When Doug and Laura Yeakle discovered the stately traditional Colonial home in 2016, they were drawn to the impressive architecture and its white plaster exterior. Originally part of Mineral Springs Farm, the lush 5½-half acre wooded property was quiet and peaceful, tucked into the Newtown Square community in Delaware County.
The tricky part was renovating a house built in 1848 for the 21st century, while staying true to the home’s 19th-century roots.
“We were impressed by the solid nature of the house,” said Doug, owner of ETO Associates, a business development firm in Newtown Square. “It was old and dated, but it had great bones, and the property is private with a tremendous amount of trees and unique plantings.”
While many area homes from the 1700s traditionally have stone exteriors, those from the 1800s had the stone plastered over, Doug said. The home’s interior had the original plaster moldings, windows, seven fireplaces, and many of the original doors and hardware. But it lacked some of the modern conveniences the family needed.
“The house didn’t have a mudroom, and the primary bedroom was about the size of a small nursery with no bathroom,” recalled Laura, a program support specialist. “The footprint was not up to today’s living at all. We knew it needed major change, but we wanted to maintain the integrity of the house.”
Working with Period Architecture and Rockwell Custom Builders, the Yeakles added a three-story addition to the back of the house to preserve the original look of the front. The renovations included an open-concept kitchen and great room, a new side porch and foyer, a third-floor guest suite, a lower level mudroom and exercise room, and a new primary suite and sleeping porch with a beautiful backyard view.
“In the old days, a sleeping porch was where you’d go in the hot summer days when you didn’t have air conditioning to cool off and sleep outside,” Doug said. “We obviously don’t sleep on it, but Laura likes to read there on a comfortable summer day or night.”
The couple credits the architect and builder with the seamless way the addition fits into the old home. For example, architect Jessica Fogle encouraged them to bring the rosette design from the original molding into the addition. She also suggested they convert the square doorways leading from the foyer into the living room and dining room into arches, to make a more cohesive look from the front door.
The couple describe their decorating style as modern casual and comfortable. Laura enjoyed seeking out unusual pieces to decorate the house. The focal point of their primary bathroom is a copper and wood tub that Laura found on Etsy. The tub was originally made in Philadelphia in the 1900s. To make the tub more substantial in the large bathroom, the builder encased it using old wood.
“I tried to find pieces that you wouldn’t find in places like Crate and Barrel,” Laura said.
The kitchen is often the hub where the family, including children Ella, 19, Owen, 18, and Tate, 15, hang out, alongside their dogs Millie, a 3-year-old Newfoundland, and Riley, a 2½-year-old hound mix. Pre-pandemic, they loved whipping up meals to entertain guests.
“We like to have dinner parties, and in the summer we entertain outside,” Laura said. “I love to go through recipes and try them out on my friends. That’s what I’ve missed the most during COVID.”
The kids enjoy spending time in the space above the garage, which originally was a dorm for the farmhands. Doug and his sons removed the old, nonworking oil furnace and ductwork, then added overhead lighting, beadboard on the angled ceiling, carpeting, cable TV, furnishings, and a portable AC/heating unit to allow it to be used year round.
One of the couple’s favorite spaces is the rustic wine room, which has the original cabinets and opens through the original three-foot thick cellar door. They added a brick floor and have a table that seats six for entertaining. They also enjoy spending quiet time in their brightly lit sun room.
“Though the home has a large presence, it doesn’t feel big to us,” Doug said. “All of the rooms are comfortably sized for just a few of us hanging out or for entertaining. We love the property and the privacy we have.”
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