Couple gives house in Wayne a facelift

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Bethany Burt and Lee Dinenberg stand outside their home with children Stowe [right] and Eliza. The couple's renovations to the 100-year-old home included adding 3,000 square feet. (Ed Hille / Staff Photographer)

Even as a kid, Bethany Burt got bored easily, never satisfied with how things were.

"I rearranged the furniture in my bedroom, always," says Burt, 37, art director for the Merz Group in West Chester.

Her husband, Lee Dinenberg, 34, says he learned early on about his wife's difficulty with the status quo: After they were married a decade ago, the couple lived in three states - Pennsylvania, California, and Florida - in one year.

And the pattern continued: Burt and Dinenberg, a cofounder and vice president of the solar-energy services company SP-One in Wayne, have bought and renovated four homes in the last 10 years.

"I have a hard time committing," says Burt, the mother of two young children, and the proud co-owner of a French Colonial revamp that is as stunning for its ingenuity as for its simplicity.

But as assuredly as she is restless, Burt is tenacious. She and Dinenberg bought this house in Wayne in 2006, after bidding on it twice over an eight-month period. She found it on the Internet, and the online pictures charmed the couple.

The draws: more than an acre of seclusion, created by huge magnolia, oak, and maple trees; the 100-year-old house itself; a pool and a guest house.

The drawbacks: a small, two-story carriage house that was very dark. Though there were three sets of beautiful French doors and some New Orleans-style windows that open from the center, the space had no logical room flow or modern comforts.

It was screaming for a renovation. "We were eager for the challenge," Burt says.

And so it began. The plan for the main house called for adding 3,000 square feet to the existing 2,600 for a dining room, a library, two bathrooms, and a large family room on the first floor, and two bedrooms - each with its own bathroom - on the second. Long hallways, upstairs and downstairs, would add much-needed flow (and fabulous runways for the kids.)

The plan for the guest house, so the family could live there while the main renovations were going on: Install a bedroom and kitchenette, and an art studio for Burt on the second floor.

"We were living out of duffel bags," Dinenberg says.

For both projects, the couple combed through magazines to get ideas to show their architect. When they knew what they wanted, destruction began on the carriage house. It took about five months to complete. Once it was done, the family moved in, eager to start work on the main house.

Dinenberg handled the contractors - "She points me in the right direction," he says - while Burt handled the planning and picked the colors and the decor. She is usually very hands-on, Burt says.

Except this time. Just as the work was starting, the couple found out that Burt was expecting their second child, and she was put on bed rest for the remainder of the pregnancy.

Frustration was fairly high, she says. There were a few times when she wanted to climb out of bed and tell the contractors, "Don't do that!"

But the couple made the most of the situation. Using her laptop, Burt found bathroom fixtures, tumbled-marble tiles for the bathrooms, kitchen appliances, and anything else needed.

"She would tell me, 'Look, this is what I'm thinking,' while on bed rest," Dinenberg says. And, Burt adds, she found things cheaper than they were in the stores.

Maybe we should all be confined to our beds as we plan renovations, because the result of Burt's sojourn there is a home that is comfortable, spacious, and gracious.

To lift the darkness that once enveloped the house, the dining and family rooms have windows nearly floor to ceiling. The dining room vista is of the backyard and those remarkable trees.

Virtually every room on the first floor is white. Professional appliances stand gracefully in a kitchen that still has an old feel to it. That's because of an original floor-to-ceiling cabinet that commands a wall, right next to one of the original French doors that open up to the slate patio at the rear of the house.

A second set of original French doors incorporated into the new design leads to the chocolate-brown-hued library with its stark white bookshelves. The last set of the doors leads into the master bath on the second floor.

And what a second floor. Color, generally absent on the first floor, dominates here: greens, blues, raspberries, and tans. Small mosaic tiles cover the bathroom floors. A huge "man cave" (28 by 20 feet) is maroon and has bookcases on three walls.

And then there is the master bedroom, which opens out onto a covered balcony. ("There's nobody to look at you," Dinenberg says.) It's painted a soothing beige, including the beadboard on the ceiling.

You could host a small dinner party in the bathroom: The shower stall alone can hold five people, and has three showerheads and four body sprays.

Burt says she loves the house, whose transformation took 14 months in all.

But she's itchy, Dinenberg says: "I know how she is. She's already bored."

Burt isn't apologetic. "I like to have projects," she says. "I can't control myself."

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