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Sprucing Up Old Spaces
Sprucing Up Old Spaces

When Sheilagh Mescal Gunstensen and her husband Andrew moved into their 1950s farmhouse two years ago, they knew the house needed a few upgrades to keep up with their entertaining lifestyle and three sons. After going to a previous design/build firm that fell short of meeting their needs and failing to solve their design issues themselves, the family then called upon Beco Kitchens & Baths to make their dream home design become a reality.

The original kitchen had some nice elements like a fireplace and exposed beams, but still needed some changes. The room was divided by a wall and a large peninsula. The room felt smaller because a wooden bookcase separated a hallway that led to a dining room. The worst injustice was the kitchen took no advantage of the beautiful grounds just outside the walls.

After calling owner Tim Pesce on a Thursday, he was at their house by Saturday listening as the couple gave their ideas and looking at the property himself. A day later the Gunstensens stopped by Beco to review their drawings and ideas with Pesce and together they started making the necessary changes to have the kitchen altered to fit their needs.

 “He could see what we were hoping for, but we were having trouble figuring out how to make the island work properly and he literally rotated it 90 degrees and said, ‘Try this and a couple of other things.’ I was like, ‘That’s it, that’s what we’re looking for,’” Sheilagh recalls.

 “The room that they wanted to work on was phenomenal, with so many unique characteristics,” Pesce says. “It was just bringing that beauty to light, opening it up and making the space work not only as a living space for the family’s children, dogs and cats, but also making the storage space more efficient.”

By removing two walls, Beco Kitchens & Baths converted the crowded space into an open floor plan. Removing the walls was only a small part of the plan. Saving the pine lap boards and reusing them to cover the new lumber completed the layout and gave the room a look that feels like it has always been there.“We do not sub out our carpentry,” says Pesce. “Some of our carpenters have been with us over 30 years. They are more than carpenters;  they are artisans. When you have craftsmen like that, you can do specialty work like we did for the Gunstensens.”

 “Our process is very collaborative with the homeowner,” Pesce continues. “Sheilagh and Andrew had a definite sense of how they wanted the kitchen to look. The colors, the appliances, how they wanted to use the space when entertaining, all of this was considered as we worked together to bring their vision to fruition.” The kitchen glows with its banana yellow wall color, accented with a Farrow and Ball blue island and cream-colored cabinetry. The leathered granite countertops settle the tones and pull the whole room together as do the newly installed Jenn-Air stainless steel appliances.  

Finishing touches complete the vision. Seven-foot-wide bay windows over the sinks bring in the gorgeous outdoor scenery complementing  the decorative hardware and the backsplash of some salvaged wall tiles of fruits and vegetables, which the design team was able to match to new tiles. Finally, slate tile flooring on top of a heated floor completes the cohesive period look while providing a muchdesired modern amenity.

Beco Kitchens & Baths also renovated two additional rooms in the house: the hallway  bathroom and master bathroom. Sheilagh remembers feeling stymied about the master bathroom renovation because it had a strange layout.  

In the original arrangement the bathtub was installed perpendicular to the wall, forcing the Gunstensens to walk around it to get to the shower and toilet. To accommodate the new tub placement, Pesce and his team moved the door slightly, placed the tub on the back wall  of the room and added a wall to give privacy to the walk-in steam shower with dual body sprays. The bathroom, which also has a heated floor, is breathtaking with its blue celeste marble countertops, vaulted ceiling and “stepped” windows.  

The remodeling of the hall bath, like the kitchen, involved removing some walls. Originally, the double bowl vanity was separated from a tub room and toilet. By removing the walls and converting the tub to a shower and installing a new single bowl vanity, the room opened  up and started to take shape. (See front cover image.) The room also has a heated floor and an electric towel warmer like the master. Completing the room while still staying true to its farmhouse roots is a painted wood-look tile floor.  

 “We have one other small bathroom that we might be renovating. I would call him in a heartbeat,” Sheilagh says.“I wouldn’t take that to anyone other than [Tim]. His staff are lovely. They’re all really lovely guys. They just fit right in. They’re fun; they’re craftsmen to the highest degree.”

Beco Kitchens & Baths
Morrisville, Pa.  |  (215) 295-7123

Photography by Bill Cartledge

Published (and copyrighted) in House & Home, Volume 19, Issue 4 (October 2018). 
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