Trisch and Brian Ferreira Home Renovation: North Wilmington, Delaware
Improving With Age: The Ferreiras are turning an older brick house into their dream home.
Trisch, Brian and Pebbles the English setter, relax by the fire.
At a Glance…
Who Trisch and Brian Ferreira
What A stately brick home
built in the 1940s
where North Wilmington
Because Brian Ferreira sells real estate, he is well acquainted with the intrinsic power of curb appeal, that blend of architecture and setting that makes a home so appealing it inspires passers-by to turn their heads, tap the brakes, and say, “wow!”
He and his wife, Trisch, found it in a stately house on a sylvan street in North Wilmington, a big, red brick house with a cedar shake roof, a massive chimney and all the charm and glamour of the 1940s, when it was built.
“We love the true, divided-light windows, the arches, the substantial feel of the doors,” Trisch Ferreira says.
The house is set back from the road behind an expansive lawn that conjures images of croquet parties and Champagne picnics. The back yard is ensconced in mature trees. The gardens are lush with 50 years of plantings. And there’s a pool.
“We knew we would not find this house anywhere else,” Brian Ferreira recalls. “It takes a lot of time to establish a setting like this—except we wouldn’t have to wait.”
But while the trees benefited from years of growth, time was not as kind to the interior of the house, which suffered from a dated kitchen and baths, a choppy entrance and a paucity of closet space.
That left the Ferreiras with a big question. Could they make the inside of the house look as beautiful as the outside?
Fortuitously, both spouses are visually gifted. Trisch Ferreira is a graphic designer. Brian Ferreira is an award-winning photographer, whose work has appeared in USA Today and many other publications.
When they looked inside the house, they saw potential, as well as significant assets. A gracious formal living room offers a fireplace and space for the baby grand piano handed down from Trisch’s grandfather—just the right spot for their son, Ethan, to practice. An open sunroom with eight majestic arched windows and a slate floor would make an ideal family room.
A cramped entrance hall, squeezed when a previous owner added a coat closet, could become a bright and inviting foyer. A tiny upstairs bedroom was re-imagined as a spacious dressing room. And the small three-season porch on the back of the house, then distinguished only by its purple indoor-outdoor carpeting, could be incorporated into a larger, more open kitchen.
Leaving it to the Pros
The Ferreiras are experienced renovator who know how to add value to a property. They tackled a kitchen themselves in a starter home in South Jersey, taking on the grueling task of installing cabinets, appliances and countertops.
“But that was before we became parents,” Brian Ferreira says. “Life changes after you have kids.”
This time around, they would leave the kitchen renovation to the professionals. That project went to the top of their to-do list after a leak in a second-floor bath caused extensive damage in the kitchen.
The Ferreiras interviewed a number of designers to take on the job. They found the perfect match in Katy Wolfington, owner of Waterbury Kitchen & Bath in Kennett Square.
“There will be someone who does it for price, someone who does it for beauty and someone who brings the best of both worlds,” he says. “After we talked with Katy, it was clear that we had the same esthetic.”
Even if you hire someone to do the heavy lifting, renovations require substantial effort on the part of the homeowner. It’s no fun washing dishes in the bathtub while the kitchen is out of commission. Ditto for spending money on plumbing and other infrastructure nobody will ever see.
“Remodeling is a long process,” Wolfington says. “It’s very important to get to know each other well and to understand each other’s expectations up front.”
What’s Cooking in the Kitchen?
Wolfington and Trisch Ferreira worked together closely on each stage of the project to create a kitchen that is as attractive as it is functional.
Bringing in more natural light was a priority for the Ferreiras. Incorporating an adjoining three-season porch would usher in a view of the garden, as well as provide space for gathering.
As it turned out, the only part of the porch that could be saved was the roof. The rest had to be rebuilt from the ground up.
But when it was done, the Ferreiras had precisely what they wanted, a cheerful area for casual dining or reading in front of a new fireplace. A heated floor of travertine marble provides additional warmth.
Originally, the kitchen was accessed from the foyer through a single swinging door. The Ferreiras removed the door, widened the passage and installed a large window overlooking the garden.
The result is a clear sightline from the front door all the way to the back of the house, a traditional hallmark of stately homes.
Under the window, there’s a built-in window seat, a custom touch that looks as if it came straight out of the 1940s. It’s a charming welcome to the kitchen—and also practical because the seat opens for storage.
“It’s a place to stash stuff we don’t want to look at,” Trisch Ferreira says. “Dog food bins, grocery totes, towels for the pool.”
The Ferreiras wanted to retain the style of the kitchen in keeping with the rest of the house. A sleek and contemporary space would feel out of place. So they chose classic materials and vintage touches, such as a large hood over the cooktop and retro-style pulls for cabinets and drawers from Restoration Hardware.
For the cabinets, the couple opted for contrasting finishes, a dove-white painted cabinet for upper cupboards and primary cabinets and an espresso stain on maple wood for the panels on the Bosch refrigerator and the furniture-style cabinetry for the Wolf six-burner cooktop. Pull-out drawers make it easy to access pots and pans.
Because the couple enjoys cooking with family and friends, they wanted to maximize the work area in the kitchen. There’s a big, deep sink for prep and clean up. A pair of Miele wall ovens make it easy to entertain a crowd and also free counter space.
The countertops are Emperador marble, a rich and lively chocolate brown stone with a leathered finish. The final stage of the project will be a show-stopping backsplash of Calcutta marble.
Today, the kitchen is a daily pleasure for the family. There’s an informal beverage area, with glass-fronted storage for barware and crystal. No more jockeying for counter space.
“The true test of value is not what you spend, it’s what you get out of it,” says Trisch Ferreira. “We can work together at the same time. The kitchen has flow.”
An Ongoing Project
Throughout the house, the Ferreiras are ticking projects off their to-do list. The warmth from a fire pit allows the family to enjoy the outdoors well into winter. The foyer is open and grand with a shimmering mosaic stone floor.
A secondary bedroom has been reborn as a luxurious dressing room, with built-in storage for clothes, shoes and accessories. “A family of three does not need a four-bedroom house,” Brian Ferreira says. “But everyone needs a large, organized place for clothes.”
But if the Ferreiras do need more space, it’s at the ready. A large room on the first floor, currently Ethan’s playroom, can be converted into a master suite.
“Another project,” Brian says.
- Make a grand entrance. A large open foyer with a mosaic stone floor lets guests know they are entering some place special.
- Open up the line of sight. For centuries, a hallmark of stately homes has been a floor plan that allows a visitor who enters the house to see clear through to the back.
- It’s all in the finishes. Furniture-grade cabinets, lively marble countertops and stainless appliances transform a kitchen from utilitarian to sumptuous.
- Rethink your spaces. If you have lots of bedrooms but are short on closets, transform an unused bedroom into a dressing room you will enjoy every day.
- Be patient. If you have your heart set on a Calcutta marble backsplash, don’t compromise your vision. Wait until you can buy precisely what you want.