With three daughters ages 16 to 21 getting set for the new fall semester, chickens running around the backyard and rain threatening a long-planned photo shoot one afternoon in mid-August, Arno and Susan Tapani talked calmly about the home they have owned for 17 years.
This is a home they have renovated, enlarged and continue to redecorate – and one that has been a gathering place for family and friends, made even more inviting with an addition and updates.
The couple, who worked with Patricia Bailey of Bailey & Harris Architects, said that they were committed to preserving the original look and character of the house.
“We did a lot of stuff here, but it doesn’t look like it was remodeled. It looks like it originally looked,” said Arno Tapani, noting architectural details on the home’s exterior, such as the custom diamond-paned windows that match the originals.
The Tapani residence was selected as The News’ Home of the Week online feature in April. Susan Tapani, a marketing manager at M&T Bank, submitted a few photos back then and shared this:
“Our home was built by a prominent Buffalonian couple, Harlow C. and Ethel Mann Curtiss, as a summer home in 1926, on land purchased from prolific architect and artist Robert North ... We purchased the home in 2001, and undertook a major renovation to modernize and enlarge it to accommodate our active family and friends. This included adding a fifth bedroom, mudroom and ‘keeping room’ (the family gathering area adjacent to the kitchen); relocating an entrance and connecting to a new three-car garage, and repurposing a staircase and live-in maid’s quarters,” she wrote.
“We appreciate the character of old homes and have worked to preserve our historical architectural design, such as matching the original exterior stucco formula and custom diamond-paned windows,” she wrote.
In doing so, they were willing to make an investment. The new stucco finish, formulated to seamlessly match the old, cost $40,000. Four period exterior iron sconces from an old building in Chicago were $1,600.
The News invited the Tapani family to be interviewed and have their home photographed for the Home of the Month feature.
The home, now about 4,800 square feet, features a kitchen with a coffered ceiling, custom Shaker-style quarter-sawn cabinets, granite countertops, a birch heartwood floor, a Viking stove and two Sub-Zero paneled refrigerator drawers in addition to a full-size refrigerator.
The island measures 5 feet 3 inches by 7 feet 7 inches, with one corner elevated as a work surface, with a microwave tucked beneath it. The family can sit at the island, but there is also a dining nook in the keeping room.
The sink and dishwasher are positioned so that anyone doing the dishes faces those in the keeping room to remain part of the conversation, said Arno Tapani, a manufacturing engineer at Hamburg-based K-TECHnologies.
The Tapanis have repainted in recent years. Their daughters – Holly, 21, Eva, 19 and Grace, 16 – recalled the hot pink and lime green colors they chose for their rooms growing up. The walls are now soft grays and blues.
There is some wallpaper in the house. An accent wall in the gray and white master bedroom is covered in an Ellie Cashman floral design inspired by Dutch still life paintings.
The second-floor laundry room wallcovering is a 1950s-style Florida-themed pattern with flamingos and palm trees. The downstairs half bath is a hummingbirds pattern.
“I don’t like a lot of wallpaper, but I do like it in spots,” Susan Tapani said.
The residence also is home to a 10-year-old great dane/lab mix, two cats, a bunny and four chickens – Peanut Butter, Henny Penny, Happy Meal and Nugget. They are let out of their coop for brief periods but know when it’s bedtime.
“They go to their little coop at 8:30 at night – 8:30 sharp,” said daughter Grace.
The blue print: The house at a glance
Take a peek inside the Tapani family’s East Aurora home, which has been enlarged, renovated and redecorated through the years. They bought the house for $340,00 in 2001:
Layout: The mudroom leads to the basement, garage and large kitchen with adjacent gathering space (“keeping room”). The first floor also features a pantry; bath; dining room, and a large living room that opens to the outdoor living spaces. The second floor has a laundry room, three baths and five bedrooms, some located in what was once the maid’s quarters. There’s also a finished basement with bath. The fifth bedroom, keeping room and mudroom were included in the addition done in 2003.
Floors: Rugs (some antique) and hardwood on the first floor, including birch heartwood in the kitchen that was installed during the renovation. Ceramic tile in the mudroom. Carpeting on the second floor.
Furniture: A mix of modern and antiques. The art deco dining room furniture reflects the era of the house, which was built in the late 1920s.
Window treatments: Custom panels and valances. The window fabric in the living room is original to the house, but the draperies were remade by a former owner.
Lighting: Some original fixtures. Susan Tapani also found art deco wall sconces everywhere from eBay to antiques shops.
The garden: A large brick patio extends across the back of the house. The backyard includes fruit trees, a wooded area, landscaped beds and a chicken coop.
Love your home? Tell us about it
One of the most popular features for years in the Sunday Home & Style section is the Home of the Month, which features a local home and the people who live there. Today, we feature the East Aurora home of the Tapani family.
Our Home of the Month is also online at buffalonews.com – along with a gallery of photos by a photographer showing interior and exterior shots as well as details throughout the home.
Last fall, we launched another feature that appears online only – the Home of the Week. This lets readers inside even more homes throughout Western New York. It, too, has become a very popular feature. Who doesn’t like to peek inside other people’s homes?
The Buffalo News continues to look for other local homes and the stories behind them and their décor. Those chosen will be displayed in the weekly feature at buffalonews.com. As with the Tapanis’ home, the residence also could be chosen as Home of the Month with an article in a Sunday edition of The Buffalo News.
Here’s what to do if you’re interested: Tell us about your home in 150 words or less, and email 10 hi-res images (in .jpeg form) of the interior and exterior to firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s OK to send the images split among several emails. Please include your name and the city or town where you live – and a phone number.
While we can’t return a personal response to every submission, we plan to let you know via email that we received it.
We will contact those chosen to be featured on buffalonews.com. We will include your first and last names and the city or town in which you reside but not your exact address and certainly not your phone number.
Single-family homes, condominiums, lofts and apartments are eligible. For the online feature, we will publish some or all of the photos you submitted.
If your place is chosen for Home of the Month, we will visit your home for an interview and our own photo shoot.
We welcome responses from single people and couples, young parents and empty-nesters, multigenerational households and down-sizers ... anyone with a story to tell.
Story topics: home of the month