Mike and Caryn Spangler's Villanova Farmhouse Gets a Modern Update

Housing all six Spangler family members proved to be a challenge for the house as it stood in 2010. A major overhaul, starting with the kitchen, changed all of that.

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Deep-navy walls with white trim set the tone in the formal living room. (Photo by John Lewis)

Builder: Cullen Construction, 329 E. Conestoga Road, Wayne; (610) 687-4949, cullenconstructioninc.com
Interior Designer: Barbara Gisel, Barbara Gisel Design, 365 W. Lancaster Ave., Haverford; (610) 649-1975, bgdltd.com
Architect: Kurt Fisher, Barbara Gisel Design, 365 W. Lancaster Ave., Haverford; (610) 649-1975, bgdltd.com.

Oh, what a difference a year makes. While there were many great things about the Villanova farmhouse Caryn Spangler and her husband purchased in 2010, the kitchen wasn’t one of them. “It had about five cabinets in it,” she says. “It was tiny.”

So tiny that Spangler could stand in the middle of the space and touch both walls with arms extended. “It certainly wasn’t a kitchen for a family of six,” she says.

In November 2011, Spangler’s kitchen underwent a complete, down-to-the-studs renovation out of pure necessity. Thanks to the vision of a local builder, it went from embarrassment to showpiece in last year’s fourth annual Notable Kitchen Tour & Chef Showcase, a popular fund-raising event organized by the Main Line Committee for the Philadelphia Orchestra.

The family moved to the area from Connecticut when Caryn’s husband, Mike, relocated for a new job. “I’d say 70 percent of the homes we looked at were new homes,” says Spangler. “My husband and I wanted a house that was older and had character.”

The couple also has four daughters, all under the age of 10, which made comfort and function a priority. They settled on a stone farmhouse built in the 1950s by a man who’d been the veterinarian for the Ardrossan estate. The small, outdated kitchen topped the long list of improvements, which also included insulation projects, adding bathrooms on the second floor, and installing new heating and cooling systems.

After first considering an addition, the Spanglers realized that they didn’t need any more square footage. What they needed was the space to better fit their lifestyle. Wayne-based builder Woody Cullen suggested interior designer Barbara Gisel, along with her in-house architect, Kurt Fisher.

It was immediately apparent to Fisher what was required. “All the spaces felt very separate from each other,” he says. “The Spanglers also thought that the kitchen should be more of the center of the home.”

Now, the kitchen is the main attraction. The completely reconfigured space has an open layout that flows into a breakfast area and an intimate family room.

The entire home had to be totally gutted, forcing the Spanglers to rent elsewhere for nine months. Turns out, it was worth it. “The Spanglers wanted the house to be kid friendly, but in a casual, elegant way,” says Fisher.

This meant keeping toys largely out of sight. That in mind, Fisher designed a playroom off the kitchen and above the garage. As the girls get older, it will become another family room. “Caryn can be close by in the kitchen when they’re playing, but she doesn’t have to see the mess,” says Fisher.

In the breakfast area, banquette seating was chosen for both its look and the functionality. “Four little girls become eight little girls very fast when they have their friends over,” says Gisel. “You can multiply your seating easily with that type of arrangement.”

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