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Waterfront renovation

Kathy Schlaich recalled the day a friend visited and remarked: “There are so many places to sit in this house. I could never decide!”

Among the inviting choices in this renovated waterfront Youngstown home: Wicker chairs in the sun room addition, overlooking the village street. A stool at the center island of the French country-style kitchen, with a view of the Niagara River. An oversized sofa and chair with cottage-style slipcovers in the living room, also overlooking the water.

But in warm weather, it’s the wrap-around porch that beckons. Why would anyone want to sit anywhere else?

Basically, they don’t, the couple said.

So it is at Kathy and Greg Schlaich’s home, a structure that possibly dates back to the 1840s and was once a school. A plaque above the front door reads “Youngstown Public School 1858.”

Many professional renovations and updates have been done here since the couple bought the home nine years ago, on every level from mechanical to functional to cosmetic. They worked with an architect to add a sun room and garage (there wasn’t one). They refinished floors, replaced windows, gutted the kitchen. They had the existing porch torn down, a new drainage system installed around the home’s perimeter to alleviate flooding in the basement and a new maintenance-free porch constructed.

And they furnished in a clutter-free way that makes the most of the space and the view while enabling Kathy to add feminine touches inspired by her affinity for cottage-style decorating.

“I like comfortable. I don’t want people to come in and ask if they should take off their shoes,” said Kathy, a former newspaper reporter in Ohio and Florida who now helps run an after-school program.

As for Greg? He stores an electronic drum set in the finished attic and a fine collection of wine in the basement. After the waterproofing was complete and a new basement floor poured, Greg and one of their sons built an 8-by-16 wine cellar. They bought 3-by-2-foot ceiling tiles from Buffalo ReUse and trimmed and painted them a copper color. They added light and music and a barrel bistro table purchased from the Wine Enthusiast catalog.

The result is a far cry from the original damp, dingy basement.

“We knew we did it right when Kathy would come down here,” said Greg, a longtime sales executive who now owns Minuteman Press on Delaware Avenue.

The transformation has been a near decade-long process. The couple bought the house nine years ago while still owning a larger home in northern Virginia, 25 miles outside Washington, D.C. The parents of twin sons Kyle and Evan, now 25, they first used the Youngstown house as a second residence while the renovation was ongoing, making the eight-hour drive up here for long weekends and vacations. They knew they wanted to eventually sell their home in Virginia and live here full time, which they did three years ago.

The Schlaichs bought the home for $309,000 and estimate that over the last nine years, they likely have put that much into it. They feel they could not financially touch a place like this in the higher-priced waterfront areas near their previous home.

But there was another draw to the area. Kathy, a Niagara Falls native, has two sisters and other relatives in Western New York.

“As you get older, you want that support system,” said Greg, an Ohio native. After living in their Virginia home for 20 years and raising their sons there, they sold it for a healthy profit, which helped them afford to fix up their current home.

Kathy also is a bargain shopper, scouring antique shops for second-hand pieces – both here and in Virginia – and shopping at reasonably priced stores such as Pier 1. They did the interior painting themselves, except for the ceilings, which needed special attention. And they took things slow, having just completed the upstairs bath redo in the fall.

Among the other renovations:

• A new kitchen with cream yellow walls, distressed cabinets, ceramic floor, quartz countertops and eating area with red accent wall.

• A new walkway and stoop in front.

• A new gas insert added to the refurbished fireplace.

• New exterior doors and windows, including leaded glass in the upstairs bath. The originals were falling apart, the couple said. Windows are a key component to the design of the house. Deep windowsills are found throughout so even the cat, Fiona, gets a good view of the picturesque surroundings.

Said Kathy: “We have vowed to never leave and have often told our two sons that we hope that they like it here because it will be theirs someday.”