Brian and Sara Luftman are renovators at heart. And like the best renovators, they are not scared off by a challenge.
They have an appreciation for older homes, and when they moved from the Chicago area to the Bluegrass five years ago, one scenario they kicked around was finding a turn-of-the-century home with lots of character to make over.
They never found the right older home within their price point. What they did find was 360 Andover Drive – a small, humdrum three-bedroom ranch.
“It was a complete ramshackle mess,” Brian said. “40 or 50 people came through when it was an open house, and nobody wanted to take it on because it was completely neglected and smelled to high heaven of cat urine.”
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“There were dead rats in the air conditioning vents,” Brian said. “My parents were very concerned for us and my mother was in tears.”
Despite the negatives, the Luftmans were on a desirable street in perhaps the most desirable neighborhood in Lexington. And the lot was large by Chevy Chase standards, which meant room to expand.
Drawing on experience gained from previous renovations, the Luftmans drew up a new floor plan that included removing walls, raising the ceiling to 10 feet, and two new additions. The whole house was gutted and re-drywalled. Brian was the general contractor with Charles McCoy doing most of the work.
“I don’t have the creative brain, I have the rational, numbers, get-it-done brain,” Brian said. “None of the creative touches are mine; Sara’s the designer.”
MIXING THE OLD WITH THE NEW
Today the home is replete with 5 bedrooms, 4-1/2 baths and over 4000 square feet of living space. A favorite feature of the home for Brian is the abundance of natural light.
The new oversized kitchen/dining area is the heart and soul of the home. The warm and inviting space includes a fireplace and sitting room.
Sara jokes that since the home was devoid of character, it was up to her to build it in. A prime example is the charming fireplace in the dining area.
The fireplace has an age-old look thanks to the used brick and vintage mantelpiece from Cowgirl’s Attic, a local store specializing in reclaimed architectural materials. An engine turbine from Gary, Indiana hangs above the mantel.
Other unexpected and innovative elements include the kitchen island – a souped-up old drafting table from Purdue University School of Design, and the vintage Argentinian fireplace tiles gracing the wall above the stove.
An antique armoire has been artfully incorporated into the kitchen cabinetry and fitted with the 5 cm marble countertops that are throughout.
“I like materials that are the real deal,” says Sara. “The natural honed marble will age and develop a character all its own.”
Similarly, the door hardware throughout the home is Rocky Mountain Hardware which Sara felt was true to the design of the home. The patina of the individually cast bronze pieces will continue to naturally age in response to the environment.
As the renovation progressed, the Luftmans chose local contractors and sources whenever possible including: Thomas Ricci’s custom woodworking shop, Barnhill Chimney and Fireplace, Mees Tile & Marble, Jimmy Conners Hardwood Flooring and Willis Klein Locks.
The eclectic design aesthetic found in the home is a reflection of Sara’s downtown Lexington home furniture, décor and design store. About a year ago Sara teamed up with business partner Dottie Maloney to open Haven Home and Garden on Short Street.
SEEING THE LIGHT
“What we really wanted was a bright sun-filled home,” Brian said. “We planned it that way with all of the windows and the skylights.”
The skylights in the living room accentuate an octagonal vaulted ceiling, a unique feature designed by Sara. From the living room there is a view through the house to the back yard and the alluring outdoor living space where a massive outdoor fireplace includes a wood-fired pizza oven.
“We liked mixing the garden in with the patio for an inside outside feel. It’s a good little retreat,” says Sara. “We have a lot of fun especially during football season out there with friends.”
Brian, a former commodity trader, is the founder of American Farm Investors in Lexington. He is also a licensed real estate broker, mainly for the purchase and sale of farm properties for his business.
“We own farmland that produces crops for the bourbon industry,” Brian said. “Our farms produce wheat for Makers Mark and corn for Buffalo Trace.”
Probably the craziest thing about the house is the built-in kids play area/playhouse above the kitchen. It’s an inventive, cheerful space accessed through a miniature door off of the kitchen.
“Our kids, Will (7), Emmylou (5), and the baby Linnea (7 months) are just getting old enough where they can enjoy it,” Brian said.
The Luftmans say they will miss the convenience and diversity of Chevy Chase.
“It’s the A-plus location in this city because you’re close to campus, close to downtown, and you can walk to Romany and Ecton Park,” Brian said. “And it’s a great neighborhood with a mix of old and young families and retirees.”
Sara has dubbed their renovation project “kind of an ode to a rustic countryside home.” But like a lot of designers, she’s a bit restless.
“The average person takes on a renovation job and says never again,” Sara says. “But I’m always going. Always shifting. I consider this a work in progress. Whether it’s here or someplace else, I’m always up for another project.”
This week’s feature home is listed with Brian Luftman of Block + Lot Real Estate.