The “What Have I Done?!” moment came in the rainy summer of 2015, when Kristen and Erich Campbell were knee deep in the massive renovation of their home, 81 Woodhaven Drive. Contractors pretty much supported the house with “stilts,” so they could dig a massive hole to enlarge the basement, craft an addition and replace a small, detached, two-car garage. That’s when the rain started—and kept going and going, as it tends to do around here.
As Kristen tells the story, you can still sense the panic she felt, knowing her family’s home, all 1,000 square feet of it, was in the hands of contractors and a very temperamental Mother Nature.
All was well and ended well, as the Campbells now have a gorgeous, renovated home, with 1,600 extra square feet that turned their three-bed, one-bath tight squeeze into an expansive, four-bed, two-and-a-half bath haven for the couple and their two children, Chelsey, 9, and Liam, 13, and nephew Brodie. Like many Mt. Lebanon houses, the interior and exterior style is “eclectic,” with overtones of both Dutch Colonial and Prairies design.
The family previously had lived in Butler, where Erich is the art department chairman in the Butler Area School District. (You may know his artwork from his colorful mural inside Taco Diablo on Beverly Road.) While they lived there, they
renovated a home, then traded that in for a new custom home built from scratch. So they had experience with getting what they wanted out of a residence. In the meantime, their good memories of Mt. Lebanon called the 1989 Lebo graduates back—Erich grew up on Brafferton Drive and Kristen on Vernon.
They found a few homes they liked but felt the Woodhaven location was perfect, and it had good bones, with the sturdy original two-by-ten beams.
In 2013, The Campbells moved in but quickly ran out of space in the 1927-built home. Erich already had renovation plans marinating in his brain. “I really feel like I knew what I wanted to do after coming back,” he says. Kristen, a physical therapist for NovaCare and the Physical Therapy Institute, says her goal was to expand and remodel while maintaining the integrity of the architecture.
Erich learned about building additions from his father, Sheldon “Don” Campbell, whom readers might remember as a former German teacher, foreign language curriculum supervisor and, after retirement, as school board member here for four years. Erich’s background as an art teacher also helped him hone his eye for detail.
“I don’t want my addition to look like an addition,” he remembers thinking. Anything new should echo what already was there.
In 2015, they began the project with contractor Bruce Clingan from Clingan Builders and woodworker Josh Wasserman from Urban Woodsman. Details were important: Erich made sure the mortar in the new outdoor section matched the deep-set mortar in the original home. The outdoor ceilings on the porch and portico were made from beadboard paneling to match the original. The roof overhangs were built out to 16 inches to match the architectural style. The two-square-window theme from the dining room and living room carried through to the new family room and the mudroom. Stained glass from the front of the home got a reprise in the window of the back door. Contractors saved blocks from the original garage and cut them to match the facing on the blocks on the main house, and used them on the addition.
But just because the home was built in 1927 and the Campbells wanted it to look unified doesn’t mean it needed to skimp on modern conveniences. The house has hulking walk-in closets, roomy, fixture-rich bathrooms, a master suite and a separate two-car garage with enough room for the all the garage stuff in a separate space upstairs, instead of the usual clutter squeezing out where the cars should be.
“I’m always thinking about resale,” Erich says, standing in the mudroom.
Since the previous owners renovated the kitchen, the Campbells didn’t need to do much there. They changed drawer pulls and lighting and added an extra piece of granite to convert a wall into a counter.
The project, started in March, was mostly complete by Thanksgiving that year.
Other details throughout the house add a personal touch: a reclaimed wood wall, personalized with the family name, in the basement. A custom corner desk is a focal point of Liam’s room, along with his own walk-in closet. Solid wood doors, some hung as pocket doors, reflect attention to detail. The kids’ bathroom has up-to-date tile designed to look as if it has always been there. Erich’s artwork punctuates walls. Donnie Iris in the kitchen!
The master suite has a tray ceiling and an enviable walk-in closet with custom woodwork. A cathedral ceiling, double sinks and porcelain tile that looks like travertine are highlights in the master bath, which includes both a shower and a tub. In the bedroom, a sitting area provides a place to watch the end of a movie before turning in.
The original two-car detached garage wasn’t big enough, Erich says, and the drainage was bad. So he had it removed (Wasserman saved the wood and used it for other projects) to make way for the new 24-foot by 24-foot, two-story garage with storage room on top. Transitioning into the house from the outdoor garage is easy, thanks to the custom mudroom with plenty of room for lockers. Coats hang where they should be, shoes are out of the way and a nearby powder room provides space to wipe off muddy messes.
Like every project, the Campbells had choices to make. They were not able to replace all the expensive windows at one time. A fireplace in Chelsey’s room, the former master bedroom, had to stay because it would cost too much to remove, and they were not able to add a fireplace to the new family room.
The couple did not do any of the labor on the home but were thrilled with their contractors’ work, a point they say is key to having a good project, along with understanding “that nothing is going to be perfect,” Erich says. “You’re going to have to be flexible.”