood hood is stained in a cinnamon shade as is a pair of turned columns placed next to the range. A rack system for canned goods was created, and concealed in the turned columns are pull-out spice racks to maximize space usage. A deep, open plate rack is placed directly to the right of the sink.

Pull-out shelves create hidden storage and serve to store other convenience features including a tilt-down tray, a two-tier cutlery divider and double trash can system.

Light and Shadow

For the 12'5"x10'8" room, lighting was an issue. The central window in the kitchen was replaced in the 1940s with a smaller window surrounded by a glass block frame.

Yatron cites the refurbishing of the unusual window as a critical design element.

“I first saw the window when the home was under extensive fire restoration, and I thought that it had to go. As part of the finished room, the window became one of the most talked about elements, and, in retrospect, replacing it would have been a mistake!”

A minimal treatment for the window was designed to utilize the maximum amount of daylight.

Ranae Borden designed a scheme of task, ambient and accent lighting which includes extensive undercabinet and in-cabinet lighting as well as trimmed, recessed ceiling lights. Decorative lighting was added, as well, including a small chandelier hung over the sink. Each lighting element is individually controlled for easy adjustment.

Finishing off the brighter look, lit compartments were inserted at the top of the wall cabinets to add visual interest and display areas for the room.

Finally, Yatron replaced the original floor with natural, honed travertine tile to continue the palette of rich contrasts which so handsomely ties the room to the rest of the remodeled home.

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