Houzz Tour: Historic Virginia Foursquare Gets Freshened Up (19 photos)

Houzz Tour: Historic Virginia Foursquare Gets Freshened Up (19 photos)

A Roanoke, Virginia, couple saw great potential in this foursquare house in the city’s historic square, but they knew they had their work cut out for them. They called upon Circle Design Studio, a design-build firm they’d hired to renovate their previous home, to help give this one a refresh that respected the 1925 architecture. Interior designer Emily Borg worked closely with the couple to preserve the home’s historic details while making the layout and style functional for them. The result is a fresh and personal mix of styles that works well with the traditional home.

Before Photo

“After” photos by Kip Dawkins

House at a Glance
Who lives here: A couple and their young daughter
Location: Roanoke, Virginia
Size: 3,000 square feet (279 square meters); 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms
Design and build: Theresa and John Dorlini of Circle Design Studio

Before: First a word about the condition of the house in the “before” photos. One of the homeowners is a real estate agent and snapped the home up before it hit the market. So the state of the house in these photos reflects the organizing and packing up of a lifetime’s worth of belongings that was underway when the design-build firm popped in to start its planning.

The home had undergone a few renovations and an addition over the decades, and at one point it had been a duplex. But the beautiful architectural details such as millwork and pocket doors were intact. It was these kinds of details and the location in the town square that drew the homeowners to the house.

Borg’s previous work with the homeowners gave her a running start, as she already understood their style. “When I worked with these clients before, they lived in a ranch house and were more interested in midcentury modern style,” she says. “But they knew with this house they wanted to lean into the traditional style of the architecture.”

CIRCLE Design Studio
After: Borg was able to strike a balance between highlighting the architectural features of the home while updating it with a mix of furniture and accessories. One way she accomplished this was through light fixtures. She helped her clients choose fixtures that presented timeless shapes and finishes in a fresh, modern way.

The moldings in this room are original, including the picture rails and wainscoting. Borg added a ceiling medallion around the light fixture. “A ceiling medallion is of the period, but we kept it more modern by streamlining it,” she says.

The homeowners brought much of their existing furniture with them and Borg helped them incorporate new pieces to tie everything together. For example, they already had the living room sofa and Borg helped them find the right coffee table and channel-tufted leather armchairs to complement it.

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CIRCLE Design Studio
“My clients had found the fabulous chartreuse chair at a thrift store,” Borg says. In addition to working with existing furniture, she helped them source art to fill out their collection. “We wanted to take advantage of the picture rail molding in here,” she says. “I knew they liked artwork that reminded them of places they lived and loved, so we found some art that reflected Roanoke and Washington, D.C., as well as a map of Nova Scotia — they had fond memories of a vacation there.”

Wainscoting and pocket door paint: Knitting Needle, Sherwin-Williams; wall paint (throughout first floor): Gossamer Veil, Sherwin-Williams

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CIRCLE Design Studio
Original double pocket doors separate the living room from the dining room. The team sanded off the paint to get to the original wood. “Our clients loved the honey tones in the original doors in the house,” Borg says. “We used a water-based seal to maintain this. A traditional oil sealant could have deepened the color and made it appear more reddish.” The red oak floors are original. The team used an oil-based sealant on them to help enhance the contrast between the wood tones of the floors and the wood tones of the doors and trim.

Trim paint (throughout the house): Origami White, Sherwin-Williams

CIRCLE Design Studio
The clients already had the dining room furniture. “The chairs were another thrift find,” Borg says. “They were so perfect with their chartreuse velvet cushions that connect them to the living room chair.” She found the landscape painting that serves as a focal point. An Oriental rug with lots of red tones warms the room and plays nicely off the chartreuse cushions.

The faceted light fixture is mercury glass. “They had ordered a light they found online that looked nothing like they thought it would, so I found this one for them.” Borg says. “It turned out to be one of their favorite things in the whole house. It looks so good at night that neighbors who have seen it while walking by ask them about it.”

The original wide molding around the windows and on the baseboards is another traditional asset. And check out the beautiful original picture window with diamond-pane sidelights on the right.

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Before Photo

Before: The kitchen had been off the back of the house in an addition. Borg determined that this more open and central area around the stairs would be the best spot to place the kitchen and dining room.

CIRCLE Design Studio
After:The built-ins on the left are original, but Borg replaced the partial wall on the right with a bar that connects the kitchen and dining room. Past the fridge there’s a mudroom and pantry closet.

After adding the new bar on the right, Borg connected it to the original built-ins on the left by repeating the columnar posts and wainscoting.

CIRCLE Design Studio
In the couple’s previous home, Borg had helped them with a two-tone cabinet scheme in gray and white. “They wanted to do two-tone again but do it in a different way with wood,” she says. They landed on maple with a nice light tone, which works well with the red oak floors.

The upper cabinets and backsplash are white. “The subway tiles are elongated, which updated this traditional element,” Borg says. “They are almost pearlescent, which helped make this such a light and airy kitchen.” The tiles also have a handmade tumbled look that adds character. The countertops are quartzite, a natural stone with a marble-like look that’s more durable than marble.

