Meeting The Remodeling Challenge

Artist Roberta Russell had a vision for the house that she built with her husband in 1971. She wanted it to be a one story home with a sleek, modern style that featured mirrored walls and an intercom. She wanted a round kitchen with a circular island area and a wall of windows that curved in order to allow a panoramic view of the yard. Over 40 years later, the house has now been passed to new owners who have been aiming to ensure that updating the house would still be mindful of its original style.

The new owners, Sue and Les Fox, have their own unique history. They are both art dealers, home builders, and renovators. They have written and published a best-selling guide to Beanie Babies during the early craze that started in the late 1990s. They had admired the Russell house for many years, noting that it was located up the street from their home. After Roberta Russell died last year at the age of 75, they decided that they would purchase the house and do what they could to preserve it before it ended up being purchased by someone that would completely change the house itself.

Roberta and Martin Russell were living in River Edge, New Jersey with their two songs when they first bought the property. It had been carved out of an area that used to be an old apple orchard. Martin worked in the garment industry and Roberta was an artist who stayed at home in order to take care of her children. She was greatly involved with the design of the home and the construction. As a result, a lot of the style that is seen in the home was greatly influenced by Roberta herself.

Roberta actually stuccoed the living room walls and the ceiling on her own. The walls in the other rooms were covered with fabric from Martin’s textile business. She had a unique attention to detail, to the extent that she even burst into tears when she saw the marble stones on the fireplace in the family room because the veining in the stone was too dark. She had them ripped out by workers and then went to a quarry to select the stones to replace them on her own. It is this type of attention to detail which bears the reason of why the Russell home needed to be sold to homeowners that would be willing to care for it respectfully.

The sons of the Russell’s expressed that they were more comfortable with selling the home to the Foxes because they knew that they would care for the house properly. The risk of selling it to some of the other builders that were interested is that it was more likely that the house would have been tore down and that the history and memories behind the house’s beauty would have been long forgotten. Thankfully, the Foxes plan to remodel it while staying true to some of the original plans associated with the style.

Amy Wright
Amy Wright is the Lead Editor of Remodeling Central. When she isn't playing with her dogs she is trying to remodel a classic Chicago style brownstone with her husband.
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