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Home Remodeling: Old-Home Transformation in Haverford, PA

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Is a major home remodeling project in your future? Whether you’re looking to customize your living space or increase your property’s value, embarking on a renovation project can feel overwhelming. Having professionals on your team lessens the risks that can arise with any home makeover, as our clients will tell you.

To give you an idea of how experienced experts can help you navigate your own home remodeling, we’ve put together the story of a full-house makeover of an older home in Haverford, PA, that serves as a valuable guide. Using real-life situations, we show you practical ideas and how-tos, from how to approach a complex home renovation to determine the best bang for your construction budget when a challenge requires a hard decision. Stunning images show before-and-after transformations of the kitchen, bathrooms, and living areas to inspire your own remodel.

The 1926 stone colonial graces its peaceful, walkable, suburban Main Line neighborhood. Despite its iconic beauty inside, it lacked color, an efficient floorplan, and the 21st-century features expected of today’s luxury homes. It was ripe for an extensive yet sensitive home remodeling that would take advantage of the home’s “great bones,” handsome exterior, and terrific setting.
Reasons for a Home Remodeling

People take on home remodeling projects for many reasons. Some wish to upgrade their home when they’re looking to sell and want to get the best price. Others have lived too many years with a dated kitchen and old-fashioned baths. And still, others are like the owners of our featured home: they’ve just bought an older home whose core features they love but whose interior hasn’t been updated in decades.


Have you identified what reasons are steering your home makeover? Remember, a custom makeover calls on your remodeling team to find ways to deliver on your wishes. So, to firm up your reasons to undertake a home remodel and start to build the scope of work for your project, ask yourself these questions:

  • What main issues must your makeover resolve? Often these are structural or systems-related needs, such as expanding your space, moving a bearing wall, or installing whole-house air-conditioning.
  • What other changes or upgrades are “must-haves”?
  • Conversely, what renovations do you really want but think budget or structural realities would prevent? Include your wish list because once a professional assesses your situation, you may discover that all your dreams are within reach!

Primary Bedroom – BEFORE

Primary Bedroom – AFTER

The homeowners in our story knew that living with the lack of color, inefficient floorplan, and decades-old fixtures would prevent them and their family from fully using and enjoying their new home.

They needed an extensive remodel to create a series of beautiful rooms deserving of the home’s many architectural and historic attributes. But they also wanted a practical, comfortable, welcoming home that serves their current and future requirements.

Their reasons to extensively remodel originated with the dated and drab interior that required a lot of upgrades—some cosmetic, some structural. Many of their reasons for their extensive home remodel included these specifics:

  • Modernize the interior overall to contemporary standards of luxury and convenience that better matches its exterior grandness and Main Line location in a coveted neighborhood of high-end homes.
  • Upgrade the kitchen and baths with new appliances and fixtures and, for the kitchen in particular, provide a more efficient layout and a bright, open, welcoming family space.
  • Address several structural issues to improve access, safety, comfort, and convenience.
  • Add features to match the owners’ lifestyle and redesign the interior to express their personal style.
  • Preserve certain historic features and fine architectural details in their beautiful older stone home.

Any home remodel that accomplishes the above is bound to increase the resale value of a house that hasn’t been upgraded in years. However, our owners’ goal was to improve their home for living in rather than to sell any time soon.

What’s the Scope of Your Home Makeover?

The scope of work for a home remodel is shaped in part by the owners’ vision and in part by practicalities, which include limitations such as any of these:

  • Budget, a valuable tool that helps to guide you and your design and construction team to make choices and set priorities
  • Building codes and zoning requirements, among other rules and regulations
  • Structural realities, which may be related to building codes
  • Your home’s footprint and whether you can make changes to it
  • Your home’s height and other exterior details you may not be able to alter
  • Good home design, such as not putting a powder room in the living room

Kitchen – BEFORE

Kitchen – AFTER (Kitchen by Bluebell Fine Cabinetry & Design)

Kitchen – AFTER (Kitchen by Bluebell Fine Cabinetry & Design)

Our featured home’s footprint and its iconic exterior appearance could not be altered. No building additions or roofline changes were allowed to accommodate the challenges of low ceilings, small rooms, and second-floor gabled windows. The home had three significant structural issues, however, that the owners believed could and must be fixed:

  1. The attached garage had no direct access to the home. This meant the owners had to venture outside to go between the garage and the home. Without altering the footprint or breaking through one of the stone exterior walls, Ernst Brothers created access through a new mudroom made by enclosing and upgrading an existing covered patio.
  2. The two-car attached garage accommodated only one car. A poorly placed but necessary support divided the wide entrance into one-third and two-thirds, preventing a car from clearing the entrance on one side. Ernst Brothers reconfigured the convoluted layout and installed new steel supports and overhead doors so two cars now fit easily.
  3. A necessary beam in the dark kitchen made the room’s low ceiling feel even lower, complicating any makeover. Past kitchen renovations had “chopped” the room into gloomy spaces with inconvenient walls, dated cabinetry, and a layout that just didn’t work for the new owner’s lifestyle. The owners had consulted another builder who said the problem beam could not be eliminated. Ernst Brothers found an innovative solution, hiding the beam above the ceiling so the new kitchen could be open and airy.

