Timing is everything for Josh and Jen Hilbert. They lived in their 3,500-square-foot Radnor home for about seven years before renovating it.
"We received three sets of plans from our architect, Jim Cassidy, soon after we moved in 2007," Josh says, "but we didn't proceed until we thought it was the right time and we were comfortable with the proposed changes.
"I think it is important to get to know a house before you change it," he says. "We tweaked the plans over the years, but last year decided to finally go ahead and do it."
The couple, who met at Council Rock High School in Bucks County, have two children. Josh is a real estate developer; Jen is a research scientist taking a break to work as a yoga instructor.
Their house is Shingle style - a popular architectural style in the 1890s, when the dwelling was built in a development created to accommodate Philadelphia's movers and shakers on weekends and in the summertime.
The plan last year was to gut the house and remove the roof, Josh says, which meant the place was not exactly livable.
"The kids and I spent the summer in England," Jen says. "I had gone to graduate school there, so I had lots of friends living there, including one who offered her empty apartment."
Josh stayed behind and worked with Cassidy and contractor Tom Witkowski to build a new kitchen/dining room combination and a new rear deck, and open up the living room.
A breakfast room at the rear of the house would be replaced with a two-story addition to accommodate a new master's suite, and a large guest room/kids' playroom on the third floor would replace a series of tiny rooms.
Finally, the family rewarded itself with a new hot tub in the yard.
"One of the first steps was combining the kitchen with the dining room, which we used as a junk-storage place," Jen says. "It was embarrassing because our good friends next door could look right into our dining room and just see a pile of things on the dining room table we rarely used."
The work was finally finished in the fall, and now the home's interior is sleek and smooth.
As you enter, there are clear sight lines from the front to the back door, achieved by removing a powder room and a closet.
The living room, with its rust-colored walls and large fireplace, can now be accessed through a door near the front entrance, as well as via a portal near the dining area.
"Originally, people had to go to the rear of the house to enter the living room, and this really held things up when we had guests," Josh says.
The new kitchen/dining room is dressed in cool-hued cabinetry and has a granite peninsula that stretches from the cooking area toward the seating space.
"An island juts out in the middle of the room," Jen says. "This is attached to the wall and gives us more room to walk around than an island."
The dining space, no longer closed off, boasts an antique oak table and pressed-back chairs.
At the rear of the house is a new mudroom, with lockers for the kids that offer wide drawers underneath, to hold boots and sports equipment.
Bordering the yard is a sunny, unfurnished space formerly used as a breakfast room. Part of the new two-story addition, its new purpose is yet to be determined by the Hilberts.
Above, the master bedroom enjoys ample light courtesy of a large skylight and windows. Creating a serene setting conducive to sleep are simple furnishings: a metal bed; soft bedding; mismatched lamps; soothing colors.
Of the renovation, Jen says: "We did this now because we felt it was time, our kids are now 11 and 9, and I know so many people who renovated their houses after their kids are in college and out of the house.