Remodel turns a house into a comfy North End home

Long, long ago, where the fireplace now stands, there used to be displays of candy where children would stare and admire and make their choices. A sign stashed back in the garage says Hunt’s Grocery. Before that, it was known as Casaday’s Market and even earlier as Nelson Brothers Grocery. It’s not really known exactly when it was built. Or even whether it’s in its original location.

Today it’s the lovely — and newly remodeled — home of Lisa Dockter and Laura Walton, and Dockter’s 9-year-old daughter. The home sits on the corner of a cozy, typical neighborhood in the North End.

The only real remnant of its former life as a neighborhood grocery is the icebox door and room, which is now a wine room. For that matter, there’s not much left of what the home was like before Renaissance Remodeling came to work on a project that became rather all-encompassing.

Today, the North End is a popular neighborhood with character. Back in the 1970s, though, this was the rundown part of town.

“Now we’re restricted on what we can do on the exterior,” Walton said.

Remodeling a decades-old home can be a challenge for any remodeler or homeowner. This home was no exception. It was filled with a hodgepodge of fixes. Small spaces in the home had been tackled over the years, but never the whole space. Removing the inner hallway to enlarge the kitchen led to the discovery that the entire sub-flooring in the back half of the house, consisting of the kitchen and bedroom, was rotted out.

“There were rodents, cats and several small animals living under that floor,” said Renaissance owner Chad Vincent. “There were a whole host of problems we fixed down there. Structurally, this is going to last another 100 years. But it wasn’t going to.”

“It was very, very tired,” said Renaissance designer Teresa Richardson.

Another thing that was tiring for Dockter was looking at the spiral staircase.

“Lisa had a vision for what she wanted,” Walton said. “She knew she couldn’t live with the spiral staircase another minute.”

That three-story spiral staircase dominated the space, but it wasn’t getting any love. In fact, it took up almost the entire lower level, or so-called basement. It was no pleasure going upstairs either. So out it came.

“We had to cut it up several ways to get it out,” Vincent said.

The new stairs Renaissance built managed to open up the entire space and changed the way everything looked.

“The space is used so much better now,” Richardson said about the home’s remodel. “There were lots of weird little spaces.” It wasn’t just the weird little basement that was affected, which is now actually useful.”

“Rearranging the space has made it so much more usable,” said Piper Walters, the other Renaissance designer on the project. With today’s open floor plans, a narrow connecting hallway through the center of the home seems unfathomable and a complete waste.

The stairs now are more than just a way to get upstairs. It’s almost like another piece of furniture, another sitting area. Even the cat likes the carpeted stairs to laze on.

“You look at the staircase before you look at the kitchen,” Richardson said.

The whole space just clicks now. All the elements work together for a welcoming effect.

“And it really works well for parties,” Walton said.

The remodel wound up touching every part of the home.

First, of course, that inner hallway was eliminated to enlarge the kitchen and master bedroom. A laundry room was created in the back — with a large window that looks out into the backyard — and a walk-in closet was added to the master bedroom. The entryway was opened up with a view into the living room, while also adding two new closets and a new front door.

“They redesigned the entranceway, and it is cooler than I ever expected,” Dockter said.

The energy efficiency of the home also needed work, along with new skylights.

“There was virtually no controlling temperature in here, and no ventilation through the house,” Richardson said.

“I can’t wait to see what it’s like this summer,” Walton said.

The living and dining area floor installed in the 1970s was originally from Boise High School and was still good; Renaissance refinished it and installed new sub-flooring and flooring where necessary. In addition, the fireplace features a new mantle and hearth. And, of course, the staircase changed everything.

“The construction process was easy,” Vincent said, keeping in mind that the entire process of remodeling can be very fluid between the initial idea and the last sweep of the broom. “They were open to our ideas, and we had to come up with a lot of solutions to this place.”

Dockter (who actually is a doctor) and Walton (a teacher) are quite happy with the results. As are Dockter’s daughter and the cat. (The dog is always happy.)

“It really works,” Walton said. “I like all the wood. I like all the colors. They updated it to look perfect. It’s an oasis. You just come in and go, ‘Aaah.’ ”

“They took something that had a lot of character — they took This Old House and turned it into House Beautiful,” Dockter said. “They restored it to the original craftsmanship from when it had been oddly modernized in the ’70s. The modern amenities they added today blend in with that craftsmanship as opposed to standing out as different.

“It’s spacious and cozy at the same time, and that is extraordinary.”

Dusty Parnell is a freelance print, radio and video journalist who has worked in the Treasure Valley for more than 25 years.