Erin McDonnell and David Soergel had lived in their five-bedroom house in the Meadowbrook section of Abington Township for about 14 years when they realized they couldn't stand it any longer.
"The house was built in 1938, and it had lots of inconvenient tiny rooms for the kitchen and pantry," McDonnell said. "There was even a tiny room off the kitchen where a servant probably slept."
McDonnell, a marketing consultant who works out of her Montgomery County home, and her husband, a pediatrician, have three children, Griff, 15, Cate, 13, and James, 12.
"We didn't want to move because we liked the neighborhood and the kids' schools," she said.
So a few years ago, the couple decided to renovate with the help of Jenkintown architect Josh Otto. His design, which added 1,200 square feet to the house, includes a larger kitchen, breezeway, mudroom, playroom, and a two-car garage. The house, after the improvements, is now 4,000 square feet.
Otto said he is pleased with the couple's reaction: "The project was exciting for us because it transformed the way the family lives in the house," he said.
Anyone now entering the house uses the new two-story arched entrance. Behind the entrance is a small set of reclaimed redwood steps, which form a warm contrast to the basic blue and white of the new kitchen area.
To the left of the door is the new mudroom, which provides a straw cubby for each of the five family members.
"We used to have everything thrown in the kitchen — coats, sports equipment, and lunchboxes — before the mudroom was created and brought us some order," McConnell said.
The centerpiece of the project is a new kitchen created by Kara Kray, Otto's project designer. It has large windows that face north and feature a view of the new patio and the yard. A white continuous bench stretches in front of the windows, which is separated from a marble island surrounded by five clear plastic stools, one for each family member.
The former kitchen was converted to a breakfast room and butler's pantry. "This was the former end of our house," McDonnell said, standing in the arch that leads to the new kitchen.
Blue and white are the dominant colors of the kitchen, which McDonnell said had everything she "fantasized about for the years they lived in the house before the renovations."
One of McDonnell's favorite features in front of the stove is a heated floor where her two dogs, Honeybun, a long-haired dachshund, and Peanuts, a Maltese, take turns sitting. Both dogs are more than 11 years old and rescued from the City of Elderly Love, an agency specializing in senior dogs.
Next to the breakfast area is a new gas fireplace surrounded with stone. It lets off a warm glow and heats the area.
"I would sit here all the time because it is so comfortable," McDonnell said.
Deep colored small paintings in wooden frames by local artist Joseph Barrett, which McDonnell collects, overlook the kitchen and dining room.
Also part of the new design is a 150-square-foot playroom next to the kitchen, where the children can bring their friends and use electronic equipment without the sound traveling through the rest of the house.
For the dining room, the couple splurged on blue Scalamandre zebra wallpaper from Italy, reminiscent of a famous New York restaurant where the couple used to eat.
McDonnell's other favorite feature is the geometric, thin, steel-bladed chandelier in the kitchen, designed by Kelly Wearstler, that looks, to McDonnell, as if it is a "deconstructed" Moravian star.
"It is important to me," McDonnell said. "I went to a Moravian high school, and I think it is a symbol in my home connected to my past."