An 18th-century farmhouse gets a little brotherly love

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The farmhouse that Bob Egan purchased in 1985 had endured years of abuse. The fieldstone was revealed after a plaster façade was removed.

Bob Egan's farmhouse near New Hope, built in 1718, had endured years of abuse before he purchased it in 1985.

A priority was removing a plaster façade covering the structure's fieldstone. Bob was concerned, though, that chiseling off chunks of plaster was damaging his hands.

The new homeowner wasn't wimping out: His hands are his livelihood. Now 59, he has played piano at area bars, restaurants, and hotels since his teens.

To the rescue, armed with a power chisel, came younger brother Dennis Egan, who removed the plaster and repointed the fieldstone.

Dennis is not musical, Bob says, but has other talents. "[He] does carpentry, woodwork, stone masonry, everything."

He also removed plaster from the first-floor fireplace and repointed that stone. He installed a first-floor bathroom and a new kitchen with maple cabinetry, Corian countertops, a Moravian tile backsplash, and a greenhouse window.

Sometime in the late 1940s or early '50s, a dining room with a glass-door corner cabinet was added to the house. Dennis built a duplicate cabinet for an adjacent wall.

Upstairs, the brothers removed a drop ceiling and uncovered rotting beams.

"There were squirrels nesting, and termites," Bob recalls. "We replaced seven beams."

Dennis added closets in the second-floor and attic bedrooms, using period board-and-batten construction and wrought-iron hinges and clasps. He built a second-floor bathroom in a tight space to preserve an original fireplace.

Bob chose to veer from 18th-century décor, painting woodwork white rather than a Williamsburg pastel. The kitchen is avocado. Other rooms are a neutral fawn, to set off colorful paintings by area artists.

The unadorned lines of the Mission-style dining room set and living room chairs complement the Colonial architecture. A red pull-out couch accommodates extra guests. Two leaded-glass lamps and a collection of handcrafted amber and blue cocktail glasses in the china cabinets add sparkle.

Dennis built a deck at the back of the house, accessed by sliding-glass doors from the dining room. The deck now overlooks a swimming pool, a pool house and a vintage two-seater outhouse.

Previous owners had replaced the original winding staircase from the living room to the second floor with straight-run stairs. A friend, Paul Rowan, crafted a new winding staircase, making a template of cardboard and rope first to make sure everything fit.

With the removal of the old stairs, Bob had space for his 1897 Bechstein studio grand piano. A smaller piano is in the garage, which he converted to an office and rehearsal studio for his business, Bob Egan Entertainment. Bob also books performers, including, singers, string quartets, jazz trios, and DJs for weddings and social events.

There is never a concern that music might disturb the neighbors. The house is on more than two acres, and adjoining properties have even more wooded acreage.

Bob grew up in Warminster with five younger siblings. At age 10, he had his first piano lessons at St. Joseph's School. At the nuns' urging, his parents bought a piano - "an old upright, tuned and delivered for $119," Bob recalls.

After graduating from Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster, Bob studied music at Bucks County Community College and at what is now the University of the Arts. By then, he was playing piano on weekends at the Swan Hotel in Lambertville.

In his living room hangs a print of the Chelsea Bar in New York. "I bought it because it looks just like the Swan Hotel when I started there in 1977," Bob says.

A painting by local artist Robert Beck shows patrons gathered around Bob at a piano, accompanying a young singer. The setting is Odette's, a celebrated restaurant on the Delaware in New Hope.

For almost 20 years, until a series of floods forced Odette's closing a decade ago, Bob produced the restaurant's cabaret. Though he sometimes sings while he plays, "I don't call myself a singer," he says. "I prefer working with singers."

A few weeks back, Bob hosted a party in his charming farmhouse. On a Sunday, his day off, he was at the piano, playing for his guests, accompanying singers, and having a wonderful time.