HABITAT: Home of the Month

Reconstructed Nest
A Malvern couple renovates to suit their new lifestyle.

Reconstructed Nest
A Malvern couple renovates to suit their new lifestyle.

After John and Dolores Hunter’s last child left for college, they looked around at their house and said to each other, “Now what?” The couple wasn’t interested in a retirement community. And they had serious reservations about moving into a new house and leaving their beloved Malvern neighborhood.

“We moved here from Northern Maryland 14 years ago, when John started working at QVC,” says Dolores Hunter. “We both love the neighbors and our neighborhood. We wanted to stay.”

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So the couple decided on option No. 3: renovating their house to fit their current lifestyle.

The Hunters agreed they wanted a home their kids would enjoy visiting. With one grandchild already and hopeful visions of more to come, they’d need plenty of room for extended visits. “We wanted to make sure our children felt comfortable here as their own families grew,” says John.

When the couple began their wish list, Dolores envisioned a large sunroom addition off the kitchen. On John’s list was a bigger home office. As the home improvement brainstorming continued, more ideas began to flow: a walk-in master closet for Dolores; an outdoor patio complete with a full kitchen for entertaining; a finished basement with a
home gym.

Then Dolores offered a proposal John couldn’t refuse—substituting the outdoor hot tub for a home theater. “I wasn’t looking forward to handling a new job at work and the renovation at the same time,” John admits. “But when Dolores mentioned building a home theater, I was really excited. That’s a tip to wives out there.”

Once the Hunters agreed on their wish list, they began the daunting process of finding a contractor. After an extensive search, they settled on HP Builders of West Chester. Specializing in luxury home renovation, HP’s impressive portfolio reflected what the Hunters were looking to achieve. “It was a big project. My company managed all the subcontractors and tried to make the process as easy as possible on John and Dolores,” says Terry Keenan, president of HP Builders. “It’s never easy to live through a renovation, and we were there for eight months.”

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Having never been through a project like this, Dolores was overwhelmed. “Every day a different decision had to be made,” she says. “Thankfully I never felt rushed. I always felt like I was making a reasoned decision.”

It’s been a year since the renovation was complete, and the Hunters couldn’t be more satisfied with their home. Along with HP Builders, Dolores attributes the success of the final look to Linda DeStefano, an interior designer at Propper Brothers in Devon. “Linda and I worked together for the last eight years on different rooms in my home,” says Dolores. “I absolutely knew that I wanted her to be involved in this project.”

Dolores couldn’t have imagined her sunroom (pictured above) turning out any more perfect than it did. “I wanted this room to be a place where we could unwind and de-stress,” she says. “That’s exactly what it is. Whether it’s when we’re entertaining friends or it’s just me and a book, this is the room I always end up in.”

During initial discussions with Dolores, DeStefano envisioned the sunroom with a Tuscan feel. “As the room took shape and I saw the wonderful views out to the gardens and the new patio area, I really thought it should feel like it’s an extension of the garden,” she says.

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Multiple windows, doors leading to the outside areas and four skylights flood the room with natural light. “Everyone knows that I’m not an outdoorsy type person,” says Dolores. “I can sit in this room and feel like I’m outside.”

DeStefano had the challenge of giving the room a tropical feel without overdoing it. She achieved this feat by bringing in a variety of styles. A sitting area in the middle of the room includes a traditional wedge sofa in a floral print flanked by two contemporary side chairs in a complementary tangerine fabric. A round, oversized, butter-yellow leather ottoman has the dual function of being either a seat or a place to rest a tray of cocktails and snacks while entertaining. “Because of the expansive size of the room, and with the doors on the two walls, we floated the furniture in the center of the room,”
says DeStefano.

A pub table and chairs, a game table and a mirrored buffet sit in the corners of the room. In lieu of rugs, oversized ceramic tiles cover the floor. In keeping with the natural feel, grass cloth lines the walls. A pair of banana-leaf ceiling fans are a testament to how in-synch the homeowner and her decorator were. “Dolores showed me a picture of these ceiling fans she wanted to use in the sunroom, and she asked me what I thought,” says DeStefano. “I told her I loved them so much I had them in my own home.”

