Archive for October, 2008

This Old House…The Story of My Home Renovation
October 21, 2008


This December it will one year since we left our city style brownstone in downtown Hartford for a house with a yard for our little one. We knew our new abode would need SOME work. At first I thought I would get everything done before we moved. Did I mention that was almost a year ago? Our renovation reminds me of an onion. Peel of one layer and there are hundreds more to get through and it stinks while you’re doing it!
We painted walls, refinished the floors and updated our master bath. It was the perfect candidate for one of those cable shows where you wonder if anyone still has a bathroom like that! Going through it was stressful as we moved in and out of rooms so workers could take over. We no longer needed alarm clocks. They were replaced by the break of dawn arrivals of various men with tools.

Once upon a time Dennis and I did much of the work ourselves. Since the arrival of our daughter Helena 19 months ago, taking time out to sing “Elmo’s world” has replaced reading do-it-yourself books. Though since we renovated our old house before, we have learned some tricks I’d like to pass along.

If you are going to hire anyone to do work I believe word of mouth from someone who’s had success is the best way to get a good result. Years ago Eyewitness News Anchor Irene O’Connor referred me to 
Patrick Moran of Moran Builders and Remodeling in West Hartford, and I’m so happy she did. Pat helped me design the perfect master bath while still keeping in mind our budget ( i.e. he didn’t suggest moving massive pipes just so I could put my make-up on on the other side of the room!) He comes along with his buddies Ed Blesso the plumber, Wayne Wosczyna the electrician and Paul Lenares the carpenter. Not only are they skilled but they don’t seem to mind that I change my mind a lot.


If you are not going to hire a designer I suggest you do what I did and clip lots of pictures of what you like. I found my dream bath in a the Renovation Style magazine and went from there. Pat and I knocked off a few things for cost but in the end I love my bath more than the picture. I used the internet to get great deals. I saved 50 percent by buying my tub on  I found my sink at Green Demolitions in Norwalk for 15 dollars, brand new! They get samples from famous companies and sell em to you and me. They also harvest luxury kitchens and baths from renovations done by the Rich and Famous in Greenwich and plant them in your home. Speaking of being green, I had an antique desk I inherited from my college buddy who didn’t need it anymore. It was the perfect size and shape for a dressing table. George at West Hartford Finishing made it white and durbable enough for everyday use. I love that I saved the environment and my wallet! Choices like that allowed me to splurge on a towel warmer from Mr. Steam. I hate the cold, and I hate doing laundry- so I love a warmer that heats the towels and keeps them from getting wet and musty.
If you have a quirky space you might need to use custom cabinets. We went to Village Cabinets in Bristol . Remember what I said about word of mouth? Denise D’Ascenzo used them on her kitchen years ago and passed them to on to us. The cabinet designer Steve Henschel helped us with a new kitchen in our brownstone and I knew he could work magic again. That’s exactly what he did. In old houses you don’t have the big bathrooms of today. Steve looked at my dimensions and came out with a plan to build a vanity that would look like my picture, fit in my space, hide all my hair products, and still fit our budget.

What’s a bathroom to do without tile. Enter Lorenzo from Marconi tile in Newington. He knew I wanted to keep with the old tradition of our home so we stuck to subway tile in the shower, and white hexagons on the floor. He still helped me add some spa like flare with rocks on the shower floor and some pretty aqua/blue ocean like glass tile above my vanity. He took my picture and made it real! Thank you Joe, the owner of Marconi. and Ina for helping me get all the tile at great prices.

To expand our master bath from its turn of the century shoe box size to a space big enough to fit both of us at the same time, we had to go into our closet. That meant we would have to build a new one! I used Steve at Affordable Closets in Windsor and our Stylist on Better Connecticut, Debbie Wright of Project Closet in Enfield, to maximize the space. Yes, I may now be able to even get Dennis organized!

Our painter Frank Lapore in Rocky Hill made it all come alive with color. He is so meticulous he even polished and painted our old window hardware to make it new again. One thing I learned from him…paint the inside of your fireplace black and it will never look dirty!

I used the husband and wife team at Sang Hardwood Floors to make our 1912 floorboards shine again. I shopped around and they came in as much as 40 percent less than some of our quotes. Yet their work is priceless.  Last but not least, we did a story on discount drapes at  RL Fisher in Hartford.  I found beautiful things to dress up my rooms. They make custom drapes at ready made deals.  Check em out on Bartholomew street.  You already know their work since they make most of the drapes for catalog companies and retailers in the Northeast.

As a journalist, I like to learn about things that make my own life better and pass them on. So if you’re renovating try clipping some pics and build a great team. I can’t say enough good things about ours. Now I can relax in my new bath….until the next project. Don’t worry Dennis it won’t be for a while!