N.J. home makeover is a regular feature on NJ.com that showcases designer, contractor and DIY renovations, large and small. To submit your renovation for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name, email address, phone number and town/city. Attach “before” and “after” photos of what you renovated.
When Susan and Neal Oldendorp purchased a 1954 Cape Cod in Madison, they envisioned it remodeled with a spacious first-floor master suite.
The house, which they selected, in part, for its close proximity to the town center and the train station, would be fully updated with an exterior inspired by Colonial and Shingle-style architecture.
“We were going to make the house three bedrooms,” Susan Oldendorp said of their initial plan to trade the two first-floor bedrooms for a larger master suite. However, they also wanted to enlarge the kitchen and dining area while adding other first-floor rooms.
They also wanted to expand the home’s second level with additional square footage.
“When we got the price for the addition, we knew we needed to make it four bedrooms,” she said. “For the amount of money we would be putting into the house, we knew we would need it to be a four bedroom to sell.”
As a couple of real estate agents, they were more conscious and more knowledgeable than average homeowners as to how their changes might affect the home’s resale value.
“When we did the renovations, we were doing them to stay there, but always keeping in mind what the buyer would want and trying to make it more to the liking of a buyer,” she said.
The changes were major.
“They tore the entire house down,” she said. “It is a brand new house from the foundation up.”
Keeping the home’s original foundation intact allowed them to rebuild within the same footprint, but municipal ordinance prevented them from enlarging without a special permit, so they decided to reimagine their plans for the master suite, moving it up to the second level.
Reallocation of what would be a little more than 3,100 square feet of living space allowed for major variations. Where the original house had one bathroom on each level, the new house has four bathrooms, two on each level.
The kitchen and dining area are still on the first floor, along with a family room and a mudroom. Additionally, a first-floor den and an office could serve as bedrooms, but as the Oldendorps use the house, all four bedrooms are on the second floor. (Above them, an attic that was not in the original home’s design provides storage space.)
In addition to its en suite bathroom, the master bedroom has two walk-in closets. For the master bathroom, the couple chose hardwood floors for their beauty and cost effectiveness. To protect the floors, they always use a bath mat and immediately wipe up any drips, Susan Oldendorp said.
The home’s laundry room also is on the second level.
“In most new construction, the laundry is on the second floor,” she said. “It used to be in the basment, then it moved to the first floor, now it’s on the second.”
For the updated house, the couple also updated their styling.
“We sold all our dark mahogany bedroom furniture,” Susan Oldendorp said.
After parting with furnishings they had inherited from their parents, the couple, who have grown children of their own, decided to go with less.
“We wanted a look that was more modern and less cluttered,” she said.
In the kitchen, one aspect of clutter control is an appliance garage that is a full cabinet for concealed storage of their coffee machine and other small appliances.
Like the rest of the house, the kitchen is done in shades of gray, with light gray Shaker-style doors and brass handles on the cabinetry. To complement the contemporary decor, they selected white quartz counters and stainless steel appliances from Thermador. For informal dining, the kitchen’s center island also serves as a breakfast bar.
A long wooden dining table has seating for 10 in a dining area brightened by natural light through a row of French doors. The bar area has a two-drawer refrigerator, a rack for about 10 bottles of wine and shelving for the essential accessories.
For the home’s redesign, the couple worked with a team of architects at Studio 1200 in Short Hills. They wanted the house, built by L.G. Leider Homes of Florham Park, to be easy to maintain and live in. They opted for a more casual family room instead of a living room, for example.
“In our old house, we had rooms we would walk through and never sit in,” Susan Oldendorp said. “Nobody ever sat in the big, beautiful living room. We wanted a house where we were using every room.”
Cindy Maselko, one of the architects who worked on the project, said the firm frequently works on projects in Madison, and they were able to accommodate the couple’s desires to efficiently use limited space and improve flow through the home’s interior while expanding it in a way that kept the exterior in harmony with its surroundings.
“We added a lot of height and gables to make it look more like the houses in the neighborhood,” she said. “We always go and take pictures of the houses around those we will design.”
One of the rooms the Oldendorps enjoy most is an outdoor room – a covered porch outfitted with a fireplace.
“We sit out there in October,” Susan Oldendorp said, recalling last fall when they sat with cozy blankets to watch sporting events on the television installed above the fireplace. “It’s the best room in the house.”
What they renovated
A 1954 Cape Cod in Madison was taken down the the foundation and rebuilt.
Who did the work
How long it took
About eight months, from January to August 2017
What they spent
Where they splurged
On cedar shakes for the exterior siding, a bluestone patio and a covered porch with a television and fireplace.
Where they saved
“We used hardwood floors in our master bath, which was cheaper than tile,” Susan Oldendorp said. They used reasonably priced tile instead of marble in the bathrooms.
What they like most
The new home’s curb appeal, open floor plan, the covered porch and “the simplicity of living in the house without stuff,” Susan Oldendorp says.
What they’d have done differently?
Try to make the covered porch larger.