A Colonial Revival

by Mary Nestor

Don’t bother searching for the doorbell as you stand on the red brick porch of Randy and Kathy Keuch’s Colonial-style Wexford home. You won’t find it. But if you wait for a moment, the Keuches’ golden retrievers will announce your presence and eventually a friendly face will come to greet you. That’s because the home is a new version of a much older blueprint and builder Don Horn of Jerry Horn Construction, Inc., didn’t really see the need for doorbells. To maintain the authentic line of the cornice, there are no overhead gutters either. There are no open floor plans–no bistro-height breakfast bars or wine refrigerators.

Instead, the focus is on the details in this replica of a 1905 Sewickley Colonial Revival home, which itself was modeled after a traditional design. Fascinated with period architecture since his first visit to Williamsburg in 1976, Horn has mastered the specific techniques and defining characteristics of the American classics.

“This house is a Colonial Revival from 1905 but characteristics and features go back to the period from the 1750s to the 1800s,” explains Horn. Colonial Revival saw resurgence during the first Centennial and, according to Horn, was perfected in the 1920s as wealthy industrialists built homes outside of the cities, away from the factories and filth that defined urban life a hundred years ago.

In fact, Horn began his career by restoring these older homes, but he found that they had been swallowed up by history and were often located among dilapidated communities where nobody chose to live. So instead, he decided to recreate the originals along with some of the more modern conveniences. In the Keuch home, heating and cooling systems go side by side with wood burning fireplaces and cross ventilation. Horn says it this way: “We don’t have to build a museum. But we could.”

Having built the home as a model, Horn was happy to meet the Keuches when they moved from New Jersey with their large family. Himself one of 14 children, Horn had no trouble identifying with the needs of the Keuches’ family of 10. The home was almost finished, but there was still time for a few changes. Randy remembers looking at the kitchen and realizing that the single refrigerator would “only hold a couple days of groceries. ” So, they rearranged the room and added twice as much cold storage. They also asked Horn to add an extra bay to the garage because cars, bikes, and kids are not often the best combination.

“We always wanted to buy an old home and restore it,” admits Randy. But with so many children, the Keuches had to prioritize and were happy to discover this brand new old home.

Kathy says that New Jersey offered glimpses of historic homes with interesting architecture, so she never really felt that history was that far removed. She was ready to give up the 6,800-square-foot contemporary for a different style altogether–an efficiently designed replica of a historic home where all the rooms are lived in.

The layout is very simple. The entrance hall leads from front to back and accesses four downstairs rooms. The living room, dining room, family room, and study all have real masonry fireplaces without raised hearths. Hardwood floors stained with Tung Oil, elaborate crown molding against the Restoration Hardware wall colors, and light from the many windows help establish the flow from room to room. An eat-in kitchen is actually a more modern component. Horn points out that in Colonial times kitchens were either small busy rooms at the back of the home or removed from the main house altogether. Exposed brick, painted cabinets, a coffered ceiling and chimney-style range hood help imitate Colonial motifs.

The bathrooms are also subject to interpretation because indoor plumbing itself is a rather recent phenomenon, not to mention spa tubs, bright colors, lighted vanities, or glass-front showers. The Keuch home has a total of three bathrooms, which feature simple lines and pedestal-style cabinetry. “The bathroom is a utility room to me. It’s a room you have to have but not a place you have to spend a lot of money,” explains Horn.

The lighting is never harsh or overwhelming–and much of it comes from natural sources and lots of windows. Wall sconces predominate, and there are no canned lights. “Generally, old homes tend to be low-light situations with shadowy effects,” explains Horn. “That’s part of the character–part of the detail you’re trying to pick up.”

Horn admits that having an authentic reproduction of a classic design is not for everyone, but says he appreciates the fact that the demand does keep him busy. Extensive measurements, attention to the smallest detail, and a knowledge of function and form have helped Horn bridge the gap between the old-fashioned construction and the demands of a busy, modern family.

Mary Nestor is a freelance writer living in Bowling Green, Kentucky. In addition to her work for Publication Services of America, she has published in Ms. Magazine and Chinquapin Literary Magazine.