We all have our own means to relax and ease the tensions of a busy career. Some of us read and others fish or play golf. For Scott Arnold, revamping his home is his choice of relaxation. Carrying out renovation work with the precision and care of the heart surgeon that he is, Scott has done a remarkable job making his family’s dream home a reality.
The spirit and skill behind renovations and repairs have been ingrained into the whole Arnold family, and are evident in their current home. Every nail, pipe, wire and piece of tile has a story, and family members, including Scott, his wife Laura and their two teenage sons, can lay claim to most of the work. According to Laura, they have become experts as electricians’ and plumbers’ assistants, and even at laying tile.
And with the help of Vera Silcox, friend and interior designer, their home emerged from its renovation with great colors and stylish furnishings, most of which were acquired through Roanoke’s Present Thyme. “I do not make any color decisions without Vera,” says Laura. “She is my color master!”
An Evolving Project
It all began innocently enough. After the Arnolds moved into their current home, the well went dry due to a very leaky pipe. Water flooded what was then a small pool house. According to Scott, the pool house was just an office and little else. And the gunite pool was in terrible condition. So the renovation began here. Scott’s plan: To make the pool house livable, then move the family there while they completed the major work in the main house.
Entirely self-taught, Scott Arnold has learned the techniques of home renovation through books. He began with the bathrooms and slowly worked through the house. Laura explains, “None of our projects happen over one weekend! Scott will always say, ‘Oh we can do it over the weekend!’ but…” Laura laughs because she knows very well how easily Scott’s projects become more involved and take longer than anticipated.
The pool house was dated, and the project involved a major facelift. While the Arnolds kept the room structure the same, ceilings were altered, closets moved, and bathrooms were redone. The entire electrical system was rewired and the plumbing replaced. Scott also wired the pool house so the television, cable and computer lines all travel from here to the main house. All of this was a great training ground for the work ahead in the main house.
Laura suggested that it would be nice to screen in part of the porch which overlooks the pool and gardens. Before she knew it, the entire front and one side were screened in to create an inviting, open area, virtually doubling the living space of the pool house.
From the porch, multiple French doors lead into a large great room with a fireplace, eating area and comfortable seating. A small kitchen area with a refrigerator, sink and toaster oven are just enough to provide the basic culinary comforts.
Two small bedrooms adjoin the main living space. One is furnished with an iron bed and the other with two sets of bunk beds. A full bath adjoins the rooms. Here Scott experimented with his first tile job. The result is extraordinary, considering he had never tiled a bath before!
After Scott finished that project, he thought, “If we are going to go to all of that trouble…” An outdoor kitchen emerged at the other end of the porch, giving Scott an opportunity to practice the art of fashioning a concrete countertop with a built-in sink.
Scott explains that in making a concrete countertop, the concrete must be poured upside-down into a mold so the top emerges smooth. “The big problem is lifting it,” he says. He tried an engine hoist but that did not work. Then the Arnolds invited the football team from Hidden Valley High School to come over to the house. With the team’s help, they positioned the countertop over the cabinets in no time at all!
The pool area was also in need of a revival. Scott describes the area as it looked when they moved in as “a black hole.” Initially they planned to repair the tile, but they soon realized that there were more problems. They turned the project over to National Pools, who restored the entire pool. “And they did a wonderful job!” says Laura.
Warren’s Landscaping completed the plantings and continues to maintain the garden area. Around the perimeter of the garden, the Arnolds erected a fence. The original form was a 7-foot solid-board barrier. When Vera saw it, she said that she wanted “swoops.” According to Laura, while Vera could picture what she wanted, the fence crew just couldn’t envision it. So she drew an undulating line along the top of the fence and asked the crew to cut along the line. The effect is a rolling pattern of hills and valleys, not unlike our local mountain ranges.
Transforming the Main House
Originally the main house, a 1950s-era ranch, was part of a small farm. The surrounding land was taken for a development, and the Arnolds purchased the house and pool area. Vera Silcox describes the house following its renovation as an “eclectic transitional ranch.” Vera clearly understood what Laura and Scott wanted, and took up the challenge with enthusiasm. She worked with the family every step of the way. Together they came up with innovative solutions and great designs for the house.
Today the exterior of the home has few remnants of its former self. By restyling the front entrance, visitors walk through an inviting covered entranceway with a vivid sea-green front door, into an interior bathed in natural light.
Laura goes to great lengths to create an environment where family and friends feel comfortable. “Not a thing is done for show here!” proclaims Laura. “No one should feel uncomfortable, even if they bring their dog!” she says.
