Building Upon Classic Charm

Over a century old, the stately white house on Cherokee Road was exactly the kind of home Jay and Jodie Morgan hoped to find when they first moved to Louisville. The structure, built in 1905, was in many ways outdated and in need of some major repairs, but it was also full of beautiful original details and radiated an old-world charm that newer houses couldn’t seem to replicate. The Morgan family moved in and, knowing they had their work cut out for them, hired Joe French and his remodeling company, Louisville Handyman, to bring the interior of the home up to date – without taking away from its classic elegance and old-fashioned appeal.

“The goal of the remodel was to put in the house what we envisioned would have been in the home in 1905,” Jodie explained. With the first of three phases in an ambitious remodeling project now complete, the house was recently featured in the 27th annual Tour of Remodeled Homes, during which hundreds of people had the chance to take a peek inside its updated rooms. In addition to the handiwork of French and his team, the Morgans’ own furniture and accents staged by Kate Killian of A Fine House and Kathi Jaggers of Never Be Upstaged enhanced all of the new details inside. “We wanted to use accessories that would… showcase the home, the features of the room itself,” commented Killian. The hard work paid off; “During the tour,” Jodie Morgan happily reported, “visitors commented that the kitchen and bathrooms looked like they could have been original to the house, and we took that as the highest compliment.”

In addition to the updated bathrooms and kitchen, those touring the house saw newly remodeled second floor bedrooms, as well as an entirely redone hall, landing and three-story staircase. Although much of the second story had to be gutted and rebuilt, French and his team were able to salvage the original oak flooring, refinishing it and even adding custom trim and molding to create a seamless transition between the old and new. They also removed a closet, which had been built onto the second-floor landing in front of a window during a remodel in the 1960s, opening up the area. “It used to feel like just a utility hallway, just something functional,” Joe described. “Now it feels like part of the house.” All new handrails were added, and the old carpeted staircase – which he’d noticed had a slight lean and soon discovered was falling apart – was entirely rebuilt, restored to its original length and finished off with new oak treads, made to match the original flooring.

Adjacent to the second floor landing sit the two children’s bedrooms, entirely rebuilt much like the hall, down to the unique crown molding, brass door hinges and old-fashioned knobs. Both bedrooms feature ceiling hues selected to be 25 percent as bright as the wall colors, to enhance the impact of the 10-foot-high ceilings. Off to the side of the daughter’s bedroom, an original bathroom, completely reworked, takes on new life with old-fashioned marble tiles placed in diagonal panels and a fleur-de-lis border on the floor. An elegant arch was built over the tub to enhance the room’s original high ceilings, and open linen cabinets create a simple and classic storage solution. “The coin edge trim on the towel bars and faucets, and the custom built cabinets, are probably my favorite things in the bathrooms,” Jodie remarked. “All of these features contribute to the beautiful design provided by Joe French.”

Those details are mirrored in a second, new bathroom, built off to the side of the Morgans’ son’s bedroom where a closet once stood, featuring its own unique marble floor design, a rope highlighted in black. The new bathroom was planned by French and his team with software allowing virtual walkthroughs, a tool that let the Morgans in on the planning while helping the contractor make sure the space was properly utilized.

Beneath the visible updates, all new plumbing, built from the ground up to the third floor, ensures that all the modern fixtures will stay in working order. Alongside new plaster and energy-efficient foam insulation, an updated electrical system has replaced a dangerous, outdated wiring system. “The house still had the old, original 1905 knob-and-tube wiring, the first electric that went in homes,” the Handyman exclaimed, “…some still energized!”

French’s team also replaced the house’s multiple window A/C units with a high-velocity, cooling-only central air conditioning system, a feature popular in the northeast U.S., in order to preserve the traditional furnace and boiler heating. Selected for its smaller pipes, the high-velocity system fit perfectly into the remodel of the historic home, as “the smaller ducts mean that you don’t tear the home up as much (during installation),” explained French. “It’s a lot more flexible than traditional ducts.” On top of it all, a sophisticated sound system permeates the newest rooms in the house, including the downstairs kitchen, allowing a surround-sound experience for enjoying both TV and radio.

Thanks to the surprising removal of a load-bearing wall to open up the closed-off, L-shaped original room, the updated kitchen is the most visibly changed space in the house. The effect was achieved with a strategically-placed hidden support beam. “We actually recessed the beam into the ceiling… so it feels like this has always been one big room,” French revealed. Southern Kitchens provided finishing touches such as a Carrara marble baking center and Verde Lavras granite counter tops, to enhance the GE monogrammed appliances selected by Trend Appliances. Tiling by Louisville Tile was coordinated to complement the clean, white cabinets and sleek counter tops. While everything from sub-floors to drywall had to be replaced in the kitchen, Joe and his team did manage to save the original windows, a feature that the Morgans had hoped to keep. Where the old-fashioned wavy glass had been damaged, newer panes, made to look identical to the originals, were ordered and installed. French’s team even used the bars from one of the old windows to fashion a kitchen door with matching panes.

Outside the kitchen by the dining room, an entertaining and wine cabinet area sits in the home’s back staircase hallway. The small but pleasant spot is a favorite of Jodie Morgan’s, due to the details that make it blend right in with the atmosphere of the house. “The custom-designed cabinets, trough sink, new quarter-sawn dark oak floor and beautiful paint and trim creates a new room in what was otherwise a pass-through area of the house,” she attests. “The room is consistent with our vision to look like an area original to the house.” During the Homes Tour weekend, the Morgans made good use of the space, chilling wine in the bar sink as they entertained friends and even previous owners of the home! The family lived in the home during the remodel process, and also celebrated with the contractors who, now into phase two of the three-stage remodeling project, have worked so hard to make their vision come to life. For Joe French, the project has been hard work, but a pleasure to undertake. “This house has such great character to it… it’s got a ton of charm, the rooms are just laid out really fabulously, and great ceilings,” he commented, adding, “and the homeowners really care about the house.”

Photos By CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune