Fall Home 2022: For Albany carpenter and her husband, renovation of Mid-century modern is a labor of love (7 photos)

The home of Kelsea Adams and Nick Warchol at 51 Maxwell St. in Albany; Adams (inset) stands on a deck she is building in her backyard.
The home of Kelsea Adams and Nick Warchol at 51 Maxwell St. in Albany; Adams (inset) stands on a deck she is building in her backyard.

ALBANY When Kelsea Adams tells people she’s a carpenter, the news is often met with raised eyebrows.

“A lot of people don’t believe it or they discount my work as being ‘crafty,’ ” the 32-year-old said with a grin. “And I’m like, ‘No, I do full construction.’ ”

Employed as a social worker for a few years after college, Adams switched to riding and training horses. Then about three years ago she decided to give carpentry a try.

“I had worked on farms growing up and wanted to do something manual,” she explained.

Adams landed an apprenticeship with the Albany Artisans, a construction company that specializes in historic restoration, and has worked there ever since. Last year she was the recipient of Historic Albany Foundation’s first-ever Katherine Onufer Young Preservationist Award, a nod to her carpentry skills.

Adams’ skill set has come in quite handy in the two years since she and her husband, Nick Warchol, purchased their Albany home. Built in 1960, the Mid-century modern structure was designed by the late architect Harris A. Sanders.

When Adams and Warchol first laid eyes on the house it was dated, in disrepair and had a basement full of black mold.

They loved it.

“This is so, like, my style,” said Warchol, his eyes sweeping the spacious living room. A restaurant and bar owner, Warchol said he began collecting Mid-century modern furniture well before he and his wife purchased the home. The retro decor, with its clean lines and geometric shapes, looks like it was custom-made for the place.

More Fall Home 2022: Innovation, Preservation, Restoration, Inspiration

“We got a good deal on the house because it needed so much work,” Adams noted. “If I didn’t know how to do all this [construction work] it wouldn’t have worked out as well. We’ve just been doing a ton of work ever since we moved in.”

Photos (7)

Nick Warchul and his wife Kelsea Adams in the living room PETER R. BARBER/THE DAILY GAZETTE
Kelsea Adams stands on a deck she is building PETER R. BARBER/THE DAILY GAZETTE

The couple completed many of their home improvement projects during the pandemic lockdown. Now, work gets done whenever there’s time.

One of the first jobs they tackled was taking down a wall that separated the kitchen and dining room, replacing it with a peninsula. A second wall, between the entryway and kitchen, was removed and replaced with vertical wooden slats milled by Adams. Gaps between the slats provide a feeling of openness.

The home’s entryway flooring is natural slate that extends into the dining room. At some point the stone was thickly coated with polyurethane that became discolored over the years.

“It looked like it was covered in algae,” Adams recalled.

The couple stripped the floor and discovered that the stones are multicolored, with hues of maroon, blue and gray.

They pulled up the dingy wall-to-wall carpet in the adjoining living room and Warchol installed cork flooring. The natural material gives the room a period-appropriate feel.

When Adams and Warchol took ownership of the house, half of the kitchen needed to be ripped out so that the rotting subfloor could be replaced. Adams redid the floor with large, square, cream-colored tiles flecked with brown.

She built sleek new cabinetry of EuroBirch — a dense, light-colored plywood. Round holes serve as handles and pulls.

The kitchen countertops were replaced with an ecru concrete and stainless steel. Adams lamented the loss of a blender connection that was built into one of the original counters. Fortunately, some retro kitchen features were salvageable. On one wall, surrounded by new cabinets, is a vintage, silver, Hotpoint double oven. It wasn’t functioning when the couple bought the place but they had it repaired.

“It’s narrower than the standard models today, so we would have had to change the entire setup if we needed a new one,” Warchol noted.

A nearby brick wall has a built-in, charcoal-fired shish-kebab grill, complete with an exhaust hood and an electric chain drive to turn the seven skewers.

“It was probably the boujie thing in the ‘50s, ‘60s, you know?” Warchol said.

The kebab setup will remain as-is, but the couple is utilizing the grill in a more 21st-century way: as a coffee bar. Adams plans to build a table and bench seating nearby to create a breakfast nook.

The home’s four bedrooms were originally full of dark, walnut-laminate paneling that the couple found unattractive.

They removed it and discovered the flip side was gorgeous. So, back up it went, backside facing out, to create dramatic accent walls in the living room and bedrooms.

The living space in the single-story home feels lofty and open thanks to vaulted ceilings and an abundance of windows. The living room has an entire wall of glass that faces the backyard and is further brightened by a clerestory — an outside wall raised above the adjoining roof that contains a line of windows above eye level.

That same feature is present in the study, adding airiness to what might otherwise be a somber room with its dark paneling, brick fireplace and wall of built-in bookshelves and cabinets. The study was the only room in the house that was pretty much move-in ready when Adams and Warchol bought the place. The only repair needed was to three rows of parquet flooring that had buckled.

“I pulled them all up and did tiny relief cuts in them and put them back down. I was able to save the floor,” Adams recalled with pride.

The home’s two bathrooms sport retro elements the couple plans to preserve. In the half bath, white, hexagonal floor tiles, laid in a honeycomb pattern, abut square, blue-and-white wall tiles arranged in wide, vertical stripes. The master bath features powder-blue porcelain plumbing fixtures, along with floor and wall tiles arranged in busy blue-and-white stripes of varying widths, set off by pink tile accent walls.

Adams built new vanities for each bathroom, specially made to fit the original sinks.

The home’s exterior was pink-hued brick with red trim when Adams and Warchol purchased it. They updated the look by painting the bricks a wrought iron color. The trim was stripped and beneath the red paint gorgeous mahogany was discovered, much of which, after hours of sanding, has been restored to its original glory.

The slate-floored front porch was recently dismantled and rebuilt to address a leak that was diverting rainwater into the basement, where it had been dripping onto electrical cords.

“One started sparking and nearly would have caught the house on fire if we hadn’t caught it and shut off all the power,” Adams recounted.

More Fall Home 2022: Innovation, Preservation, Restoration, Inspiration

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