This Spacious Villanova Colonial Gets a Modern Update

A blended family takes a risk with a dated house.

A fireplace and a mullioned ceiling lend cozy character to the dining room//All photos by Alicia’s Art.

Robin Halpern had her fellow real estate agents baffled when they first learned that she’d purchased a Villanova fixer-upper that had lingered on the market for months. “I heard comments ranging from ‘Are you insane?’ to ‘Why would you buy that place?’” she recalls. 

Any concerns were legitimate. The Colonial was over 25 years old, and it hadn’t been maintained over the past decade. There was green shag carpeting and metallic wallpaper; the kitchen and bathrooms needed to be replaced. 

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The renovation would be extensive—and it would come with a high price tag. Halpern and her husband, James Lovett, were up for the challenge. 

It helped that renovations could be confined to the existing footprint. The couple needed a home to accommodate their recently blended family. Each has three daughters, ranging in age from 17 to 22. “We definitely knew we needed a lot of space, which this house definitely had,” says Halpern. 

Given all the criteria, West Chester’s Rudloff Custom Builders turned out to be the right fit. “Our collaboration was amazing,” says Halpern. 

A view of the open family room from the hallway

Detail oriented

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Halpern wanted the house to speak for itself architecturally, so she immediately clicked with Ed Rudloff, who appreciates well-thought-out, nicely executed touches like crown molding and coffered ceilings. “The homeowners wanted high-quality finishes, and they wanted the architectural elements to take precedent,” says Rudloff. “So that was our focus.” 

In the dining room, a new fireplace  joins forces with a mullioned ceiling and a built-in china hutch to provide timeless character. “To me, there’s nothing better than eating a meal next to a fire-—it’s warm and comforting,” says Halpern. “As a realtor, I wanted a future buyer with any style to come in and feel like he or she bought a beautiful home.” 

With the exception of one daughter’s hot-pink bedroom, Halpern kept paint colors neutral. She also chose classic materials like Carrara marble for the kitchen and bathrooms.

Beyond the architectural details, Rudloff’s focus was on renovating the home to fit the family’s needs. Walls were eliminated to create an open floor plan. Removing a rear staircase made room for a combination mudroom/laundry area. 

Doing away with a coat closet in the foyer allowed for a hallway with a coffered barrel ceiling. And no one had an issue replacing the green shag with reclaimed wide-plank red-oak floors. Upstairs, the four bedrooms were reconfigured into six, with two additional bathrooms. 

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The kitchen features classic touches like Carrara marble.

Finishing touches

Light fixtures were a definitive way for Halpern to make a statement. Above the island in the home’s kitchen, two glass-orb pendants mimic the rounded details in the marble backsplash and the decorative accents on the glass cabinet fronts. And in the dining room, Halpern installed two oversized outdoor lanterns from Restoration Hardware above the rustic farmhouse table. 

“The dining room is a place where a light fixture can almost touch the table, because you don’t have to worry about how low it hangs,” she says. “Then you have both—something that’s hanging over the table and something that looks like it’s sitting on it.” 

Back in the kitchen, Rudloff enlarged the space by opening up a wall that separated it from the family room. White cabinetry and the Carrara marble keep the room bright.

For a dark counterpoint, Rudloff used Wenge wood to top off the island. “It’s from the Republic of the Congo, and it’s a very dense and hard wood,” says Rudloff. It’s an ideal durable choice for a kitchen workspace.

Hot-pink accents in a girl’s bedroom are one of the few exceptions to the home’s neutral color scheme.

Sweet dreams

Each daughter had a say in her bedroom’s look, so the styles are all over the map. The most traditional is finished with an antique four-poster bed and grasscloth wallpaper. One room pops with hot-pink accents, while another is all white. “It’s so difficult to find a pure-white carpet,” Halpern notes. “No one wants one.”

The master bedroom contains Halpern’s favorite feature in the house: her walk-in closet, with a center island that houses her jewelry and accessories. 

Though the family has been settled in for almost two years, it’s still hard to believe how far the house has come since they bought it. 

“I hosted my office Christmas party the first year the renovation was complete,” recalls Halpern. “So many agents had seen the house before, so it was fun to show them what’s possible with a renovation.” 

It’s also helped Halpern’s career. “This experience has been invaluable,” she says. “I’ve learned so much working with [Rudloff]. I know now that I can walk in a house and I know what it has the potential to be.”   

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