The house next door was becoming a problem for its immediate neighbors. It wasn’t that the Triangle neighborhood home was unsightly: The century-old house, clad in clinker bricks—the irregular bricks that are either disposed of, or utilized for their charm appeal—was in solid shape.
The problem was that its owner didn’t know quite what to do with it. It stayed on the market for years. The open houses were becoming intrusive, especially because its L-shaped property crept up behind other people’s backyards. Eventually, a solution: The beleaguered neighbor’s brother, based in California, came to the rescue and bought the brick house. “So nice to have a brother like that,” says designer Karen Kennedy, principal of Eye for Design Interiors in Wilmington, whom the new owners enlisted to reimagine the space.
The homeowners didn’t give up on California, though; with family in Delaware, they use the house when they’re in town and otherwise rent it out on Airbnb, where it’s been a popular option for families.
When it came to renovations, the new owners didn’t want to do just the minimum, as many Airbnb hosts are concerned primarily with durability and value. They wanted to redesign the house properly, and because Kennedy had lived in the neighborhood and knew it well, she was a natural.
“It wasn’t in terrible shape,” Kennedy recalls, but the kitchen was outdated, the laundry was in the basement, the first floor lacked a powder room and the overall flow was awkward. The 2,225-square-foot, four-bedroom home that boasted the handsome brick facade wasn’t particularly functional for the way people live now. During the year-long renovation, the designer added an en suite bath to the primary bedroom and extended the powder room to a full bathroom; now the home features 3 1/2 baths.
“We didn’t take out many walls,” she says, “but we did create a passageway between the great room and the dining room.” In doing so, Kennedy realized that the interior walls were brick—a happy discovery she calls “absolutely incredible.” They add to the home’s uniqueness—and nod to the home’s eye-catching 1922-era exterior, she notes.
The inviting great room is anchored by an ornate fireplace that was not remodeled or resurfaced, though wood was replaced by gas. The owners were inspired to create a glass transom above the newly constructed opening between the great room and dining room. “That’s a cool, superb feature that we added,” Kennedy says.
Even though the budget was generous, most of it found its way into the rooms that are meant to endure as is—the bathrooms and kitchen. But in the living areas, such as the great room, the designer used her sharp eye—for example, selecting a tufted, deep-seated leather sofa from Homesense that evokes a Chesterfield piece from Baxter, but at a fraction of the cost. The wool rug also came from Homesense. “You have to be out and about to find these things,” says Kennedy, who notes she had the luxury of time, since the owners would not be full-time residents. The armchairs look like custom pieces, but they’re actually sourced from Wayfair.
Value shopping went out the window for the permanent spaces that were meant to look authentic to the time frame in which the home was built. “Those I did not scrimp on,” the designer says. The bathrooms are surfaced in stunning patterns of tile and wall coverings, and the kitchen boasts a Kohler Whitehaven sink and a bridge faucet.
The countertops are clad in a matte leathered quartz that evokes soapstone, and the pricey LG refrigerator “makes those big balls of ice that are so much fun,” Kennedy explains. “You can have some really lovely cocktails.” Perfect for inviting the family over—a short walk for a tasty payoff.