Couple reveals vintage home's hidden charms

A year after purchasing a 1920s Italianate-style house in Summerville, Bruce and Deborah Dyches Klassen can finally call the place their own.

No strangers to renovation - Mr. and Ms. Klassen had remodeled their previous residence, a 30-year-old house in Laguna Beach, Calif. - they were still surprised by the amount of work required to restore the 6,000-square-foot Summerville house to its former grandeur.

The electrical system and venting dated from the 1950s, the decor was antediluvian and the original plumbing was still intact - or so they thought.

During renovation, the sewer main burst, and a simple fix was impossible because the pipe ran 15 feet beneath the priceless terra cotta front patio. The Klassens chose to have a new line run to connect to the city's sewer system.

The Klassens say renovating such a residence can reveal a wealth of old treasures, such as sandstone doorway arches in the foyer (concealed beneath layers of old paint); solid-oak floors (rescued from beneath linoleum); nine authentic Italian fireplaces; and an elegant metal-framed solarium that was cleaned and refurbished.

Such amenities make up for the outmoded floor plan of an older residence, which in any case can be remade with a little creativity, they say. For example, a small back-of-the-house kitchen, appropriate for a time when servants cooked and kitchen smells were not always so savory, was neatly updated with stainless steel appliances and a little remodeling. And what was once a large storage closet was transformed into a study for 11-year-old daughter Sumner.

Ms. Klassen says she would love to see more places in the historic Summerville neighborhood adopted.

"It's always tempting to go out and buy a newer house," she said, but she suggests that nothing quite matches the atmosphere of a nicely built older home.

AT HOME WITH

THE OWNERS: Deborah Dyches and Bruce Klassen; daughter Sumner, 11

THE HOUSE: 6,000-square-foot, 1920s-era Italianate style in Summerville

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