A Design for the Times - A historical President’s home gets a spectacular — and much-needed — upgrade
By Lindsey Getz
When Dawne Barnes ultimately moved into the beautiful Gothic, Italianate style home that was to become her family’s new residence, it wasn’t the first time she had been there. As the wife of Rev. Dr. M. Craig Barnes, the new president of Princeton Theological Seminary, Barnes had been to various events hosted at “Springdale” while her husband had served on the Board of Trustees.
As an interior design counselor, she always enjoyed her visits to the home, but also noticed changes she would make. Of course Barnes never could have imagined she would one day be living there herself, but when Rev. Barnes was recently selected as the Seminary’s seventh president, that all changed and Barnes got to make some exciting changes to the historic home.
“Like every designer, you often redo a space in your head when you walk in,” says Barnes, who owns db design studios, her own design firm. “So when Craig was selected to be the next president, it was pretty wonderful for me to realize that after all these years of thinking about that house that I’d actually be living there.”
A Kitchen Overhaul
While spectacular in its design, “Springdale” (part of what used to be “Springdale Farm”) was in dire need of a renovation. Built in 1846, the house became the President’s home in 1903. But in the last 50 years Springdale had not seen any major work—and it was in need. Barnes says there were two objectives to the renovation: to make the house livable for a contemporary family and to bring it up to date in areas where it had fallen into disrepair. To help achieve these goals, Barnes brought in Beco Inc., a top-notch design and build firm well-known for its kitchens and baths, to work on several key aspects of the project. Company president, Timothy Pesce, was integral to the kitchen renovation, which Barnes says was one of the key pieces.
However, this was no ordinary kitchen renovation. Because the President’s home is the location for many events, it was important that the space be useable not just for the family, but also for the caterers that are necessary for the Seminary’s events. This created a need for both storage and functionality, says Pesce. It also meant there was going to be a large number of appliances in the kitchen and that created the possibility of some clutter.
“Dawne didn’t want to see them all out, so we built a hutch with pocketed doors that was very discreet,” Pesce explains. “The caterers or the family could pull out a blender or another appliance easily when needed, but there was a functional storage space to tuck them away the rest of the time.”
All in all, the new kitchen is commercial grade. It is designed to offer a ton of storage while also housing some restaurant quality equipment that makes meal preparation much easier. A commercial grade icemaker, as well as two Thermador refrigerators placed side-by-side, makes prepping for events much more efficient. “The caterers are no longer lugging things back and forth because they can just store them here,” Barnes says.
Although Springdale’s kitchen’s dual nature presents unique design needs, Pesce says it’s not all that different from designing any client’s kitchen. In the end, every homeowner wants a kitchen that is functionally intelligent, where both cooking and eating is made more efficient and therefore more enjoyable. And regardless of whether you are hosting a large Presidential gathering or a small family get-together, in most homes everyone winds up in the kitchen. It makes sense then that the space is not only functional but comfortable too. After all, the kitchen is the heart of the home.
In addition to upgrading and improving the kitchen, there was always the challenge of retaining the historic elements that made the home so unique. An effort was made to ensure that all of the rooms retained their historical balance, while still being appropriately updated for modern living with some contemporary flair. That was an area where Barnes’ design expertise was helpful, says Pesce. “A lot of homeowners have ideas about what they want and they often bring us magazine clippings or pictures,” Pesce says, “but it was clear from the start that Dawne had a vision in her head as to what she wanted out of this home renovation, and we worked closely with her on those goals.”
In the end, the renovation and updates have met Barnes’ requirements for both functionality and aesthetics, she says. With two teenage boys also under the roof, the former was critical. “The home works for all of us,” she says. “Of course we wanted to retain the wonderful historical elements that made the home so unique, but we also wanted to bring it into the 21st Century and make it livable for a modern, busy family.” And with Beco’s help, she has achieved her goals beautifully.
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Article written & published by House & Home Magazine