West Side townhouse redo is bright and roomy
Local developers' renovation of 237 West Utica
Photos by kc kratt
Local developers Tim Sick and Salvatore Zambito specialize in historic home renovations; they’ve completed upwards of 115 in Buffalo. Their philosophy is to add character and beauty by creatively reusing as many materials and elements as they can, while also ensuring top-notch construction rendered, where possible, by artisans and craftspeople. Amenities, like nicely designed bathrooms with elaborate shower fixtures, built-ins, laundry hook-ups, and storage are all thoughtfully considered.
One of their latest, at 237 West Utica, presents that aesthetic from the moment you lay eyes on it. A brightly painted exterior (in Asparagus and Mysteria, from Behr) makes it stand out among the more subdued homes on the busy crosstown block.
During the renovation, the c. 1890 home, at just over 3,200 square feet, was re-imagined as a French-country-style farmhouse. It was laid out as a “front/back townhouse” that can also be configured as two units, including a self-contained in-law/guest apartment or AirBnB. Strategically placed metal fire doors separate the two units.
Just about everything is new, including roofs (house and garage), windows, electric, plumbing, heating and air conditioning, and hot water tanks. Most of the staircases and woodwork were custom reconstructed with salvaged materials, and finished with a vintage look. “It’s as close as you can get to a ‘new build’ without digging a foundation,” the partners attest.
Sick, who studied landscape design, prefers bright, cheery colors throughout the home; the interior colors are Behr’s Celery Ice and Cloudless by Sherwin Williams. The cheer is accented with elegant or fun textural touches, like black and white marble tiles in the foyer, subway tiles in the bathrooms, and a shower and fireplace finished in stone.
Collecting elements like doors, bricks, windows, and chandeliers—really anything that might someday be useful in a house—comes in handy for Sick and Zambito, who spend any spare time traveling and can relate tales of where many, if not all, of the items come from. They also attend auctions and estate sales, and keep ears open and eyes peeled for salvaging opportunities.
The first-floor dining room’s ornately coffered ceiling is made up of eight six-panel doors, which were then fit in with Amish milled crown molding. The two purchased the molding on their annual junket to an Amish auction. A restored curved wall adds to the room’s rich atmosphere. The wrought-iron chandelier was acquired in Florida.
“In addition to building a back ‘summer’ kitchen, we extended the house by adding porches and sunrooms,” says Sick. “They bring in as much light as possible, and add to the usable space in the house.” All the porches are insulated and heated, so they can be used year-round.
And how about those 3,500 bricks that make up the large hand-laid back patio? Sick and Zambito salvaged and stockpiled them from the Bachelor building downtown—it was infamously demolished in late 2016, and “no one else was asking for them,” said Sick. (The backyard also features a sweet pergola.)
The eight-foot-wide barn door hung on sliding industrial hardware to one of the bathrooms is another such tale: a house that had been in Zambito’s family had changed hands, and was going to change hands again. Invited to view it before the upcoming sale, Sick and Zambito asked what was going to be done with the door. They received permission to save and reuse it, which they proudly did.
The house has multiple entry points. The front door enters to living space and an open kitchen, with high ceilings creating a sense of space. At the back, entering through the rustic-feeling sunroom or breakfast room, the cozy area has French doors to the back porch.
The floors, Southern Yellow Pine throughout, have distinctive finishes to delineate the front and back parts of the house. The front features a contemporary clear poly, while the back is warmer, with a more traditional tung oil finish.
The second-floor bedroom suite includes a master bedroom, smaller room (bedroom/sitting room/office), and walk-in closet with custom wood built-ins by Michael Anello of Stone & Wood Restoration. Any wooden doors in the house that weren’t sourced from salvage were hand-built by Jacob Bindert of JRB Construction, who also did the kitchen.
In the back unit’s second floor bedroom, a fourteen-foot-high cathedral ceiling with exposed beams lends a dramatic feel. That atmosphere is bolstered by monumental light fixtures and ceiling fans above the rafters. Built-ins, like large double-sided drawers that can be opened from either the bedroom or the bathroom, make for sensible, flexible storage. The back bathroom’s large walk-in shower has multiple showerheads. A stone wall adds pleasing visual and textural intrigue.
And the third floor, which Sick says has a “zen feeling” with its skylight and open floorplan, features a bathroom with no walls and an entire shower room. “The skylight and the openness give a sense of freedom to the space,” he notes. “I can see it as a teenager’s or kids’ area, or a meditation, yoga, or art studio—it’s unique in that it’s a bright cheery attic. Since there would most likely be only one person up there, who cares if there’s a bathroom door? Everything is open and airy. When I told the contractor what we wanted to build, he thought we were out of our minds. Now everyone loves it!”
With his renovating and decorating, Sick is able to combine, highlight, and express his natural talents for design, horticulture, and resourcefulness. Case in point: near the end of a conversation about this house, he answered an inquiry about a basket of giant pinecones, a lovely and unique element, simple and natural, yet not a usual go-to for décor. “Oh, those?!” he said. “Those are from sugar pines—they have the largest cones of any pine. I picked them up on a trip to Yosemite, years ago.”