Honoring History in Myers Park
Remodeling a home keeps a piece of the past alive
EACH TIME Margaret Rixham saw her neighbor out for his evening walk, she teased him about buying his house.
The line was nothing more than a running joke between neighbors—until one evening in 2012, when the neighbor took Rixham up on her offer. Once the neighborly banter turned into a possible real estate deal, Rixham feared her one-liner had gone too far.
“We went to see the house and weren’t moved by it,” she admits.
The house, which was built in 1935, had fallen into disrepair and its design needed updating. Instead of coming up with a creative excuse for not making an offer, Rixham and her husband, Steve, decided to make a deal.
“This is the type of street where houses almost never go on the market—people drive up and down the street and put notes in mailboxes asking owners if they are willing to sell,” Rixham explains. “This house offered us all of the things we wanted—more square footage, a garage, a bigger yard—without leaving [Myers Park].”
The address turned out to be the most desirable part of the house.
The four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home was in such bad shape, the neighbor even gave the couple his blessing to tear it down and rebuild. But the Rixhams were undeterred.
“Anyone can knock a house down and build a new one,” says Rixham. “We liked the idea of preserving its history.”
The Rixhams hired design-build contractor Dave Prunczik and Cathy Diel of Diel Design and Interiors—both of whom had worked with the couple on the remodel of their previous home—to redesign the space.
In addition to making needed repairs, the remodel doubled the size of the home to 4,500 square feet and included the addition of a mudroom and screened porch, while expanding the dining room and guest bedroom.
One section of the house, which Rixham says was “peeling off of the rest of the house like it was attached with staples,” was demolished and a new addition was built in its place to give the couple a new main floor office and second-floor bedroom.
The couple, along with their daughter and four dogs, love to entertain and wanted an open space (and durable finishes) to welcome friends and neighbors.
“The house was in bad shape and someone else would have torn it down,” Diel says. “Margaret cared enough about the neighborhood, the house, and the man who lived here before to save it, and that guided our design decisions.”
For starters, the house wasn’t set up for a family that loves having friends over. The remodel opened up the floor plan, creating more spaces for guests—and Diel took advantage of the space to provide amenities for entertaining.
In the family room, an oversized sectional sofa from Lee Industries and a custom-made tufted ottoman anchor the room, the gathering place for neighborhood game nights. Doors leading to the screened porch—another popular hangout—flank the stone fireplace.
A custom wood arch separates the family room from the kitchen, creating a focal point in both rooms. The wide, galley-style kitchen features off-white cabinets, quartz countertops, and an island with casual seating. The centerpiece, however, is the breakfast area. There, a leather banquette, a pair of striped chairs, and a farm table are set against a backdrop of wallpaper in a classic, blackand-white interlocking design. The area is lit by an antique gold chandelier and sconces.
Antique gold accents are used throughout the design, from the kitchen cabinet hardware and lighting to the fireplace screen in the living room and décor pieces in the foyer.
“A lot of people were shocked that we were using antique gold,” Diel says. “It fits well with their traditional style and it’s become a very hot trend in design.”
The traditional design continues in the living room, with its muted tones and antique gold accents, and into the office, where dark wood paneling lines the walls.
There are also playful touches, including Dutch doors between the mudroom and family room that allow the dogs to have their own space but still feel connected to their “parents” and guests. Taken together, the main floor feels luxurious but lived-in.
“We wanted our home to be cozy and comfortable, a place where you could put your feet up and kids could come running through,” Rixham says.
Remodeling the interior led to significant changes on the exterior. The painted brick exterior was upgraded with gray shakes and stone accents to give it the Cape Cod feel that the couple favors. In the back of the house, a new stone patio leads to the mudroom and the screened porch. Artificial turf gives children and dogs a place to play, without the mess and maintenance.
Although Margaret and Steve enjoyed the renovation process, they are confident it’s their last.
“I used to have house envy every now and again but I don’t have it anymore,” Rixham says. “There isn’t one thing I feel like we’re missing or wish we had. This house meets every single one of our needs; we have everything we want.”