Affordable renovation for house outgrown by family

The garage space in Les and Amy Sabulsky's home becamea mudroom, a bedroom for their son, and a playroom.
The garage space in Les and Amy Sabulsky's home becamea mudroom, a bedroom for their son, and a playroom. (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 28, 2014

The Sabulskys had outgrown their home.

Twins Ava and Emma had turned 6 years old and were still sleeping in the nursery just outside the bedroom of their parents, Les and Amy Sabulsky. Son Joshua, a student at Temple University, was still sleeping in the attic on the second floor.

The girls needed a grown-up room; Josh wanted his own entrance and more privacy. The family's Elkins Park house was bursting at the seams, and the old layout was part of the problem.

"We didn't want to move. We love this house and use every inch of it," said Amy Sabulsky, a former educator.

They liked their neighborhood and the easy access to the city that the nearby Regional Rail line afforded. (Josh, 22, can get to class in 20 minutes; Les, an educator, can commute to work.)

"But we didn't want to do a 'Reno special,' as a lot of contractors call a cheap renovation," said Les Sabulsky.

So for $150,000, the Sabulskys completed a full renovation of their 1951 Cape Cod-style abode last year.

Their contractor, Jim LeBair of JRL Design, recommended they start the renovation by converting the two-car garage, built into the back of the house, into a mudroom with its own entrance, a new bedroom for Josh, and a playroom for the twins.

Using computer software so the couple could change and play with the design if they needed to, the contractor laid out a strategy. Since the old cinderblock garage structure had to be insulated and was prone to moisture and leaks, "we really put a lot of the money we'd budgeted into the structural work," Amy Sabulsky said.

JRL dug a foundation, and she picked out moisture- and bacteria-resistant laminate floors and ceiling fans to circulate air.

"They're very durable," Amy said of the floors, which she used throughout the renovated areas, especially where the house's original oak floors were so damaged that they had to be covered.

Now, there's mudroom space for jackets, shoes, toys, and sports equipment, plus enough to let Oliver, the dog, in the house without tracking dirt upstairs.

The Sabulskys also installed an alarm system in the converted garage so they can hear Josh coming and going from Temple, where he's a communications major.

JRL recommended that they add an extra sump pump in the basement just in case, and that they stucco the exterior of the garage to match the house.

"Now you can't tell that it was ever a garage," Amy said.

And that change led to many others.

Twins Emma and Ava moved out of the nursery off the master bedroom and upstairs to their brother's old room.

The girls share a dormered space painted yellow. A renovated bathroom features a new toilet and sandstone counters.

"They're going to be teenagers, painting their nails and using makeup soon, so we needed something durable for the bathroom counter," Amy said.

With the girls relocated, Amy and Les now had more space to play with, and they wanted to convert the old nursery into a sitting/dressing area with additional closets.

JRL broke through a wall to expand into the dressing area, and Amy picked out French doors and had the contractor build a special window seat with storage potential.

"I splurged on both those," she said.

They borrowed space from the master bedroom to create a new first-floor powder room (the house's third bathroom) adjacent to the living room. The Sabulskys saved money where possible, using laminate floors there.

The result is just what they family hoped for: Josh got his personal entrance; the twins got their new bedroom, plus a playroom; the household got a mudroom and another bathroom, and Mom and Dad got more space for themselves.

"Bottom line, we are a family of five plus a dog. Our house is lived in," Les said, laughing. "It is definitely not a museum!"

215-854-2808 @erinarvedlund

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