Joe and Tracy Abriola appreciated every painstaking detail the former owners of their historic Jenkintown home maintained. From the Federal and Colonial decor, carefully painted trim in Williamsburg blue, and the six meticulously kept fireplaces, the 1911 home was exactly what they had in mind. Until it wasn’t.
“We recognized a well-maintained house. It just wasn’t our taste,” said Tracy, standing in her foyer on a recent winter afternoon. “We didn’t want to blow everything out and make everything mid-century modern. We wanted to stay true to the house’s charm.”
Tracy, a marketing consultant who grew up in Cherry Hill, and Joe, a commercial construction engineer, who grew up in nearby Rydal, had renovated a five-bedroom Queen Anne Victorian in Wyncote, as well as a condo in Cape May. They were attracted to the Jenkintown School District and the bones of the house.
But when they first looked at it, the price was higher than they wanted. And there was no garage. Then there was all the blue paint and decorative brass eagles just about everywhere you looked. “That was the first thing to go,” Joe said, smiling.
The couple, who have a flair for design, started with the kitchen, taking down the door that led to the formal dining room and added a keystone arch to mimic the exterior of the home. Leaving original brick fireplaces in both the kitchen and new breakfast room, they added modern cabinets and flooring but chose antique lighting. As in the rest of the home, they changed the trim paint from blue to black and added warm, neutral paint to the walls and ceilings.
“I don’t like white ceilings,” Tracy said, “It’s more fun to do something different.”
In the foyer, they stenciled the risers of the grand staircase and had the walls painted gray with a faux wire-brushing texture. In the kitchen, the ceiling is maroon. “I do like the drama of dark colors,” she said.
They turned the formal living room into the dining room, adding crown molding accented with gold paint and an elaborate 1880s French chandelier brought from their previous home. They carried many lighting fixtures over from their previous home.
“The dining room was a favorite room in the old house," she said. “When we came here, we tried to pay tribute to what we liked in the other home.”
The room features built-in China cabinets, one with a secret, sliding window to what was once the butler’s pantry, and French doors that lead to a brick-walled sun porch with a subtle bronze metallic painted ceiling. The built-ins in the dining room display the couples’ mid-1900s hammered aluminum collection, much of which was handed down from family.
Framed on one wall is a gift from the former owners: the original blueprints of the property, showing a second staircase that had been removed.
“My eyes got wide when we came in here, and they had the original drawings,” Joe said.
The next big move was to add a three-car garage with a second-story great room off the original structure. The great room features floor-to-ceiling windows, tigerwood flooring, the home’s seventh fireplace, and a much wider staircase to the basement. In the addition, the Abriolas also added a bar, a powder room, and an office/possible in-law suite that overlooks the back yard.
“Most people who enter the room for the first time say, ‘You’d never know this was back here,’” Tracy said.
The great room is easily their favorite spot, both cozy and a good place for entertaining. A wall of framed 1970s and 1980s records adds a playful touch to the serene space.
“From the street, the house looks like a typical 100-plus-year-old home in Jenkintown, but inside there are many touches of modernity that we feel mix well into an old-world/new-world feel,” she said.
Upstairs, the couple reconfigured the doors to the master bedroom and bathrooms. The third floor was saved for their daughter, who studied interior design in college.
“I don’t think we would have been capable of moving into a turnkey home. Looking back at the two houses, and the condo in Cape May, the next move will be turnkey,” Tracy said. “We enjoyed doing this. What we love about our home is the comfortable blending of old and new.”
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