The house in St. Davids resembled an aging Main Line matron in dowdy tweeds. Kitchen cabinets were a depressing dark wood, faded wallpaper was peeling, and heat came from clunky radiators. Worse, there was a foot of water in the basement, and termites nibbled at the beams.

In 2015, a local contractor told new owners Danielle and Paul O’Connor that they “would be better off knocking the house down.” The couple disagreed and decided a facelift and stylish attire could revive the 79-year-old dowager. The old house had “good bones,” Paul said.

Assets included a fieldstone façade, hardwood floors, two fireplaces, and over 4,300 square feet of space on more than an acre for the O’Connors’ growing family.

Danielle O'Connor and her husband, Paul, were attracted to a St. Davids house that had lots of space, inside and out, for their growing family. The children (from left) are Genevieve, 7; Patrick, 3; Celine, 1; and Lucia, 5.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Danielle O'Connor and her husband, Paul, were attracted to a St. Davids house that had lots of space, inside and out, for their growing family. The children (from left) are Genevieve, 7; Patrick, 3; Celine, 1; and Lucia, 5.

Danielle, 36, a Realtor for Berkshire Hathaway, and Paul, 41, who develops multifamily properties as a partner with Apt Management, also knew the real estate mantra: location, location, location.

The home was close to Radnor Township Park with its pond for fishing and ice skating. Downtown Wayne was within walking distance.

After eight months of construction, which included new electrical, heating, and air-conditioning systems, the O’Connors moved in with two daughters and a 6-week-old son in February 2016. “It was the middle of a snowstorm,” Danielle recalled.

The couple had hired architect Mark Stanish of Malvern to redesign living areas. Danielle interviewed two other architects, but she said, “Mark has four kids, so he got our space needs.”

Entryways off the center hall were widened or added to improve flow. The living room was brightened by removing bookcases and two narrow windows, which were replaced with glass doors opening onto a new patio.

The living room was redesigned to maximize light. The abstract over the fireplace, one of many paintings in the house, was found by interior designer Phoebe Schuh.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
The living room was redesigned to maximize light. The abstract over the fireplace, one of many paintings in the house, was found by interior designer Phoebe Schuh.

A pantry and laundry room were removed and a wall bumped out to create a spacious eat-in kitchen. The window seat behind the farm table overlooks the backyard patio, trampoline, and swing set. A breezeway leads to one of two powder rooms and a mudroom with several closets. Danielle’s “command center” desk in the breezeway was fashioned from a salvaged floor joist. Another closet was built next to the back staircase. The now-dry basement was transformed into a toy-filled playroom for Genevieve, 7; Lucia, 5; Patrick, 3; Celine, 1; and their Labrador, Lulu.

On the second floor are five bedrooms, four baths, a laundry room, and a craft room, where the children can write on walls covered with chalkboard paint.

With the assistance of interior designer Phoebe Schuh, Danielle selected handmade white tiles set in a herringbone pattern for the kitchen backsplash. Cabinets are white with black quartz countertops. The black island cabinet is topped with a white countertop.

The kitchen backsplash has handmade white tiles set in a herringbone pattern. Countertops are black quartz.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
The kitchen backsplash has handmade white tiles set in a herringbone pattern. Countertops are black quartz.

A stodgy formal dining room became the family room, painted white with charcoal gray below the chair rail. Geometric black and white paintings by Paul’s sister, Lauren Sullivan, flank tall windows. Several pieces of art by Paul’s cousin, Erin McNichols, include a street scene with a man playing a fiddle in the family room and an expressionist print of a woman in the master bedroom. McNichol turned a photo Danielle took in Montmartre when she and Paul visited Paris into a painting. She then added figures of the young couple, who married in 2010.

A painting by Dori Spector in one of the powder rooms is of the Great American Pub in Wayne, where Paul and Danielle met. He was then living in London, and she was living in New York City. They were home for Mother’s Day weekend. Though they grew up a half-mile from each other in Villanova, they never met as children.

In the living room, Phoebe Schuh found the black, white, red, and yellow abstract to hang above the black fireplace mantel and two brass lanternlike chandeliers, which break up the long room. The tan leather sofa came from Anthropologie. The beige loveseat belonged to Paul’s parents. Oriental rugs were purchased at a shop in New Hope.

Trompe l’oeil wallpaper in the first-floor office/retreat appears to be black leather with brass trim. The jewel-toned oriental rug enhances the dramatic decor.

The frumpy Main Line matron has pulled the pins out of her bun and let her hair down.

Is your house a Haven? Nominate your home by email (and send some digital photographs) at properties@inquirer.com

The backyard features a patio with plenty of seating for the whole family. There's also space for a trampoline and swing set for the four children.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
The backyard features a patio with plenty of seating for the whole family. There's also space for a trampoline and swing set for the four children.