Before and After: A Dark 1880s Row Home Gets an Airy Makeover

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By Lucy Wang
After suffering years of neglect, a historic row home breathes new life as a chic and modern residence.

Kate Hostetter of Brentwood Builders vividly remembers the first time she saw the 1880s brick row home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. "The home was dark and small and smelled like cat pee—not inspiring at all," she says with a laugh.

Yet with the help of an excellent team of local contractors, Kate and her husband, Brent, dramatically transformed the outdated 1,100-square-foot space into a spectacular light-filled home. Scroll ahead for remarkable "before" and "after" images of the remodel.

Before:

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Here is a look at the 1,100-square-foot brick home before the renovation.

Here is a look at the 1,100-square-foot brick home before the renovation.

In addition to its small windows, the dwelling also had a cramped and confusing layout.

In addition to its small windows, the dwelling also had a cramped and confusing layout.

The home lacked natural light, making the interiors feel dark and dreary.

The home lacked natural light, making the interiors feel dark and dreary.

Low ceilings contributed to the interior's claustrophobic feel.

Low ceilings contributed to the interior's claustrophobic feel.

The house originally only had one bathroom, which was inconveniently located behind the two upstairs bedrooms.

The house originally only had one bathroom, which was inconveniently located behind the two upstairs bedrooms.

A peek at one of the two bedrooms.

A peek at one of the two bedrooms.

After:

The team softened the brick facade with off-white paint (Oc-17 White Dove), which complemented the striking black-framed windows and doors (Hc-178 Charcoal Slate). 

The team softened the brick facade with off-white paint (Oc-17 White Dove), which complemented the striking black-framed windows and doors (Hc-178 Charcoal Slate). 

"The layout was really impractical," notes Kate, explaining that the home had just one bathroom that could only be reached by going upstairs and walking through both bedrooms.

To give the interior a more open and spacious feel, the team exposed the ceiling beams. 

To give the interior a more open and spacious feel, the team exposed the ceiling beams. 

Knocking down walls was a natural first step. By combining the formerly separated rooms into a more open-plan layout, the team introduced a spacious feel to the house. 

A look inside the renovated second bedroom, which comes with its own bathroom. Yellow pine now lines the floors.

A look inside the renovated second bedroom, which comes with its own bathroom. Yellow pine now lines the floors.

The airy character was strengthened by additional glazing, raised ceilings with exposed beams, and white paint applied to the walls.

The white countertops are made from concrete and the wooden cabinets have been painted a subtle shade of sage. The floors are white oak hardwood.

The white countertops are made from concrete and the wooden cabinets have been painted a subtle shade of sage. The floors are white oak hardwood.

Another key to the redesign was revamping the layout. The staircase was moved from the kitchen to the area opposite the dining room and fitted with a delicate metal railing.

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Subway tile surrounds the bathtub in the second bathroom.

Subway tile surrounds the bathtub in the second bathroom.

The upper level was also completely rethought; a second full bath was added so that each bedroom would now have its own bathroom.

The team removed walls to create an airy, open-plan layout. Here, the dining room enjoys access to natural light from both the front and back sides of the house.

The team removed walls to create an airy, open-plan layout. Here, the dining room enjoys access to natural light from both the front and back sides of the house.

Woven grass textures and intimate lighting fixtures create a cozy atmosphere at the dining table. Lighting was sourced from Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, and World Market.

Woven grass textures and intimate lighting fixtures create a cozy atmosphere at the dining table. Lighting was sourced from Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, and World Market.

Previously located in the kitchen, the staircase was moved to the space opposite the dining area, and was opened up with a delicate metal railing.

Previously located in the kitchen, the staircase was moved to the space opposite the dining area, and was opened up with a delicate metal railing.

A small workspace now takes advantage of the cozy nook beneath the stairs.

A small workspace now takes advantage of the cozy nook beneath the stairs.

Ironically, minimal work was required in the backyard, which was simply cleaned up and power washed. The fish pond in the rear was also filled in.

Ironically, minimal work was required in the backyard, which was simply cleaned up and power washed. The fish pond in the rear was also filled in.

 Grasscloth wallpaper from Wallquest has been added to the kitchen. This was one of the many ways Kate accomplished her design goal of bringing the "outside in."

 Grasscloth wallpaper from Wallquest has been added to the kitchen. This was one of the many ways Kate accomplished her design goal of bringing the "outside in."

The brick wall was exposed in the master bedroom for an extra pop of texture.

The brick wall was exposed in the master bedroom for an extra pop of texture.

The ceiling of the master bedroom was raised to the roofline, which additionally opened up the space.

The ceiling of the master bedroom was raised to the roofline, which additionally opened up the space.

Thanks to the new large windows and crips white paint, the living room now encompasses a fresh, inviting atmosphere.

Thanks to the new large windows and crips white paint, the living room now encompasses a fresh, inviting atmosphere.

To create more natural light, Brentwood Builders also added a back door to the kitchen.

To create more natural light, Brentwood Builders also added a back door to the kitchen.

Twin pendant lights hang above the breakfast bar at the far end of the kitchen.

Twin pendant lights hang above the breakfast bar at the far end of the kitchen.

Handcrafted clay subway tiles line one side of the kitchen. Brentwood Builders custom built the open shelving, fitted with TrueNorth Metalworks brackets.

Handcrafted clay subway tiles line one side of the kitchen. Brentwood Builders custom built the open shelving, fitted with TrueNorth Metalworks brackets.

White shiplap continues from the first floor to the second, which houses the two bedrooms.

White shiplap continues from the first floor to the second, which houses the two bedrooms.

Sage-colored clay tiles line the shower stall in the master bath. 

Sage-colored clay tiles line the shower stall in the master bath. 

The double vanity in the master bath has a concrete trough sink with a wood slab counter.

The double vanity in the master bath has a concrete trough sink with a wood slab counter.

A close up of the dainty tile floors in the revamped bath.

A close up of the dainty tile floors in the revamped bath.

A look at the rear of the house as seen from the backyard.

A look at the rear of the house as seen from the backyard.

Project Credits: 

Architect of Record and General Contractor: Brentwood Builders

Interior Design: Kate Hostetter

Paint / Wallpaper: Grauer’s Paint & Decorating

Custom Metalworking: TrueNorth Metalworks

Concrete Countertops + Sink: Tyler Martin

Tilework: Logan Dienner at Renovations by Dienner