After Michael and Jaclyn Kirchhoff initialed the last clause and signed the last dotted line on the paperwork to buy their Moorestown house, Phil Welch, who had raised a family and lived there with his wife, Helen, for 45 years, dropped the keys into Michael's hand.
With tears in his eyes, Welch said, "Raise a good family here."
Though the two-story, four-bedroom, four-bath dwelling looks nothing like the three-bedroom, two-bathroom ranch the Kirchhoffs bought in 2002, they kept Welch's words in mind as they created a home for their two daughters, says Jaclyn, a part-time nurse at Bayada Home Health Care. (Michael Kirchhoff is an emergency-room physician at Cooper University Hospital.)
When she first saw the house, though, Jaclyn wasn't convinced that it was her dream home. It was small, cramped and looked like a 1950s period piece - little had been done to update the place, inside or out.
Michael kept bringing Jaclyn back, however. It was his vision, and the location in Moorestown, that eventually won her over.
"It's where my parents live and where I wanted to be," said Jaclyn, who went to Moorestown Friends School.
The couple bought the house for what they considered a reasonable price, especially in affluent Moorestown, but only after getting caught in a bidding war with a developer who wanted to tear it down and build two homes in its place on the half-acre lot.
The first thing the Kirchhoffs did, with help from Moorestown construction company R. Craig Lord, was gut the house and add a 35-by-6-foot build-out in the back. The six-month project allowed room for a new kitchen, wider hallways and an open floor plan.
The garage was converted into a family room that's tucked in the back corner of the house and flooded with light from a wall of windows. A blocky fireplace was removed, and new hardwood floors were installed everywhere but the dining and living rooms, which still had their original flooring.
Wood paneling came down in the bedrooms, and new windows went in at the back of the house.
Two outdated bathrooms - one with pink tile and a blue toilet and sink, the other with yellow tile and a green toilet and sink - were transformed with modern fixtures and paint in shades of white, cream and yellow.
The color scheme is carried throughout the first floor.
"I always wanted white and yellow tones," Jaclyn says as she sits at her kitchen table, which is pale wood with chairs upholstered in a yellow-and-white-striped fabric. Even their daughter's playroom, which is painted a pale green, has yellow window coverings.
The new kitchen has nothing in common with the old, which had yellow cabinets, yellow-and-pink floral wallpaper, and an oven with a pink stovetop. The space now includes a new stovetop and a separate warming drawer, granite countertops, a wine refrigerator, and white cabinets - the look Michael always envisioned for the kitchen.
"He's the cook, not me," says Jaclyn.
They installed dark cream siding on the back of the house, leaving the original brick on the front.
That brick wasn't to last long, however. In 2005, they put the house through its second renovation, adding the second floor and replacing the brick with siding to match the rest of the house.
"We knew the structure of the house was good, but we also wanted a second story," Jaclyn says. So the couple hired an architect, moved in with her mother, and expanded upward. This project took nine months - their first daughter, Katie, was born while the house was still under renovation. The enlarged family returned home in fall 2006.
Now, all the bedrooms are upstairs, and the house has two staircases - one into the foyer, the second into the family room.
Instead of a traditional bathroom, they put in a "Jack and Jill" bathroom upstairs for their daughters - Molly was born six months ago - so that as the girls grow, they can have their own bathroom space (including sinks) while sharing a shower and toilet.
The master suite has its own bathroom and a walk-in closet in a configuration that fits with Michael's unconventional hours as an ER doctor. The closet has doors that lead into the upstairs hallway and the master bath.
"He comes in through the closet to get into the bathroom, so he doesn't wake me up," Jaclyn says.
The Kirchhoffs also added a three-car garage and new landscaping. The township cut down trees in front of the house, so it looks almost nothing like the property they started out with.
Jaclyn keeps photos of the original house as a reminder of how far they've come. The Kirchhoffs remained friendly with the Welches, and they exchange holiday cards.
"I can still remember [Paul Welch] putting the keys in my husband's hand," Jaclyn says. She thinks that, like the Welches, they will be in this house for a very long time.
"We're staying put. This will be it for us."