By Michael Barry’s count, his five-bedroom Doylestown home is the sixth or seventh home that he and his wife, Patte, have built or rebuilt.
“I would call this one a build-slash-renovation,” he said. “They say when you can get through one house build and stay married that’s one thing, but if you can do six or seven times, that’s pretty good.”
In 2012, when the Barrys were living in Flemington, N.J., where their children were in school, they began looking for a new project in a different kind of neighborhood.
“I wanted a walking town,” Barry said. “We’ve always had houses where we’ve had to drive everywhere unless you’re going to a neighbor’s house for dinner.”
Historic Doylestown Borough offered a walkable downtown, as well as something else the Barrys were eager for: “I didn’t want to pay New Jersey taxes,” he said.
Barry was pleasantly surprised to find an advantageous tax rate for existing historic homes such as the one he and Patte purchased in Doylestown — especially when they discovered that the rate for new construction in the borough was significantly higher.
“Knowing the taxes were going to be so low, that was really a good incentive,” he said.
They rented the property while their youngest son finished high school in New Jersey and began renovations in earnest in 2014.
“It was almost a year of completely gutting everything and starting over,” Barry said. “There’s not one thing here that’s not new except the exterior walls.”
Barry said that while renovating, they were determined to honor the design and history of architect Oscar Martin, who designed the home in 1916. Owning in the historic borough also required adherence to particular codes.
“Historic outside was a mandate,” he said. “The inside, we wanted to look like it could have been historic.”
They did such things as reuse original leaded glass windows and installed genuine Mercer tiles. Being just the third owners of the home, Barry said, they also have original blueprints and receipts from the Martin plan. They’re currently under glass on his desk and will be passed on to the new owners. For the thousand-plus visitors Barry estimates have toured the property on historic-house tours, the blueprints are usually the most popular detail, he said.
In addition to the historic renovations, the couple also updated the home for functionality.
“We put in real closets,” Barry said.
The renovation included significant new construction, as the family added a three-story addition with a three-car garage, a family room with gourmet kitchen, and a master suite, as well as an upstairs coffee bar. The home now also includes a private theater, wine tasting room, elevator, and wet bar.
“We made some bold choices,” Barry said.
Among them are the pet-friendly updates. The 5,500-square-foot home now includes a dog shower in the mudroom, as well as pet turf in the fenced-in yard. Barry said the drainage and gravel beneath the turf ensures no muddy paws inside the home.
After just a few years of actually living in the home, an early retirement opportunity presented itself. It will take the family away from Doylestown but not from home renovations. They plan to move to Hawaii this spring, when Barry will turn his focus from a career in biotech and pharmaceuticals to a new business building homes there.
“We had always intended to stay in the house until retirement,” Barry said. “But life happens, and that opportunity came much earlier than expected.”