The sunroom has views of an intimate seating area with a black granite bubbler and a new patio complete with an outdoor kitchen. “We worked with Susan LeBoutillier from Waterloo Gardens on our outdoor room,” says Dolores.

The patio has two sitting areas and a third under a large gazebo that provides a reprieve from the hot sun in the summer months. Black granite tops the counter above the outdoor kitchen area, providing plenty of prep space. The kitchen is equipped with various amenities, including a plate warmer, multiple burners, a refrigerator and a sink. “They make it so convenient to prepare meals,” says John. “I enjoy cooking out there.”

Beyond the serene sunroom, large alder-wood double doors lead to John’s most treasured space in the house. “I’ve always been intrigued by home theaters,” he says. “I was really excited about having one in my own home.”

John wanted the room (pictured above) outfitted with the highest-quality equipment. He did much of the research himself and asked friends who had home theaters their opinion. He settled on a 12-foot Stewart screen with a Runco projector and Meridian speakers. A fiber-optic ceiling gives the illusion of a starry night when the lights are down. “It’s an entertainment room,” says John. “It’s the perfect way to unwind from the day.”


A kitchen remodel was never in the Hunters’ original plans, but a few minor upgrades made the dated kitchen look like new. The existing cabinets were outfitted with new side panels and crown molding. New granite countertops in neutral browns and beiges were added throughout. Additional seating was provided on the island with a new black granite cliff shelf extension on the end. “Dolores and I both love black,” says DeStefano. “There are black accents in every room in the house. Black is a timeless color that looks dramatic and sophisticated.”

Since floral patterns are prominent in every room, DeStefano wanted to bring another element into the kitchen. Faux-stone wallpaper offered the look she was trying to achieve.

In front of the house, off the parlor, pocket doors lead to John’s office. Keenan’s team disassembled the office and added 6 feet to it. “We pushed back the room to give John more space,” says Keenan. “We were able to reuse the same bookcases that existed in the room and essentially replicate what was there.”

Hunter is 6-foot-4, so DeStefano had a desk customized at Propper Brothers for him. Two side chairs and a flat-screen TV on the wall join a gas fireplace in the space. “The room is much more functional now with the additional space,” says John.

The office expansion allowed for an addition directly above it. “I always wanted a master walk-in closet,” says Dolores.

And Keenan was able to provide her with the space she needed. “I absolutely love this room,” says Dolores. “There’s enough room in here for me to do yoga in the morning.”

Back on the first floor, next door to the office, the parlor (pictured above) is more for show than anything else. “We always end up in the sunroom now when we entertain,” says Dolores.

A baby grand piano is the focal point of the traditional space. Gleaming Brazilian walnut floors add elegance, and Lamberkin window treatments offer a tailored look. Two slipper chairs upholstered in light gold and a striped love seat provide seating in the space.

“A house is about what you love,” says Keenan. “It’s a personal expression of
the homeowners and what works for their family.”

In the Hunters’ case, the end result of their renovation was all that and more. They were so thrilled, in fact, that the first party they threw in their “new” house was for HP Builders and the subcontractors who worked on the project. “I loved having everyone back in my house as my guests,” says Dolores. “I don’t know how many home renovation projects have happy endings like this, but I’m sure glad ours did.”


Architect: John Eastman, West Grove, (610) 869-7121
General Contractors:
HP Builders, 26 S. Church St., West Chester; (484) 905-5445, hpbuilders.net
Home Theater:
James Wilson, Overture Ultimate Home Electronics, Wilmington, (302) 478-6050,
Interior Design:
Linda DeStefano, Propper Brothers Furniture,
111 E. Lancaster Ave., Devon;
(610) 989-0688, propperbrothers.com

Landscaping/hardscaping: Susan LeBoutellier, Waterloo Gardens 200 N. Whitford Road, Exton;
(610) 363-0800, waterloogardens.com


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