CIRCLE Design Studio
“These windows gave the kitchen such great light,” Borg says. To enhance the airy feel, the homeowners were open to the idea of open shelving in the kitchen. They had also shared lots of inspiration photos they liked that had art rails. “I knew we couldn’t do deep floating shelves here because of the sink placement,” Borg says. “I found a source for these brass railings in Pennsylvania and we all thought they were really neat. I drew up a quick sketch of how they could work with the maple wood and the art, plants and knickknacks my clients love and the result is unique.” The long lower shelf provides a natural edge for the backsplash, and Borg topped the wall off with an art light centered between the windows.

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CIRCLE Design Studio
The range backsplash has special local significance. “These bricks were the original street paver bricks in Roanoke,” Borg says. “They have little star details that make them very recognizable, and people here know and love these bricks.” The homeowners found them in the backyard, and the co-owner of the design-build firm, John Dorlini, came up with the idea to use them as a backsplash.

This was a challenge but it paid off. Because these are bricks and not a thin veneer, the wall behind the range had to be notched out so the bricks could line up with the rest of the backsplash. “This detail makes the kitchen feel very personal and connected to Roanoke,” Borg says.

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CIRCLE Design Studio
The first floor has a guest bedroom and this full bathroom that doubles as a powder room. “Our clients wanted a bit of moodiness, so we went with a dark blue on the walls and ceiling,” Borg says. “It provides a nice contrast to the tall white tile wainscoting.”

“They also wanted to mix the traditional style of the home with some modern touches. So while a console sink is of the home’s historic period, its clean lines are more modern,” Borg says. The aged brass on the mirror and vintage print’s frame add some patina and age to the space.

Because this is a guest bath and there’s a closet right outside the bathroom door, they didn’t need much storage in here. The area around the sink’s edge and the ledge on the mirror provide spots for toothpaste and other travel-size toiletries.

Wall paint: Naval, Sherwin-Williams

CIRCLE Design Studio
The homeowners’ wishes for their primary bathroom informed the color palette for the entire suite. “One of the homeowners loves green and she wanted to do something fun, different and more dramatic than usual in the bathroom,” Borg says. They landed on these beautiful tiles that bring in a variety of green tones.

“In their old house, the whole family shared one bathroom, so that made them want as much storage as possible,” Borg says. “And while I first suggested a trough sink, they knew they didn’t want to share a sink.” She gave them two sinks, maximized drawer space and added two recessed mirrored medicine cabinets for additional storage. The countertop is quartz.

The flooring is a through-body porcelain with a slate-like look. “This is highly durable, but through-body means it’s the same color all the way through, so any chips or other damage won’t really show,” Borg says. “We chose 12-by24-inch tiles that require less grout, which means less grout to clean.”

CIRCLE Design Studio
The shower walls are also a large-scale tile, this time in a lighter color. “They did not want a glass shower surround because they didn’t want to deal with keeping it clean, so we closed it in,” Borg says. The shower has a rain shower head, a fixed shower head and a handheld wand. The designer placed the thermal controls on the left so that the bather can reach in and turn on the water without getting wet.

The shower floor is from the same line as the main bathroom floor but in a smaller mosaic version. Borg gave the niche clean contrasting edges with dark-colored Schluter strips.

CIRCLE Design Studio

“We pulled together the bedroom in response to the green tiles,” Borg says. “They brought two dressers with them but I helped them put together everything else in the room.” The linen drapes and the rug pick up on the green hues, while the warmer tones provide complementary colors.

CIRCLE Design Studio
Natural materials like the woven bench, rattan nightstands and wood bed work well with the green.

The mirror’s reflection reveals Borg’s use of another ceiling medallion around the light fixture.

CIRCLE Design Studio

Off the bedroom was a porch that had been enclosed during a previous renovation. The team transformed it into a relaxing sitting room for reading. They also added a large closet to the couple’s bedroom suite.

CIRCLE Design Studio
“At the time we were working on the project, their 4-year-old daughter’s favorite color was blue,” Borg says. The couple first considered painting the existing wainscoting blue and the walls and ceiling white, but then realized that children’s favorite colors are likely to change on a whim. Because it’s much easier to repaint flat walls than it is to get into all those little crevices on the wainscoting, they switched their strategy. The wainscoting can stay white and they can change the walls to any other color of the rainbow in the future with much more ease.

After finding this cute chandelier, Borg knew painting the ceiling blue too would help it stand out. She added more colors to the space through fun curtains, tassels on the duvet and an area rug. This photo also shows the beauty of the original honey-toned wood doors.

Wall paint: Blue Whirlpool, Sherwin-Williams

Before Photo

Before: Their daughter’s bathroom didn’t have storage or a shower. The homeowners hung on to the claw-foot tub and plan to use it as part of an outdoor shower project in the future.

CIRCLE Design Studio
After: Looking through her clients’ inspiration photos, Borg gleaned that they were drawn to dark cabinetry, white marble and very clean-looking tiles. Because of the door to the room’s placement, she knew she needed a vanity that was shallower than the standard 21 inches deep. She was able to find a readymade vanity just 19 inches deep. This was a perfect fit and was already painted dark blue, saving on the budget. This served as the jumping-off point for the color palette.

From there, Borg set out to find a floor tile that would have a degree of playfulness for the young girl. “My clients loved the geometric tile I found and it provided a nice juxtaposition to the traditional and timeless marble look around the tub-shower,” she says.

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