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Mike and Caryn Spangler's Villanova Farmhouse Gets a Modern Update


Deep-navy walls with white trim set the tone in the formal living room. (Photo by John Lewis)

Builder: Cullen Construction, 329 E. Conestoga Road, Wayne; (610) 687-4949, cullenconstructioninc.com
Interior Designer: Barbara Gisel, Barbara Gisel Design, 365 W. Lancaster Ave., Haverford; (610) 649-1975, bgdltd.com
Architect: Kurt Fisher, Barbara Gisel Design, 365 W. Lancaster Ave., Haverford; (610) 649-1975, bgdltd.com.

Oh, what a difference a year makes. While there were many great things about the Villanova farmhouse Caryn Spangler and her husband purchased in 2010, the kitchen wasn’t one of them. “It had about five cabinets in it,” she says. “It was tiny.”

So tiny that Spangler could stand in the middle of the space and touch both walls with arms extended. “It certainly wasn’t a kitchen for a family of six,” she says.

In November 2011, Spangler’s kitchen underwent a complete, down-to-the-studs renovation out of pure necessity. Thanks to the vision of a local builder, it went from embarrassment to showpiece in last year’s fourth annual Notable Kitchen Tour & Chef Showcase, a popular fund-raising event organized by the Main Line Committee for the Philadelphia Orchestra.

The family moved to the area from Connecticut when Caryn’s husband, Mike, relocated for a new job. “I’d say 70 percent of the homes we looked at were new homes,” says Spangler. “My husband and I wanted a house that was older and had character.”

The couple also has four daughters, all under the age of 10, which made comfort and function a priority. They settled on a stone farmhouse built in the 1950s by a man who’d been the veterinarian for the Ardrossan estate. The small, outdated kitchen topped the long list of improvements, which also included insulation projects, adding bathrooms on the second floor, and installing new heating and cooling systems.

After first considering an addition, the Spanglers realized that they didn’t need any more square footage. What they needed was the space to better fit their lifestyle. Wayne-based builder Woody Cullen suggested interior designer Barbara Gisel, along with her in-house architect, Kurt Fisher.

It was immediately apparent to Fisher what was required. “All the spaces felt very separate from each other,” he says. “The Spanglers also thought that the kitchen should be more of the center of the home.”

Now, the kitchen is the main attraction. The completely reconfigured space has an open layout that flows into a breakfast area and an intimate family room.

The entire home had to be totally gutted, forcing the Spanglers to rent elsewhere for nine months. Turns out, it was worth it. “The Spanglers wanted the house to be kid friendly, but in a casual, elegant way,” says Fisher.

This meant keeping toys largely out of sight. That in mind, Fisher designed a playroom off the kitchen and above the garage. As the girls get older, it will become another family room. “Caryn can be close by in the kitchen when they’re playing, but she doesn’t have to see the mess,” says Fisher.

In the breakfast area, banquette seating was chosen for both its look and the functionality. “Four little girls become eight little girls very fast when they have their friends over,” says Gisel. “You can multiply your seating easily with that type of arrangement.”

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The expanded kitchen features an enormous center island with a teak top. “We picked a distressed, black base because we didn’t want to have to worry about the kids nicking it,” says Spangler.

A double-door Miele refrigerator is covered in a dark wood, so it looks like an armoire. A brick-red AGA stove provides a burst of color, its custom-fabricated metal hood nicely countering all the wood in the space.  

Spangler’s husband is an avid fan of the thriving North Carolina pottery scene. Several built-ins showcase his vast collection, its vivid colors serving as inspiration for the primary tones in the surrounding décor. Off the living room, Fisher transformed an existing wet bar into a lighted display cabinet for more of the pieces. “It’s within the sight lines of the kitchen and living areas, so we can always see it,” says Spangler.

On the first floor, Fisher reconfigured a smaller bedroom into a dressing room and master bath. Improvements upstairs include en-suite bathrooms for the two bedrooms the four girls share. “I don’t think it’s a big deal for kids to have to share a bedroom,” says Spangler. “And fighting over who’s in the bathroom is a part of having siblings.”

An existing second-floor bathroom was also redone and is now reserved for guests. And it’s likely any guest would appreciate this special house.

“The Spanglers didn’t want to add any additional square footage, and we didn’t,” says Gisel. “We were able to give them everything they wanted and more.”

And Gisel believes the Spangler house provides a glimpse into the future. “Houses are going to have more functional spaces, as opposed to spaces no one uses,” she says. “And that’s exactly what the Spanglers have.”

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