Master Suite Case Study

Refining a Refuge

She realized that nothing she’d seen – and nothing she was likely to see – was exactly her style. She could see what the Loudonville house could be – even if her friends didn’t yet share her vision. “I decided I’d rather gut a home and have it the way I wanted it than move into something that was ready, but nothing like us.”

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Refining a Refuge

The Led Duke family had outgrown their house in Voorheesville in more ways than one. With the birth of their third daughter, there wasn’t enough space, and frankly, there wasn’t enough charm, either.

For more than a year, Lisa and Scott Led Duke had been looking at every house that came on the market. They wanted a turnkey home that they could just move their family into without doing any renovations.

“My husband was getting very annoyed because it was taking so long – to me, everything was just so cookie cutter,” Lisa Led Duke said. “And then we found this old house. I didn’t know if I even really wanted to look at it, because it looked so outdated from the pictures.”

But they did go to view the house, a 1942 Cape Cod with white shake siding in Loudonville, another Albany suburb about 14 miles northeast. The property was charming, with tall pines and a secluded circular driveway, and the house was almost large enough. It was, however, definitely not their style.

“It was a very formal house,” Lisa said. “It had a lot of character deep down, but somebody must have hired a decorator and spent so much on fancy moldings and faux finish paint for every room. When I first started showing my family, everybody walked in and was like ‘OH.’

“No one was like, ‘Oh, this is so great,” she clarified. The biggest problem in Lisa’s view was the tiny upstairs bathroom – basically, a toilet, shower and sink crammed into a small room with no place to expand.

That’s when she realized that nothing she’d seen – and nothing she was likely to see – was exactly her style. She could see what the Loudonville house could be – even if her friends and relations didn’t yet share her vision. “I decided I’d rather gut a home and have it the way I wanted it than move into something that was ready, but nothing like us,” Lisa said. They closed on the house in August 2012.

Scott is part of the powerhouse Albany general contracting company BBL Construction, which designs and builds large commercial buildings, hotels and hospitals, but not single family residences.

“We needed someone with residential historical expertise to keep with the feeling of the old house,” Lisa said. “We looked at several firms they recommended, and we ended up going with Teakwood Builders because their style is like what I had envisioned – what I had been looking for in Albany and couldn’t find.”

Teakwood was hired in October and immediately began helping the family prioritize the work that could be accomplished within their budget and tight schedule.

“We were kind of on a timeframe because we basically needed to do something in every room in our house, and we wanted to be in there for the summer,” Lisa said. “I really put the pressure on, and [project manager] Joel Sasko was there picking up the phone every time I dialed. We were waiting on counters, we were at the mercy of the vendors, and he chased things down and made everything happen. There was never a moment where we were like, ‘I don’t know if we can handle this,’ because they took care of all that for us.”

Construction started in January. Carpenter Kevin Burnham and his crew stripped the walls of their faux finishes and began repainting. New lighting was installed and custom shelves and cabinets were added judiciously. Lisa hopes to bring Teakwood back for a full kitchen renovation in the future, but in the short term, she had Signature Custom Cabinetry Inc. match the 20-year-old cabinets on one side of the kitchen to make the space more balanced and workable.

“They were able to help us take what we have here and really maximize it,” Lisa said. Instead of installing thousands of dollars in new flooring, Teakwood sanded and refinished the old hickory boards, only doing a full floor replacement where it was needed in the playroom. A piece of wood rescued from an old barn became a new fireplace mantel suited to the family’s casual, rustic vibe.

But the big problem was upstairs – “the master bathroom situation,” as Lisa thinks of it. The tiny bedroom looked out over a flat porch roof. Teakwood extended the house into that void to create a master suite with a generous bathroom area.

“There was a little worry about going out over our stairs because of the payloads, but I didn’t have to worry about any of that,” Lisa said. “They did such a great job, and they took care of everything. There were no real hiccups at all.”

Using an interior designer who does commercial work for BBL – Christine C. Vescio of Regent Design Services – Lisa was persuaded to vary the simple palette of pure white marble he had originally envisioned. The floor and much of the shower is built with marble, but the rich-flowing Asian blues in the shower ceiling and accent wall are silk-finished sumi-e glass, a transparent-base tile hand-poured to incorporate creases, wrinkles, waves and bubbles to capture light.

For safety and added visual interest, the shower floor is paved with random tumbled stones cut and fit to interlocking tiles by Island Stone, creating a seamless, natural floor that is pleasant to stand on and easy to clean.

The soaking tub was another major decision. All of the ones Lisa found appealing initially cost upwards of $10,000. With the help of her designer, she found a white volcanic limestone unit she loved at a third of the cost, inspired by a French bateau tub from the 1860s, manufactured by the British company victoria + albert. The center positioning of the brushed nickel Kohler fixtures make it safer and more comfortable for her little girls to share a bath, and a walnut and silver mini chandelier with crystal drops adds sparkle.

Christine also suggested clever ways to fit custom cabinetry and shelves into angles and corners that might have otherwise been wasted space. The space is tidy and organized, with room for bathroom essentials as well as colorful accent pieces and pretty jars of bath salts.

The his-and-hers walk-in closets Scott and Lisa wanted took up precious space, so Teakwood put the Led Dukes in touch with architect Scott Wallant to come up with a solution to give the bedroom the gracious, comfortable feeling they longed for. He designed a cupola over the bedroom that fit perfectly with the home’s Cape Cod style and made the interior feel more spacious and airy.

“My sister-in-law told me in July, when everything was done, that she had been really worried for me because it was the first house I had ever redone,” Lisa said. “But now, everyone I know comes in here and says, this is like the coolest house I’ve ever been in.”