Rose Morgan had lived in the three-story twin home in Wilmington for 30 years and had mused about fixing up the place for most of them.
She got her wish and then some when builder Steve Anderson of Anderson Homes in Middletown and the crew of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” transformed the fading duplex on Clayton Street into new, state-of-the-art homes for both Morgan and her longtime and much beloved neighbors, Ju-Juanna Latif and her four children.
But when the cameras started rolling, TV viewers got a grand tour of the Latif home and only a glimpse of Morgan’s half because the episode, planned as a two-hour special, was trimmed to one hour.
“That’s show biz,” says Morgan, a 70-year-old retired librarian with a theatrical flair.
On an exclusive tour for Delaware Today, the lady of the house said her new home is a joy, a place where she can sip iced tea with friends, read a book, or curl up on the sofa and lose herself in a soap opera.
The decorators created a design that reflects the soft greens and blues Morgan has loved for years—with a dash of the chili pepper red that reflects her ebullient personality.
An elegant foyer, defined by columns, opens to an inviting living room. Morgan, a gifted seamstress, appreciates the dressmaker details—covered buttons, pleats and cording—on the sofa and chair and a half. Curtains in a rose-colored lattice print contrast with a teal accent wall. There’s a small étagère for figurines she collected while touring Egypt.
The spacious kitchen includes a built-in cushioned banquet with pull-out drawers underneath to maximize storage. The designers added a big table and X-back chairs to create a glamorous dining area.
“This used to be a bunch of little rooms with a separate dining room,” she says. “Now it’s open and so much brighter.”
Kitchen cabinets from KraftMaid are glazed in soft cream. They came stocked with new dishes, glassware, utensils and pots and pans. For the first time in her long life, Morgan has a garbage disposal.
She opens the doors beneath the sink and pulls out a custom rack designed to hold towels. Slender panels on either side of the sink open to reveal slots for cutting boards and cookie sheets, and narrow shelves for plastic wraps and aluminum foil.
“There’s no wasted space,” she says. “Very clever.”
Whirlpool provided appliances for the kitchen and laundry area. Morgan rarely cooks, but she appreciates the good looks of her stainless range. It takes a long time for a single gal fond of takeout to fill a dishwasher, so she typically washes dishes by hand.
“But when I have that big, formal dinner party, baby, I’m ready,” she says.
Upstairs, a warren of small bedrooms was replaced with an elegant master suite. A gas fireplace warms the bedroom. Dupioni silk drapes in copper tones dress the windows. Morgan has decked out her dressmaker’s form in a vintage stole. A photograph of her late husband, a pastor, is displayed on a mirrored nightstand reminiscent of a Hollywood starlet’s dressing table.
“Wasn’t he just the most handsome man ever?” she asks. “Like in the movies.”
Morgan has a sumptuous wardrobe of suits, shoes and scarves. Hats are her crowning glory, including a hardhat encrusted with rhinestones that is a keepsake from the “Extreme Makeover” crew.
Such finery deserves a closet system to match, and Morgan now has just that. Her room-size closet is outfitted with such niceties as custom storage for millinery and costume jewelry. “I never thought I’d have a closet big enough for all my clothes,” she says. “But this is it.”
The centerpiece of an ultra-feminine master bath is a slipper-shaped soaking tub. The sink is set into a sleek granite counter. A large mirror and a row of lights ensure plenty of illumination when it’s time for Morgan to put on her lipstick for church.
“I’ve always been a tomboy, but I sure do enjoy having a girlie bathroom,” she says.
The second floor is also home to a cozy, light-filled library with built-in bookcases. It’s a peaceful retreat that reflects the homeowner’s penchant for organization.
“I’m a librarian and a Virgo,” she says. “Everything has to be in its place.”
Though the twin homes were razed and rebuilt, the new facade pays homage to the original structure, built in 1910. The porch roof is seamed red tin. Columns accented in red and moss green are mounted atop a red brick balustrade.
Behind the homes, there’s a garden gate that connects the backyards, requested so the neighbors could have easy access back and forth for visits. “I love those babies next door,” Morgan says. “It made me so happy that we all got this wonderful gift together.”
And a wonder it was. In a mere 106 hours, 1,500 tradespeople and 1,500 volunteers built a three-story duplex, a feat that typically requires 2,880 man hours and four months. The job included such improvements as central air conditioning and converting the heating system from oil to gas.
“It took tremendous hard work, so much dedication,” Morgan says. “I thank everyone who worked on this project from the bottom of my heart.”
So how did they do it so fast?
The key is a technique known as vertical building. Contractors use preformed concrete walls for the basement and framing panels for walls. Instead of tradespeople working in sequence, they do their jobs at once, with electricians, plumbers and drywall installers working shoulder to shoulder—and trying not to bump one another.
On February 13, Morgan, Latif and the children moved home as “Extreme Makeover” host Ty Pennington intoned his signature demand to “Move that bus!” and reveal the house behind it.
Since then, they’ve been enjoying their homes and a measure of local celebrity.
“My friends from Delaware Park brought over dinner and a wonderful cookbook,” Morgan says. “I’ve seen friends I haven’t seen in 20 years.”
She is currently pondering various plans for the third floor of her home, which was painted and carpeted but, because time ran out on the makeover, not professionally staged.
It’s an airy space with French doors that open onto a large deck, where Morgan enjoys surveying the city and beyond.
“You can see the Delaware Memorial Bridge,” she says. “At night, you can see New Jersey—and all the beautiful stars.”
The crew of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” builds with astonishing speed, but they don’t come back after the cameras stop. If Rose Morgan wants to install extra lighting in the kitchen, it’s up to her.
Most homeowners flip over their houses, but they aren’t allowed to flip the properties. The homeowners signed contracts promising not to sell for a year. Morgan has no intention of selling—ever.
Designers inquire as to the homeowners’ tastes, but they have the final say. So if you don’t like shag carpeting or if orange keeps you up at night, speak up.
Before work began, each and every item in the Morgan and Latif homes was trucked to storage units in Baltimore. Boxes filled with personal effects are stowed for now in the basement.
It helps to have a sense of humor. When 11 million people have seen you on TV, a few are bound to recognize you. “People all over the state wave to me,” she says. “I wave back, smile and say, ‘You may kiss my ring.’”