Always Just Right
Careful attention to period pieces and thoughtful renovation make this Pennwood palace perfect all year round.
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Over the years, the Warrens have made over the secondary bathrooms, as well as installed a glamorous new master bath. They have replaced the carpet and subflooring in the dining room, family room and kitchen with oak. The basement was finished to create a man cave and media center. And the conduits from the original NuTone intercom and radio system have been repurposed to wire the house for music.
Along the road, they have discovered diverse sources for fabrics, furnishings and accessories. Peni found the pale yellow and cream floral fabric for the guestroom bedspread and curtains on closeout for less than $2 a yard. She bought big, plush claret-colored sofas online from Restoration Hardware. Lucy Findlay of Partners in Design on Dover’s historic Loockerman Street helped her find such unique accessories as the vessel lamp in the family room and also designed custom swags for the windows. “There is just a touch of metallic in the fabric, which plays off the chandelier,” Peni says.
Outdoors, the Warrens took out a walkway that sloped from the street to their front door—an unwelcome delivery chute for rainwater—then installed a winding paver walkway that reflects the brick of the house and solves the drainage problem. A concrete pad in the back yard, the foundation for a previous owner’s dog kennel, now serves as a secondary patio. It is surrounded by a lush, dappled-shade garden of hostas, ferns, rhododendrons and mahonia, which is known for its holly-like leaves and clusters of berries.
A dense stand of tulip poplars, beech trees and white oaks once dominated the yard. The Warrens were inspired to selectively thin the grove after a large tree was knocked down in a storm, removing trees that were diseased or had soft, shallow roots. The resulting space inspired a free-form swimming pool that glistens like a huge sapphire. Mel designed the modified hourglass shape of the pool and chose the black iron picket fence. Peni came up with the idea of building a rock waterfall that cascades into the pool.
“After a stressful day at work, you come home, put the waterfall on and forget about the cares of the day,” she says.
The Warrens are especially fond of an enclosed porch a few steps from the pool, where the only adjustment required was putting a proper seal on the flagstone floor. Overhead is a pine plank ceiling where the original ceiling fan whirls softly. It’s a timeless place, a space for all seasons.
“We’re toasty warm here in the winter, watching the snow. And in summer, we enjoy a little breeze and the garden,” Peni says. “It is always just right.”
GET THE LOOK
- Listen to your home. Find ways to retain its original character in your renovation.
- Pace yourself. If your house is structurally sound and has a good floor plan, design and execute one project a year instead of making over your entire home in one fell swoop.
- Turn tradition on its ear. Peni Warren takes such fresh approaches as teaming a sequin cushion with a twig garden chair and a hammered brass tray-top table from India with traditional sofas.
- Surround yourself with reminders of those near and dear. In the Warren home, you will find an autographed picture of Ava Gardner, a college classmate of Mel Warren’s father, as well as pieces from his collection of Victorian furniture.
- Repurpose with purpose. Surrounded by lovely plantings, a concrete slab poured for a previous owner’s dog kennel becomes a small patio.