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The house that Dad built
Town of Newstead man designs and creates dream home for daughter and son-in-law

Ginny Brown-Cerasani knew exactly what she wanted in a new home: A first-floor bedroom suite, office, laundry and guest bath; a second-story loft with room to grow; and a comfortable, open-floor plan with a great room for everyday living, entertaining and multiple pets.

The man to do the job: Her father.

After drawing up the plans and having them stamped by an architect to obtain the building permit, Spencer Brown spent nearly 1 1/2 years building his daughter and son-in-law, Nate Cerasani, their home in the Town of Newstead.

The couple and other family members helped out whenever they could. Cerasani tackled, among many things, the grouting and much of the painting, for example, and a team of five was required to raise a couple of the walls.

But Brown, who is retired, often worked by himself and in all kinds of weather, his daughter wrote in an e-mail to The Buffalo News last month.

This is not the first house Brown built. He built his own home, located next door, 18 years ago. Construction work is nothing new to him. His own father and uncle were roofers -- his uncle operated William Brown Roofing and Siding on Sycamore near Grey Street. And while Brown retired as a state safety and health inspector in 2002, he earlier ran his own business -- Spencer Brown Home Improvement.

For his most current project, Brown did all the work except pouring the full basement, installing the insulation and putting in the kitchen countertops. He built the frame, roofed and sided it; drywalled; laid out the tiles; hung cabinets; installed plumbing and electrical systems and the septic tank, and more.

This man likes to build and, according to his daughter, he is very, very picky.

"He did it with pride. If something wasn't just right, he pulled it off and did it again," said Brown-Cerasani, an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at Windermere Boulevard Elementary School, Amherst.

And it's built to last. Instead of using 2-by-4s, Brown used 2-by-6 frame construction, for example. He hand-selected every piece of lumber to ensure perfection and chose solid-core doors and high-performance windows because, for a few dollars more, they are worth it, he said.

The couple, who married last February, said this is the only way they could afford to live in a house like this.

Their mortgage is less than $100,000, but their appraisal is more than twice that. Brown also gave the couple the land the house is built on.

The couple searched for sales on building supplies and furnishings. They are no strangers to e-bay, furniture auctions, clearance sales and "starving artists" art shows. And every moment they could, in-between their own full-time jobs, they dug in to help with the construction, as did family members. Two of Brown-Cerasani's siblings live within two miles.

"For me, the grouting was the toughest job. My elbows are still hurting," said Cerasani, who has worked as an assistant golf pro and now works in maintenance at a friend's family business.

Brown owned many of the tools they needed -- including a farm tractor and backhoe -- although he needed to rent tall scaffolding as well as a crane with operator to raise the two, box-shaped roof trusses.

They broke ground in early May 2005; the couple moved in about 10 months later. Much of the work, except the garage, was completed.

The house measures 2,660 square feet. Through the front door, one enters a two-story great room with an 18-foot ceiling. This area opens to a kitchen, which features natural maple cabinets, an island, gray-speckled laminate countertops edged in wood, stainless steel appliances and an eating area, which leads by sliding glass door to the back yard.

A master suite off the kitchen has a tiled bath; Cerasani crafted the mirror frame above the vanity from carved molding. On the other side of the kitchen, an 8-by-18 laundry with half bath is located near the 2 1/2 -car garage. A home office -- painted a vibrant sky blue -- also is located on the first floor.

Upstairs, a large loft overlooks the great room. On one side, a door leads to an unfinished area designated for two additional bedrooms and a bathroom. Another large room, above the garage, may one day become a playroom or pool room/bar.

Brown-Cerasani did all of the decorating. She has a clear idea of what she likes and often gathers ideas from television design shows, she said. A favorite piece of artwork inspired the color scheme she selected for much of the house -- warm shades of browns and tans with touches of red.

Still to be done: finish the garage; build a deck and porch stoop in front; landscape the grounds; install a fence for the three dogs . . .

But for now, they are truly at home -- and grateful.

As Brown-Cerasani put it: If it weren't for the land and the man who built on it, "we would not be living in this house."


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