Architect: Rene Hoffman, R.A. Hoffman Architects, 55 Plank Ave., Paoli; (610) 889-0660, hoffman-architects.com.
Builder: Kevin Manley, Manley Building Organization, 100 S. Trooper Road, Jeffersonville, (610) 630-1426.
Kitchen designer: Kitchens by Charles Weiler, 5927 York Road, Lahaska; (215) 794-8200, kitchensbycharlesweiler.com.
Landscape designer: Frank Montemuro, Landscape Design Group, 4284 Burnt House Hill Road, Doylestown; (215) 340-7890, landscapedesigngroupinc.com.
As a realtor on the Main Line, Lisa Weber Yakulis has handled countless amazing properties. But only once has she actually moved into one of them.
The exception to the rule is a Radnor carriage house built in 1898 as part of the original Knollhurst estate owned by wealthy cigar manufacturer Joseph Smallwood Vetterlein. Renowned Main Line architect R. Brognard Okie’s first project, the estate found its way into King’s Views of Philadelphia, a revered book written in 1900 by Moses King, featuring exceptionally designed homes, churches and commercial buildings throughout the Philadelphia area. “The fine native stone Colonial is on a high plateau overlooking Chester Valley, with an unobstructed view of seven miles,” reads the caption that accompanies the photo.
That rich history—coupled with an intended renovation—is what sold Yakulis. “I see a lot of properties, but this one was so special,” she says.
Yakulis spent almost four years as the estate’s listing agent, so her decision to buy wasn’t done in haste.
She’d even consulted with the property’s owner, local homebuilder Kevin Manley, on a spec home he constructed on an empty lot adjacent to the carriage home. Rene Hoffman was the architect for the spec home and the carriage-house renovations.
“The plans were done, and Kevin was ready to start picking materials and finishes,” says Yakulis. “I wanted to be a part of the entire process if I was buying the house, so I needed to tell him I was serious about buying. It certainly was an easy sale for me.”
Yakulis’ husband, Paul, shared her enthusiasm for the house, with its soaring 18-foot ceilings and exposed beams made from Douglas fir. The entire first floor had an open layout, save for the horse stalls and tack room.
“The previous owner spent a majority of his time on his sailboat in Thailand. When he was here, he lived in the second-floor caretaker’s residence,” says Manley. “The first floor was completely original.”
When gutting the first floor, they took great care in preserving and reusing as many beams from the stalls as possible. A warm American cherrywood on the floors ties the rooms together on the first level. The front entry and a sunroom area off the living room share the same porcelain tile designed to look like slate. A wide, wooden staircase leading up to the second floor was installed, bringing a compelling visual element to the expansive space. “You can see all the way up to the cupola when you look up the stairs,” says Yakulis.
The second floor offers plenty of living space, with three bedrooms and a large master suite. Throughout the home, Manley’s custom moldings and woodwork emphasize the traditional feel the couple was after.
Yakulis oversaw the kitchen renovations herself, calling on the expertise of Lahaska-based designer Charles Weiler. “It was like Christmas for me,” admits the avid cook. “The kitchen needed to tie in with the great room next door, which has 120-year-old beams in it.”
In keeping with the home’s rustic aesthetic, Weiler went with a minimalist design, which gives the space a classic yet up-to-date vibe. Knotty alder wood was used for the custom cabinets and also covers the refrigerator. Manley took the concept even further, stuccoing the stainless-steel stove hood and trimming it with the same alder. The kitchen’s large center island has a honed, black granite top, plus a hand-hammered copper sink. “Kevin and his group are very creative,” says Yakulis. “I never would’ve thought of doing what they did, but I love it. We really appreciated the level of detail and thought they put into the home.”
The porcelain tile used in the sunroom and entry shows up again on the backsplash. Just off the kitchen, sliding glass doors in the spacious breakfast room lead to a screened-in porch featuring the home’s original beadboard.
Manley already had plans to build a three-car garage, so he finished off the floor above it with a kitchenette, a full bathroom, a dining area, and a living room with a TV and pullout bed. “It’s great for when we have overnight guests,” Yakulis says. “They feel like they have their own apartment.”
It’s been two years since the move, and Yakulis is still giddy. “Kevin and his team did an amazing job with the renovation,” she says. “But the best part is living in a house that I worked on with my husband. The memories will last forever.”