To that end, local couple Kenny Guice and Alison Cody left as little to chance as possible by approaching their renovation methodically and pragmatically. For them, the right house was less about imposing columns or a quaint picket fence and much more about form following function. "We made a list of all the things we do and how much we do them," says Cody, a graphic designer, who served as consultant and designer. Guice, a real estate investor and construction manager who's renovated 18 properties Uptown and in Mid-City, served as designer and builder and did much of the work himself.
"We made a list of all the furniture and its dimensions. Then we took the layout and modified it to meet our needs together and separately, the dogs' needs, and the furniture. The concept was to open up everything as much as possible but still have some separate spaces for when we want to be alone. Kenny likes big, loftlike spaces, but it was really important to me to have privacy at times. We both wanted all the spaces to be peaceful and comfortable."
Built around 1905 in a transitional blend of Victorian, Edwardian and Arts and Crafts styles, the house's floor plan and architecture were convoluted and congested, partly from a previous renovation in the 1970s. In an effort to simplify and modernize the 2300 square-foot residence, Guice and Cody gutted and reconfigured the interior, removed fussy details like elaborate, large scale fireplaces and excessive moldings, replaced mullioned windows and French doors topped with transoms with solid-paned, floor-to-ceiling windows, and lightened the interior with a palette of neutral, custom-mixed wall colors. Because the original heart of pine floors couldn't be sanded anymore, they were overlaid with red oak and sealed with water based polyurethane to maintain their light color.
On the ground level, the couple eliminated the wall and pocket doors separating the living and dining rooms and joined them into one elongated room delineated by furniture. Across the rear of the first floor, they reclaimed a 15 x 15 area used as a utility room and combined it with adjoining space that had been a den and powder room to create one large rectangular room, which now houses a new kitchen and den overlooking a deck on one side and a patio on the other. "It was important that the den and kitchen be connected because I cook and I like to be in the action when I cook," says Cody. "This part of the house is the great room," adds Guice. "We share it with the dogs and we spend most of our time here." What had been a small kitchen was transformed into an office for Guice and a powder-room-size full bath that cleverly economizes on space with a minimum of fixtures: a slim, pedestal sink, a glass-front shower, and a medicine cabinet designed to look like an aspirin. Upstairs, which previously included three bedrooms and two baths, was reconstructed to have two bedrooms, two spa-inspired baths, a walk-in closet, a laundry room and an office for Cody. Though the living space increased by only about 225 square feet, the renewed house lives larger and is a brighter, more pared-down version of its traditional roots, a canvas well suited to the couple's combined aesthetic.
A collector for thirty years and the former co-owner of Melange, an antique silver business, Guice is drawn to fine antiques and iconic 20th century furniture designs. Silver, Napoleonic items, military motifs, and signed modern pieces put out by licensed manufacturers like Knoll are among his favorite belongings. He also collects works by the renowned French Symbolist (a precursor of the 20th century Surrealist movement) Odilon Redon, an ancestor on his mother's side of the family. "My taste is eclectic," says Guice. "I don't have a problem with mixing things up." The common denominator among his selections is an appreciation for quality, integrity and good design.
Cody, whose penchant for design with wit and weakness for accents of red and bright color can be found throughout the house, likewise believes that good design is available from a variety of sources, including thrift stores, flea markets and mass market retailers like Target, Pottery Barn and IKEA. "It doesn't matter where I find it, if it's designed and made well and it works in the space, I'll buy it. Most people can't tell which things in this house were expensive and which were inexpensive," she adds, noting that she spent hours online researching and comparing prices on everything from light fixtures to hardware. "We collected pictures of everything we liked and then tried to find the most cost effective way to replicate it." The sink in the guest bathroom, for example, was inspired by one in a high-end retail catalog, but purchased for about half the price through a plumbing supply representative. Cody is acutely attuned not only to how a design looks, but also to how it functions. "Everything about the house was designed for an easy, relaxed lifestyle," she says. Features that make the house easy to maintain include a central vacuum system, plenty of hidden storage, Corian countertops, and kitchen flooring made of marmoleum, a durable, nonabsorbent material used in hospitals and battleships.
"I looked at this project as I do my graphic design work," says Cody. The challenge was to create an elegant solution to a clearly defined, if complex, problem. A lot of work went into the layout and selection of materials, and, for me, it pays off every day."
"I like that we maximized the use of every square inch of the space," adds Guice. "I'm just glad it's finished and I'm looking forward to the next project."