In addition to the above renovations, the scope of work called for a complete interior facelift:

  • New bright, modern, and open kitchen and butler’s pantry
  • New bathroom fixtures throughout, renovating layouts in second-floor baths, creating a new dual-fixtured his-and-hers primary bath suite dominated by a shared glass-walled shower
  • New laundry room made by renovating a walk-in linen closet
  • New lighting throughout—130 lights, including spotlighting artwork
  • Refinished hardwood floors to make them consistent throughout the home
  • Reconfigured upper-level floorplan for a more practical room layout that accommodated the empty nesters as well as visiting adult children and their families
  • Refacing all four fireplaces
  • Custom-built cabinetry for bathrooms, laundry room
  • New front door & new windows
  • Bring utilities to code and current luxury standards
  • Wallpaper, paint, carpeting, new patio doors, replace some windows

On the outside:

  • New siding on garage replacing cedar shake
  • Renovated patio
  • Painting exterior trim

Gather Your Renovation Team

Many high-end custom home remodeling projects call upon the same fields of professionals as a luxury new build. These include architect, interior designer, builder, structural engineer, lighting consultant, and kitchen designer.

You could find that an architect, builder, and kitchen designer are all your project requires, especially if your builder contracts with its own trade professionals to fill any needs that arise. Or your project scope could call for the addition of others, perhaps a swimming pool contractor and landscape architect.

In evaluating professionals for a home remodeling team, look for those who fully understand your vision and can deliver your dream. You should ask for and follow up with the following:

  • Prior clients who have used the candidate for a project like yours
  • Recommendations from friends and neighbors
  • Recommendations from the other professionals you’ve already brought on board

Not all professionals known for exceptionally fine custom new-home construction are equally experienced with luxury home remodeling. Most builders, for example, focus on one or the other. The craftsmanship and attention to detail required to build a bespoke home from below ground up are much the same for similarly high-end renovation projects. However, remodeling inserts an extra layer of complexity in part because the builder must deal with so many unknowns.


Broad experience in both realms provides an extra layer of knowledge that you’ll want working for you. Experts—armed with new-build craftsmanship and remodeling’s problem-solving capabilities—will ably manage whatever surprises inevitably pop up when you’re opening walls and relocating utilities and fixtures.

In addition, builders known for historic restoration frequently bring a sensitivity for an older home’s existing character and understand how to preserve that without sacrificing modern comfort and security.


Whether your builder or designer is leading the team or participating within it, those professionals who are accustomed to collaboration also attract high-quality partners—to your advantage. A strong team delivers a superior home remodeling experience and exceptionally satisfying outcome.

Ernst Brothers was recommended to the homeowners by their interior designer, Michele Plachter of Michele Plachter Design. We had worked with Michele in the past, and she had been looking for another opportunity to collaborate with us. The homeowners chose us partly because they trusted Michele—but also because they appreciated Ernst’s willingness to find effective, innovative solutions to certain limitations that confounded another builder.


We were also pleased to work with R.A. Hoffman Architects and Bluebell Fine Cabinetry & Design on this remodel. Highly respected partners like these enhance our experience of the project as well.

Final thoughts

Are you yearning to restore an older home to its former glory or bring it up to modern standards of comfort and convenience? In Ernst Brothers’ experience, these three steps will help to put you in the best position to get the custom home renovation of your dreams.

  1. Why remodel? What are critical issues to fix, what are highly important upgrades, and what are your “pie-in-the-sky” desires?


  1. What might limit your remodel? These could be your budget, local codes & regs, structural issues, or various design & dimension issues.


  1. Who’s on your remodeling team? Decide what professionals your scope of work requires, ask for and follow up on any recommendations, assess candidates’ skill sets, and how well they collaborate.

Consider making the renovation experts at Ernst Brothers + Builders key members of your professional team. You can trust our reputation for superior craftsmanship, luxury home renovations, and thoughtful historic preservation.

We’ll guide you through the decision-making process and answer all your questions clearly and completely. And if you choose us as your builder, we’re certain we’ll give you the home of your dreams without sacrificing your home’s unique character or its finest architectural features.

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