This Greenville Home Renovation Honors Cultural and Family History

A Greenville couple vastly expanded their inherited home, paying tribute to their ancestry as well as to the vision of the original owners.

When they embarked upon a major expansion and renovation, the owners of a now-sprawling Greenville home—Carlo and Helene, husband and wife physicians—were mindful of its double legacy. The house, set on a coveted two-acre lot on a quiet cul-de-sac with few neighbors, was the husband’s childhood home—a cherished gathering place. So the couple wanted to respect that familial history after the patriarch—the husband’s father—passed away.

The Asian flavor of this Greenville house derives not only from the homeowners’ backgrounds and frequent trips to Japan but also to the indelible tastes of the previous owners, who have visited several times.
The Asian flavor of this Greenville house derives not only from the homeowners’ backgrounds and frequent trips to Japan but also to the indelible tastes of the previous owners, who have visited several times.

“We redid the home in our own way, honoring the Asian influence with custom trim, made to look like the top of a Japanese arch, and a sloped roofline.”

The large dining table, backed by characteristic Japanese shoji screens, helps to accommodate a large extended family.
The large dining table, backed by characteristic Japanese shoji screens, helps to accommodate a large extended family.

But even before the house was in the family, the original owners had left an indelible mark on the décor, giving it a Japanese flavor that eventually suited multiple generations of this new family. “The previous owners loved Japan,” Helene says, “so we wanted to keep that style throughout the renovation.”

One of the first orders of business for this gut renovation was addressing the peculiarly shaped kitchen, which now features two islands and a more open feeling.
One of the first orders of business for this gut renovation was addressing the peculiarly shaped kitchen, which now features two islands and a more open feeling.

Though the Asian aesthetic comes naturally to the current owners—Carlo’s lineage is from the Philippines, and Helene’s family is Taiwanese—they reinvented their house in a big way to accommodate their two young children. They not only executed a gut renovation (Carlo calls it a “90-to-95% redo”) but also enlisted Nicholas Fedyk of Architectural Alliance in Wilmington and John Sturgis Builders to add approximately 3,000 square feet to create an H-shaped layout—bringing the total space to 7,500 square feet.

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The couple worked with interior designer Susan Tamassia to maintain the Asian theme.
The couple worked with interior designer Susan Tamassia to maintain the Asian theme.

“We really only kept the front family room area and the foyer area,” Helene says. “The house originally had four small bedrooms…and we had to add on a garage… and then the bedroom wing[s]. The front part of the H is pretty small, but the back extends into the backyard farther than it used to. And we went from a two-car to a four-car garage.” The transformation took around 18 months to complete.

The bedroom’s neutral palette is punctuated by chinoiserie upholstery.
The bedroom’s neutral palette is punctuated by chinoiserie upholstery.

The great room lives up to its name, featuring a dining room table that seats 14; interior designer Susan Tamassia enlisted a carpenter to custom-build it. “[We have] a big family,” Carlo says. “There were my parents and four siblings, and then each sibling had a boy and a girl. Family get-togethers typically [were] well attended, [and] the adults commandeered the long table, with the kids at the kitchen island.”

The living space was reimagined for functionality. They raised the floor of the once-sunken living room because “everyone was tripping all the time,” Helene says. The kitchen had been equally awkward, with a wall running through the middle. “We tore down that wall to just open everything up, so now there are two islands,” she adds.

Helene and Carlo are physicians who keep up the family tradition of the home as a gathering place.
Helene and Carlo are physicians who keep up the family tradition of the home as a gathering place.
Shoji screens that telegraph the Asian theme in the great room and the bedrooms came courtesy of the original owners, but the couple had them refurbished and refreshed, with the original wood stained black. To achieve the look they wanted, the screens were taken apart, one by one. “We bought paper to replace the old kind of yellow paper, and the builder had to sand and stain each one,” Helene says.

“Our family travels a lot to Asia, so the home is really a mix of different Asian cultures.”

Carlo’s father sourced carved lacquered wood benches from the Philippines; figures of Catholic saints, also from the Philippines, get on amiably with Japanese Buddhas—one of which came from a flea market in New Castle. “Our family travels a lot to Asia,” Helene says, “so the home is really a mix of different Asian cultures.”

The main bathroom features an egg-shaped deep soaking tub.
The main bathroom features an egg-shaped deep soaking tub.

Carlo and Helene call the house a work in progress, but the success of their concept is evident: “We redid the home in our own way, honoring the Asian influence with custom trim, made to look like the top of a Japanese arch, and a sloped roofline,” Helene explains. “The original owners have visited a few times, since we custom-built the home in the Japanese style that they loved.”

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Related: This Greenville Home Pairs Modernism With Traditional Touches

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