Looking out her back window at an old stone well, the Niantic River just off in the distance, Meghan Wilczewski is transported back in time. “There’s a picture of me sitting on that well when I was a little kid,” she says. “Seeing that well always reminds me of my grandparents’ house.” The Waterford property is filled with happy memories; not only is it where her grandparents lived, but it’s where her mother was raised.
The family rented it out for a few years after Meghan’s grandparents died before putting it on the market. And that’s when Meghan and her husband, Tom, decided to purchase the modest 1950s ranch-style house with the intent to transform it into their forever home. “We knew we wanted to do extensive renovations, take it down to the studs, and create an open-concept feel while utilizing the space more effectively,” Meghan says.
They called on builder Nick Uccello, owner of Uccello Development of Rocky Hill, soon after Meghan, a former local television reporter, interviewed him while on assignment for the Home Builders Association’s Parade of Homes, an event showcasing builders’ latest creations. He first put them in touch with Architect Denise Von Dassel of KV Designs of Old Saybrook, with whom he’s worked on past projects, including his own remodeled ranch home. “When I started the planning process for my own house, I was telling Denise about it and she had some really good ideas. So, I had her do the designs,” says Uccello, whose family has been constructing and renovating homes for more than 30 years. “I thought she would be a great fit for Meghan and Tom’s house.”
While living in their condo in Glastonbury, the couple met with Von Dassel on the architectural plans to maximize space and add an additional 600 square feet to the 1,700-square-foot interior. By knocking down walls and relocating the basement stairs that once separated the kitchen from the living room, they achieved an open kitchen, living and dining area.
Former rooms have new purposes, such as the sunroom, which is now a master suite with a large walk-in closet and huge bathroom with a stand-up shower, double vanity and soaker tub. They borrowed space for the master bathroom from the single garage, which now also boasts a mudroom, laundry area and powder room. And her grandparents’ old den has been turned into an office/playroom.
As dramatic as the interior changes were, the outside saw an even bigger transformation, giving the house serious curb appeal. A double garage was added to the front of the house as well a large porch, which was Meghan’s absolute must-have. Two gables, above the porch and roof, offer architectural interest to what was a straight roofline.
Torello Brothers Landscaping of Rocky Hill, also recommended by Uccello, graded and seeded the yard as well as built a new bluestone walkway leading to the front of the house, as well as a large patio in the back. The coastal landscape design is complete with greenery, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, azaleas, black-eyed Susans, carpet rose, and a limelight hydrangea tree.
“My husband and I, our fathers, my uncle and my husband’s cousin did all of the demo work,” recalls Meghan, who says they started gutting the house on Father’s Day weekend of 2018 with construction starting that September. “We took down all of the walls, ripped up the floors, and filled a massive dumpster with 13,500 pounds of material. My dad’s home improvement company [Waterford-based Yost Home Improvements] took on most of the exterior work, including the roof, siding, front door, garage doors, and porch ceiling. Basically anything he could do, we had him do.”
Despite all the work that was done, Meghan says it didn’t make sense to tear down the home and start from scratch. While there was a cost savings in not having to change the foundation, there was also sentimental value. “To my mom it feels like a brand-new house,” Meghan says. “But, at the same time, when she goes into what was the old den, she can still picture how it used to be. There are certain spaces that remind her of her childhood home.”
For Meghan, now a stay-at-home mom with a lifestyle blog, MeghanYost.com, and Tom, a finance executive at Pratt & Whitney, the house is perfect. And just as Meghan imagined, the porch is used often. Most mornings and evenings when it’s warm enough, they are outside with their daughter, who’s nearing 2 years old. In August 2018, while they were waiting for their permit to begin construction, Meghan found out she was pregnant.
“In hindsight, if anyone was taking on a project like this, I would actually recommend using an interior designer,” she says, admitting that driving around looking at tile, quartz, marble and more while pregnant, working and selling their condo was overwhelming. “I think it would have made the project much less stressful if I could have told someone my design aesthetic and they came to me with options.”
But they got it all done, making the major decisions on every detail, she says, from fixtures to flooring and hardware to paint, before the arrival of their daughter in April 2019, and before moving in two months later.
An easy decision and one made with a sense of nostalgia was choosing to incorporate design elements from her grandparents’ wood-carving business as well as their vacation home in Maine. “We have two of their whales hanging in our kitchen and a window from their Maine vacation home on the wall of our entryway,” Meghan says. “These are just a couple of ways we’ve paid tribute to my grandparents and helped keep their memory alive.”