When Sherry Kargher returns to her home in Wayne, she's often worn out from work and her long commute. But a lavish retreat awaits her there.
All she has to do is climb the stairs.
In the master bathroom, a mosaic of Renoir's The Bathers is set into one wall, and windows set seven feet high let in the moonlight - and nothing else.
The room is airy and luxurious, with a deep tub and a Jacuzzi for two. The shower has heated walls and a heated bench, should she want to sit.
"We use the tub at least four days a week," says Kargher, who, with her husband, Doug, owns Kargher Corp., a chocolate manufacturer in Hatfield. "It is a Vita Bath, and has air jets and champagne bubbles. It has chromatherapy lights. It is quite the experience."
Says Doug Kargher, "I tried to get them to install slats in the shower walls so you could slide in a heated towel. But they said the grout would get too wet."
This deluxe bathroom is but one element of their large-scale revision of a suburban Colonial. Most of the houses in their quiet neighborhood were built in the mid-1980s.
Doug Kargher was desperate for more natural light and higher ceilings. He once dreamed of being an architect, and wanted parts of the house to reflect his admiration for the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. So he and his wife installed five-foot windows, built a family room where a sunroom once stood, laid a patio, and put up a two-story detached garage. A balcony added off the master suite overlooks a private rose garden that Doug Kargher designed.
Shraga Berenfeld Architects formulated ideas for the house, and the renovation, using contractor Gus DePiano, lasted almost three years. Against Doug Kargher's wishes, the couple lived in the house all through the work.
"There was dust everywhere," he says.
A neighbor had recommended DePiano. Doug Kargher was on-site and hands-on throughout the project.
"Doug sidewalk-supervised," Sherry Kargher says. "I delegate," he says.
Some days, when DePiano arrived for work, Doug Kargher would open the door wearing his bathrobe and holding a cup of coffee. "I'd say, 'Hey, Gus, what are we going to do today?' "
"We're friends," says DePiano, who did most of the labor alone or with one assistant. "I like to work alone, so I can do it my way," he says.
The Karghers admired DePiano's artistic sensibility and were in awe of his physical strength.
"I had a particular vision of what I wanted to accomplish," Doug Kargher says, "and Gus was willing to commit to the project."
The details were important, Doug says. When a new doorway to the patio looked slightly off-center, he told Gus that it would have to be redone. When the dimensions for the master-bedroom addition turned out to be too large to attach to the existing house, they redrew the plans on the spot.
"Doug has his ideas," says DePiano. "He did like to do it his way. But after a while, we just threw the plans out the window and we did it our way. It was fun."
The Karghers first reimagined, then redesigned the two-story, four-bedroom house they had bought brand-new in 1985. During the design process - which, in a way, is still ongoing - Doug Kargher sketched out each new idea on anything within arm's reach, including napkins or envelopes.
Those drawings and plans are stored in file boxes in their son's old room. The Karghers raised two children in the unrenovated house, when the lawn was just a grassy slope dipping to the neighboring yard. By the time they began to rebuild, the children had moved out.
"Instead of moving to my dream house, I built it," says Doug Kargher, sipping a glass of red wine in the kitchen, remodeled in 1999 with design assistance from Gene Nelson of Wall Covering Ltd. in Bridgeport. "Sherry wouldn't move, so we built it."
"I didn't want to move," she says. "Doug's very intense. I'm laid-back."
Her daughter was a toddling 1-year-old when they bought the house. She liked the neighborhood then and still does. Hers is a home with happy memories.
The Karghers turned the attached garage into a suite for his mother. During the kitchen redo, they added an island and installed Kahle's cabinetry. And because Doug was once a professional chef, they splurged for Jenn-Air appliances.
By the end of their renovations with DePiano, they had added about 2,150 square feet. The main house is now larger by 1,400 feet, and there is 750 square feet of garage space. The sloping backyard has been landscaped by Pocket Valley Nursery in Quakertown, and a natural tree barrier has been fenced for their new puppy.
Now, they're making plans for a wine cellar. "I have a concept I'm working on," he says.
"I can't wait," she adds.
Is your house a Haven?