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Before and After Photos courtesy of Davidson family
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The Davidsons' favorite room is the covered porch just off the dining room, whichis an integral part of the home's circular floor plan. "We use it all year round exceptfor the coldest months," Bradley says.
When Bradley and Niki Davidson bought a low-slung ranch house in Old Westham near the University of Richmond in 2008, they knew they were going to renovate it and sell it through their company, Davidson Builders. They had no idea it would become their home.
Until this project, they'd been taking on smaller jobs — building additions on the backs of homes, remodeling kitchens, adding bonus rooms above garages. This would be their first whole-house project where they kept parts of the existing structure and built around them, a process that has become Davidson Builders' signature. "The No. 1 reason I love doing this and have not tackled new construction is the visual challenge and the ‘before' and ‘after' shot," Bradley says.
Since the Davidsons planned the renovation before deciding they were going to live in the home, they opted for a floor plan that would appeal to a large number of lifestyles. "We went with what would be most popular," Bradley says. "We wanted lots of flow," with the kitchen at the center of the house. He figured a more contemporary design would appeal to people looking for an updated home in an established neighborhood.
With the plan in place, they took a wrecking ball to more than half of the 1,800-square-foot house, leaving just 800 square feet of the original structure standing.
As life would have it, things changed. Halfway through the renovation, Niki became pregnant with their third child, and the couple decided it was time to move. "We had two children, and we knew we wanted to get out of the city and get into the Tuckahoe district so our kids could go to school," Niki says. "We've always loved this area. We have family right up the street from us."
And so the house became theirs; the design that they created fit their comfortable lifestyle perfectly. "It's not your formal Richmond house," Niki says. "You're not going to find that here. This is a comfortable, homey, fun and entertaining space."
The Davidsons essentially added a two-story house next to the 800 square feet they saved, bringing the total square footage to 3,750. Their initial focus was on the new structure, leaving renovations to the original part of the house for a later date.
The kitchen was the jumping-off point, since in most homes it's the magnet that draws in the crowd. This was especially important for the Davidsons, who love using their house as a social hub for family and friends. "We have lots of clients to our house, we have all the neighbors to our house," Niki says. "We just enjoy people coming over here, and everyone is always in the kitchen."
The Davidsons created a circular flow from the kitchen to the family room and dining room to the covered front porch, the family's favorite spot. Sight lines abound. In the kitchen, they started with the original island and a table, but later added a second island because it just made sense, Bradley says. "And the cook can be in the middle working."
Upstairs, the Davidsons built three bedroom suites, each with its own bath. The original plan was to join the two children's rooms with a shared Jack-and-Jill bathroom. But when Niki and Bradley stood inside the space, they realized it wasn't being well utilized and that separate baths would work better.
"Sometimes in the real world, you see something you won't necessarily see on paper, and it allows you to make changes that help the project along," Bradley says. "Some [builders] discourage making changes, but we like to be more custom and [work] on the fly to make the project better."
Flexible design is just one way the Davidsons set apart their building style. Another way is finding new uses for old materials that come out of the old structure.
"One of the things that came up during the construction was just how much wood comes out of a house," Bradley says. "A lot of wood is beautiful old-growth timber." In the old days, they would have just thrown it away or let people take it. Now, they find uses for the lumber. The couple has used a number of old doors in their home both functionally and decoratively, and their second kitchen island is a study in reclaimed materials, from old bricks to factory beams.
Since taking on their own house, the Davidsons have been doing fewer small remodeling projects and are tackling larger whole-house renovations. Niki's role has evolved from managing the books to Bradley's partner. She assists their clients with the mountains of design and organization decisions, while Bradley handles the subcontracting.
The Davidsons moved into their home during Labor Day weekend in 2008 and have continued to make changes based on their needs. "Our house has been a never-ending remodel," Niki says. They have completed quite a bit of work on the original structure, which included the front entry, living room and three bedrooms. Those spaces eventually became an office, a guest suite, and an art room for their kids, Hannah, 9, Thomas, 7, and Avery, 5.
Ultimately, the Davidsons have created a home to grow in — a laboratory for their evolving experiments in design.