Swansea couple turns moldy home into a showcase

News-DemocratMarch 16, 2014 

Many folks downsize when they get to a certain age.

Not the Schranzes, of Swansea.

They moved 1 1/2 years ago from a 1,300-square-foot home where they had lived 45 years into a 5,100-square-foot custom design.

Their new home, a light-color brick ranch on a quiet street, had been in foreclosure a couple years. They could see it from their trucking business property.

"We were going to do some work on our other house," said Steve Schranz. "We got to looking at this. We liked the possibilities."

Mold growing up basement walls almost spoiled the deal.

"There's no way I want that house," Jeanette remembered saying.

Still, the house was less than 10 years old, and mold could be dealt with.

So could just about everything else -- with the help of general contractor Herbert "Junior" Frentzel, of Smithton, assorted craftsmen and three interior designers. The Schranzes paid about $250,000 for the home and put in more than that to make it their dream.

"It got to be a lot more than we thought we were going to do," said Steve, 74, who is semi-retired.

"We didn't need all this at our age," said Jeanette, 76. "We are going to enjoy it while we can. Everybody encouraged us."

The Schranzes chose Junior for the renovation because they had admired homes in Swansea's Bristol Hills that his company had built, and, serendipitously, they learned he had built the one they were buying.

"We told him we want to make some repairs, fix it up," said Jeanette.

He told them it would likely be less expensive to build from scratch.

"We said, 'We know that," said Jeanette.

"They sat down and they told me what they wanted," said Junior, whose company D&F Contracting has built 600 homes. "As you go along, you make changes. It doesn't look like the same house anymore. It turned out amazing."

They added 10 feet across the back of the house. Jeanette got her dream kitchen. It has everything you could imagine and then some -- much like the rest of the house.

The main level's open floor plan looks like an HGTV home redo. Subtle taupes, tans and grays rule, but pops of color show up in pillows and artwork.

Can lights dot the ceiling throughout the house -- there are 40, if you're counting. Furniture is contemporary, a mix of traditional and modern. Family photos add a homey touch. Artwork, including sculpture and pottery, is new.

"When you go somewhere and want something, you are not sure it's going to fit," said Jeanette, who had fun shopping. She found an abstract 7-by- 4-foot painting in St. Louis.

"We didn't measure," she said of the piece that hangs on a living room wall. "It fit perfect, but we took a chance."

It's not far from the see-through gas fireplace that separates the spacious living room from a sitting area. Northern windows give ample light. The shale-style stone fireplace is Steve's favorite.

"Once every day, we sit here and enjoy," he said. "I like the massiveness of the fireplace. It kind of defined the whole area."

"Sometimes, I get up at 2 or 3 a.m.," said Jeanette. "I come in here, sit down, get a book and read. The fireplace has a blower. If you are really cold, you can snuggle up here."

Junior suggested the floor-to-ceiling fireplace to give the open space definition.

"If not, it's going to look like a banquet hall," he said.

Off to one side is a large master bedroom with a small corner arched gas fireplace, a walk-in closet the size of a bedroom and a master bath with all the amenities. An electrical outlet on the vanity pops up when needed. A mural over the corner tub depicts a waterfall at Camp Ondessonk. But who wants to sit in the tub when the shower has steam?

"It heats you up," said Steve.

It's not even cold when the shower is over.

"We have heat in the floor," he said.

They've thought of just about everything.

"These doorways are extra wide in case we need a wheelchair," he said, noting they are pocket doors.

The Schranzes, who have three grown children and three grandchildren, like to cook and entertain.

The state-of-the art kitchen has a large island, a choice of sinks, including one in the island that dispenses water hot enough for tea. They have a pot filler at the back of the gas range, a faucet that comes on at the slightest touch, and pull-out shelves with a wealth of spices, arranged alphabetically, compliments of daughter Melanie. There's a warming oven, a beverage cooler and a pull-out microwave.

Is it more fun to cook?

"I would say so," said Steve, the breakfast guy. "Clean up, too."

Jeanette is the creative, but traditional cook.

"I just try out different recipes," she said. "I also make comfort food such as pot roast and corned beef and cabbage."

Daughter Melanie helped them figure out how everything works.

"We have so much technology, we weren't used to it," said Jeanette. "Melanie did a book for us. It has instructions for everything."

The Schranzes like their new home's openness, the way the sun pours in to the south-facing meditation room at the front.

They sprinkle names of local vendors into the conversation as they talk about how the house came together: Lite Brite in Trenton for fireplaces; the team of Lintker & Sons Electric, of St. Libory; Carpets, Floors and More, of Swansea ... so many were involved, it's surprising how coordinated the home is.

The archway between living room and kitchen was a suggestion from a carpet guy.

"He came in and said, 'It's going to look like a furniture showroom unless you do something,'" remembered Jeanette. "He suggested an archway. Junior said, 'I will do for $75. If you don't like it, I will take it out.'"

The archway stayed.

Downstairs, they put up walls and put down carpeting.

The lower level includes a family room, exercise room, media room full of cozy La-Z-Boy seating, two bedrooms and a bath.

"We wanted to have room for company when they came," said Jeanette. "We have a brother and sister in California, and a daughter there with her family. I have sister in Columbia, Missouri. She always had to get a hotel room.

"Everyone was stacked up on top of everyone," said Steve.

Not any more.

"The first party we had here, we invited about 40 people," he said. "I said to Jeanette, 'Who didn't come? Some people didn't come.'"

She assured him that everyone had shown up.

"We laugh a little bit, the three kids," said Melanie, 44, who has a downstairs office. "This is where you want to be a teen. You wouldn't see your parents for days. (At our other house), every time you turned around, there was someone there."

She helped her parents sell their old furniture on craigslist.

"We don't look at something and think, 'This is Mom's treasured whatever.' We have always been more of an experience family. We go on trips. It's our memories that we will have."

Melanie is proud of her parents for making the big change -- and that they didn't have to move far to get what they wanted. Nearby Schranz Park is named after her grandparents.

"They have never had the luxury of having something like this," Melanie said. "There's a lot more here than they imagined they would ever have."

The Schranzes are not quite finished.

"We are going to put in a swimming pool this summer," said Jeanette. "(Junior) is going to do it."

Have you completed a home project that turned out great? Let us know. We'll share it with our readers. Email mhouston@bnd.com

Renovating and furniture buying tips:

"The most important part is the contractor," said Steve. "We were impressed by Junior's knowledge, his suggestions and his not pushing you."

Sit down at a table before you buy it, said Steve. A glass-top table with a wide pedestal makes leg space tight at the Schranzes.

No matter how large the bed, check the space between mattress, headboards and footboards. Making the bed is tricky because of how tight the mattress fits.

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