“I asked her to marry me when we were 5,” Eric says. Then he and his family moved away.
Jane and Eric renewed their romance years later, as students at Penn’s Graduate School of Education. When they purchased their home, Jane was teaching in an elementary school in Lower Merion. Eric was a high school teacher in Abington.
The four-bedroom house had flaws, including a narrow galley kitchen, but the couple’s complicated lifestyle put plans for renovations on hold. Daughter KC was born in 1988. Eric earned a doctorate in Asian Studies from New York University in 1990, and the only academic position then available in his field was at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg — more than a thousand miles from Wynnewood. So the Luces bought a second home in Ocean Springs, Miss., and the family divided their time between there and here.
“I complained about the kitchen for 32 years,” Jane says. But it was when Eric retired in 2006 and spent more time in Wynnewood that he, too, recognized that the space was inefficient.
After the couple enclosed a side porch in 2008, creating a pleasant sitting and dining area, they had to navigate around a closed-in staircase, past the front door, and across the living room to go from kitchen to porch. In 2015, they asked kitchen and bath designer Gene Nelson to draw some remodeling plans.
“I thought Gene would recommend taking down a wall,” Jane says.
Instead, Nelson outlined a much grander scheme. Over the next two years, with the assistance of contractor Frank Muratovic, several walls came down, and the house was remodeled from basement to third floor. Outside, the handsome stone facade and the house’s footprint were retained, and a landscaped circular patio was added.
“We took a 1947 house and brought it into the 21st century,” Nelson explains.
The open kitchen now features “Venetian gold” granite countertops, a honey-hued glass tile backsplash, and a space-saving microwave drawer. A pair of Murano light pendants with abstract squiggles of color were purchased from Rittenhouse Electric Supply in Ardmore. The breakfast nook’s dark-stained table and chairs and stools for the kitchen island came from Just Chairs & Tables in Ardmore.
Above the stove is a large rabbit plate. A tall hare sits on the counter. Two chubby porcelain rabbits decorate a windowsill. “I like bunnies,” Jane admits.
Since the walls encasing the staircase were removed, more light shines through the first level. New spindles and balustrades were installed.
The living room and dining room are painted a neutral alabaster, and the kitchen, breakfast area and family room are buff. The renovated powder room is maroon. The stairwell to the third floor, where Eric has his library, was painted in the same rich color. (Maroon and white are the school colors of Colgate University, Eric’s alma mater.)
In 2012, Jane retired from Bala Cynwyd Middle School, after a 40-year career in Lower Merion. She now has more time for her hobby, knitting. “She could open a store,” Eric says, with all the yarn stored in the wall of cubbies in the basement. New, wider cellar steps were installed, for greater safety. Likewise, a channel drain in the second-floor master bathroom allows the shower to be flush with the floor, and thus more easily accessible, for Jane and Eric, both of whom are 66.
Jane has furnished their remade home with family pieces. A turquoise settee in the living room picks up the color of two Foo dogs that Jane’s mother brought back from Hong Kong. Eric purchased the decorative screen over the fireplace when he visited Japan for a conference. When the house was completed, Nelson, with his designer’s eye, rehung the artwork, including framed Japanese silk embroidery and portraits of Jane and daughter KC.
In April, Jane realized how well Nelson’s layout functioned when the first floor of her house was open to visitors attending the Ardmore Library Kitchen Tour.
“We must have had 40 people here at once,” she says, “and it didn’t feel crowded.”