Carrie and Bob Crudup can honestly say they’ve never lived in a new home. But what the couple has enjoyed is the unique experience of living in a house they’ve had a hand in completely restoring—more than once.
Originally from Texas, the two moved to the Main Line for Bob’s executive career. Within a few years of settling here, they had completed their first restoration of the Hillvale estate in Villanova. Shortly after selling that, they bought two historic homes—one in Wynnewood and the Estalena estate they live in now.
The Crudups ambitiously took on the task of restoring both properties at the same time, aided by R.A. Hoffman Architects in Paoli and Scott McClain, owner of Artisan Builders. Based in Norristown, McClain—who specializes in historical preservation and period restoration—also worked with the couple on the Hillvale restoration. “Some people would call it a hobby,” says Carrie. “Others call it an addiction.”
Just don’t call it “flipping”—the Crudups hate that term. “We want to give another 100 years of life to these houses, and that’s what we do,” says Carrie.
That said, the couple is willing to invest both the time and money required to bring aging homes back to life. “It’s very time consuming, but we love it,” says Bob. “We have no conflict. We each have our own strengths that we contribute to the projects.”
The Crudups prefer properties built in the late 19th and early 2oth centuries. Their recently restored Georgian stone home in Haverford dates back to 1896. “It’s easier knowing which ones you don’t want,” says Carrie.
When the couple saw Estalena, they knew right away that they could work their magic. “Though it was very tired, you could see the character—and we knew we wanted to keep that character,” says Bob.
With McClain’s help, the Crudups went to great lengths to ensure that the changes they made were accurate. “We do things like remove all the original hinges, door knobs and locks, and have them refinished before reinstalling,” says Bob. “We always salvage the original doors and woodwork, or have them remanufactured to match the original. No detail is too small.”
Updating efforts sometimes involve moving interior walls and even staircases to give the home a more open flow. State-of-the-art kitchens and modernized bathrooms are musts. Estalena’s original first floor had multiple rooms. The Crudups made it more family friendly, creating two large rooms and a den (with bar). This three-room great room is divided by pocket doors. A caterer’s kitchen was also added.
Upstairs, the Crudups turned one of the seven bedrooms into a cozy media room with a kitchenette. Combining two others resulted in spacious master bedroom suite. On the lower level, the home boasts a game area, a 1,000-bottle wine cellar and a humidor.
“Saving all the architectural grace was tricky, but we think we met the challenge,” says Bob.
Lower Merion Township agrees. Last year, it gave Estalena its Historical Architectural Review Board Preservation Award. “We’ve lived in 11 of the 13 homes we’ve renovated, and this is our favorite,” says Bob.
When Artisan Builders’ Scott McClain first saw the Pen y Bryn estate in Wynnewood, it was, in a word, deplorable. “It was a truly neglected house,” he says.
After two-plus years of restoration, the 1907 Colonial Revival home is back to its original grandeur. “We had to gut the entire house,” says McClain. “It’s new inside, with a historic shell. It’s an accurate restoration with a modern sensibility.”
Like the Crudups, McClain has an affinity to older homes. He prefers to restore properties rather than build new ones. “Post La Ronda, it’s a teardown world—and it’s a shame,” he says. “It was never an option tearing this down, even though it probably was the more prudent financial decision. But you wouldn’t have been able to rebuild a house like this.”
Along with architect Rene Hoffman, McClain worked with the Crudups on both Pen y Bryn and Estalena. “They trusted me and gave me free rein in some areas,” says McClain. “With the Crudups, it’s a joint effort. They’re really good with floor plans; they understand the process.”
McClain often finds himself explaining the difference between a historical restoration and a renovation. “We are very skilled at differentiating where we need to incorporate a renovation mindset, where we focus on things like a modern floor plan inside an old footprint and new mechanicals and wiring,” he says.
McClain meticulously restored the façade of Pen y Bryn, right down to the ceramic quoins and keystone plaque adornments. Inside, the home’s grand foyer makes a stunning first impression, with its stained glass, leaded-glass windows and quarter-sawn tiger oak paneling. An existing garage located off the kitchen became a two-story family room, with a cathedral ceiling and fireplace.
The original kitchen was too small to be functional. The expanded space features stainless steel appliances, a large center island and a breakfast area. “[It’s a] fusion of traditional, architectural details with a more updated sense of current finishes and trends,” says McClain of the kitchen. “It has a more contemporary look, without being appropriate for Miami Beach.”
The new space features custom-designed cabinets in a cream-colored hand finish and fossilized limestone countertops. The floors are made of a French-patterned travertine quarried in Turkey. Other atypical elements include heavy pickle-stained wood beams, a coffered ceiling and a handmade copper oven hood that McClain finished with a unique patina to give it an antique appearance.
The Crudups and McClain are hoping Pen y Bryn is also recognized with the township’s HARB award. “The finished product—as beautiful as it is—can never tell the story of all the blood, sweat and tears that went on behind closed doors,” says McClain.
As for the Crudups, they’re ready to take a break. “I saw a house for sale the other day when I was walking my dog, but I looked away,” says Carrie. “I didn’t want to be tempted.”
At press time, Estalena and Pen y Bryn were both on the market. To learn more, visit craigandmacbrand.com.
Architect: R.A. Hoffman Architects, Rene Hoffman, 55 Plank Ave., Paoli; (610) 889-0660, hoffman-architects.com
Builder: Artisan Builders, Scott McClain, 1720 Locust St., Norristown; (610) 203-2453, artisanbuilders.org
Home stager (at Pen y Bryn): Deni Design and Detail, Denise Schumann, Devon, (610) 212-0802