Hidden Treasure

Dana Wilson, Capital Style

On walks through their quaint Granville neighborhood, Monique and Keith Keegan would sometimes pause in front of a gloomy house with a wildly overgrown yard.

The aging English Tudor sat on a hill, isolated from other residences, with untrimmed trees and ivy hiding much of its stone-and-brick facade.

The Keegans-who together have bought and passionately renovated historic properties for more than 20 years-saw enough to be intrigued, even from a distance.

"We didn't want to trespass," Keith said, "so we just kind of kept peeking at it."

One day, he knocked on the front door and made an offer to the woman who lived there.

"Would you consider selling your house?" he asked. "I'll give you fair market value for it, and I'll give you another house to live in that's finished in town.' "

She turned him down outright.

"I'm 98," she told him. "I don't want to move."

Keith empathized, and that was it-until the house went up for sale a few years later.

The Keegans purchased the four-story home in 2004 as an investment, never intending to occupy it.

Decades of neglect had left the circa-1924 residence cluttered and uninhabitable. "The ivy was over the windows," Monique said. "It looked very sad and dingy and dark."

Before renovations could begin, the Keegans sorted through piles of musty clothing, furniture, books, tools and other belongings abandoned by the previous owner and her family. The Keegans promised to salvage any items with historical significance.

"We were here probably about a month just cleaning out," Monique said. "It was 24 dumpsters of stuff that just had to go."

Three generations of one family had lived there together, so the home was divided by floor into three apartments, each with its own kitchen, living room, office, bath and two bedrooms.

To kick off renovations, the Keegans hosted a demolition party, and friends joined them to rip out plaster and knock down walls.

The most drastic changes happened on the main floor, where several walls and a staircase were razed to open up the kitchen and add a connecting family room.

As the massive project unfolded, so did Monique's career as a sought-after interior designer. She left her corporate job in fashion and opened Enjoy Co., a decorating studio and retail store in Granville.

During that transition, Monique, Keith and their 14-year-old son, Maxfield, grew to love the Tudor so much that they moved in. They even gave the property a name that embraces the rustic surroundings: Stonehill.

Its maze of rooms allowed Monique plenty of space for her experimental designs-and provided clients a firsthand look at what she describes as an eclectic yet timeless style.

Some of the original items that came with the home-a collection of vintage trunks, perfectly aged mirrors and leather-bound books, for instance-now blend seamlessly among the Keegans' furnishings.

"I love throwing in a completely modern piece in a bunch of old pieces, or vice versa," Monique said. "I get bored if it's all the same. I like the challenge of making it look a little more mixed up."