The kitchen is a center of activity in the Arnold home. A bright and cheerful area, it is made even more so with the cabinetry. Originally, “The kitchen cabinets were so ugly,” says Laura. “But when I priced cabinets, I was shocked.” Vera suggested painting them the same wonderful sea green from the front door, instructing the painter to “muddy it up” by applying a wash over the green. This softened the color and took away the “fresh paint look.”
The countertops and backsplash are all tiled in off-white. Laura chose tile over granite, preferring the feel of its rougher surface. The Arnolds enjoyed working with Valley Tile to choose the tile used throughout the home. In addition to new tile, Vera gave a collection of old blue and white Italian tiles to Laura to embed into the design with the other tiles. And for the backsplash, Laura had her sons break up old pottery pieces, and incorporated these broken pieces for an unusual three-dimensional effect.
Directly off the kitchen is a highly functional and inviting mud room. At one time the back porch, the mud room is now an extension of the kitchen but separated by counters and the original Dutch door. With large closets, lots of windows, skylights, a slate floor and places for dog beds, boots and coats, the room serves the purpose of a mud room quite well, all the while making an attractive back entry.
Laura and Scott, with the help of Vera, have made the master wing a lovely respite. The large bath is a masterpiece of tiling; every bit of the room, including the ceiling, is tiled. An enormous walk-in shower and footed bath tub take up over half the room. The radiant heating in the floors, also installed by Scott, makes bath time a luxurious event.
The bedroom is both stately and elegant. According to Laura, “This room is what made me fall in love with the house!” French doors, original to the room, lead out to a balcony that overlooks the mountains.
The rest of the room is a product of Vera’s design and imagination. Sheer curtains surround a very luxurious bed. On the opposite wall are built-in bookcases and a gas fireplace—one so large that they had to bring it in through a window. When it arrived, Laura voiced her concern that it might overpower the room. Vera’s reply was, “Stay the course! It will be fine!” And she was right. According to Laura, Vera can envision how something will look. “She does not worry about the details. She has the creative genius,” says Laura.
In the back of Scott’s mind is a someday-project to screen in the balcony to create an enclosed porch. The home features many different living spaces hidden away in every nook and cranny. These one-of-a-kind areas are perfect for working, reading or relaxing.
Almost every room shows off another facet where the family has learned a skill. Where wall coverings in a small powder room were impossible to remove, Vera suggested a technique involving the application of shreds of paper to cover those problem walls. The technique entails ripping craft paper, crinkling then flattening it, and applying wallpaper paste on both sides. Then it is layered on the walls where it can be stained or left as is. The effect is almost like raw silk. And, “It is just so much fun!” says Laura.
A baby grand piano and bookshelves galore take up one large area of what Laura likes to call the music room. To have one room designated “the living room” in the Arnold home is somewhat absurd, since every room is lived in and one room need not be singled out for that purpose. Tables and Carol Bolton chairs and pillows balance out the room, and local art covers the walls.
A large family room directly off the music room is so bright and airy that it could easily double as a sunroom. With its white and red walls and large white sofa, it evokes a feeling of the tropics. A large porch that Scott screened in adjoins this room and provides yet another special, secluded spot.
Most of the lower level is designated for the boys. A long hallway ties all the downstairs rooms together, and one wall features an unusual bench, which the Arnolds found in North Carolina. “We find furniture in all sorts of funky places,” she says. Until now, Laura never had a good spot to show off the piece. At one time painted the traditional “Carolina blue,” now the bench is worn and the beautiful grains of the natural wood beneath show through.
The boys’ bedrooms and bath are on one side of the lower level. Scott installed a concrete counter and shower stall floor embedded with fossils, petrified wood and shells. Obviously the boys were very involved with this project. At the opposite end of this level is an area that the boys have designated as their “man cave.” A large recreation room with an adjoining kitchen and brick-walled workout room make this area every boy’s dream. Scott reclaimed the natural pine wood cabinets and the tiled counters to renovate the small but very handy kitchenette.
A hidden terrace off the lower level includes a fountain and an elevated water garden. This was another family weekend project. The garden forms a wall along one side of the patio and is filled with a variety of pond-loving plants.
These “weekend projects” seem to have an uncanny way of coming up time and time again. And as one project is completed, Scott usually can think of two more. Luckily for the Arnold family, Scott’s choice of relaxation has enabled the family to tackle a major home renovation and create the home of their dreams.