A house in the eastern suburb undergoes a well-planned upgrade.

On a hot summer evening, a sprinkler sprayed across the rear lawn of a vintage Bexley home while an inflatable pool rested temporarily idle nearby. The homeowners, at ease with their two small children, sat on their deck, shaded from the late-day sun.

After a busy year, which included the birth of their second daughter, a first-floor update to their 1930s house and an unexpected global health crisis amid renovations—the couple seemed at peace in their comfortable backyard. Though life with a baby and an energetic preschooler is certainly not relaxing, having a home that meets their family’s needs is a sigh of relief for any young parent.

The couple bought the Tudor-style residence in July 2019 with the intention of updating it. Situated on an appealing double lot close to an elementary school, it offered plenty of room for a growing family. But like many homes of its era, the outdated main level presented design challenges for a modern lifestyle.

“When we saw this one, we really liked the space and we felt like it had potential and we could kind of make it what we wanted it to be,” says the woman of the house. “But what it didn’t have—something that was kind of important—was a first-floor bathroom, which was kind of the catalyst for the whole project.”

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Through the creativity of their brother-in-law, architect John Staudt of Staudt Design and Architecture Group, a rendering of the reimagined floor plan turned the couple’s must-have list into a feasible project.

Along with implementing a half bathroom, the redesign enlarged the kitchen, making it more conducive to modern family needs, says Staudt. “By focusing on these two opportunities and trying to create a strong connection between the kitchen and the existing exterior space, we created a more livable and functional family-friendly layout,” he explains.

Now, the newly added half bath is located where the former kitchen sat at the rear of the house. It is positioned near an existing exterior door, which is accessible to the detached garage. Near the door, a modern mudroom offers plenty of storage while an additional closet and built-in bench are ideally placed for coming and going with little ones. “These houses are old—they were just not built with that kind of closet space in mind,” says the homeowner, who looked forward to having a dedicated entryway and drop zone for the family’s coats, bags and shoes.

Down the central hall, a side walkway leads into the kitchen, which occupies space once belonging to the formal dining room. Fit for the husband who enjoys cooking, the kitchen’s thoughtful arrangement includes a large island, ample counter space and plenty of storage. Island seating makes it a natural gathering area for the family to spend time together while meals are being prepared. A greenhouse window, which was original to the home, fits the new design effortlessly as it is situated above a built-in buffet.

To allow more natural light into a previously dark and cavernous area of the home, a glass door was added, opening to the deck.

“We knew we didn’t really want to move around a lot of walls just because of the age of the home and the cost and risk you incur with that, so in doing just that change really helped us from a budget perspective and it just limited the overall complexity of the project, which was very helpful given that things got a whole lot more complicated in March,” explains the woman of the house.

Prior to renovations, which began in January, the family decided to settle into temporary digs at a short-term rental around the corner. It was a recommendation the couple credits to their general contractor, Transform Construction in Grandview, which advised them that for families with young children, a temporary move can actually reduce the total expense of a project that includes demolition and renovation. Taking that advice proved not only beneficial in keeping the family safe and healthy during the project, but especially several weeks later when COVID-19 restrictions went into effect.

With the house empty and a statewide shut-down underway, the contractors—considered among essential workers—were able to finish the project more comfortably during a time of uncertainty. While small scheduling conflicts came about and brief delays in acquiring certain materials from suppliers occurred, the project remained generally on track, wrapping up after about 14 weeks of construction.

Now completed, the transformation feels vast, says the wife. A reconfiguration of some of the spaces, fresh paint throughout, a refaced fireplace in the living room and a restored staircase in the foyer all pack aesthetic punches without the setbacks of a major overhaul. The couple also appreciated that Transform Construction and their subcontractors worked diligently to reuse materials already available in the house, such as original hardwood floors uncovered beneath carpeting in the main living areas—a cost-effective upgrade that also reintroduced the home’s 90-year-old character.

The renovation was a learning process for the homeowners. The woman of the house says they would definitely do it again—especially in a challenging and expensive house market. “I think there is going to be this kind of interest in growing where you’re planted,” she says. “You know, kind of customizing your situation.”