For some people, it’s true: You can go home again. At the Buffalo home of Dr. Joseph Capuana, a dentist, and Jan Capuana, a registered nurse, many years have been spent transforming the house that Jan Capuana grew up in – first as a place to raise their own children and now as one to welcome their grandchildren.
She is the decorator with a knack for shopping consignment stores and estate sales. He is a do-it-yourselfer with many home-improvement projects under his tool belt.
Their residence was featured as a Buffalo News “Home of the Week” online in early October. The News visited recently to interview the couple and photograph the place.
The story of the house dates back to 1952 when Jan Capuana’s parents bought it for $17,000, three years before Jan, the youngest of four sisters, was born.
Their father, James Murray Conroy, an attorney, died in 1957 at age 40 after a brief illness. The eldest sister was 5.
Their mother, Jean M. Conroy, returned to school after her husband’s death, earned a master’s degree in education and taught home economics. The girls’ maternal grandmother moved into the house to help out.
Jean Conroy, who had added on a family room and third-floor dormer to the house, retired at age 62. After deciding to move to a townhouse, she asked the Capuanas if they wanted to buy the house.
The couple had three young children at the time and had been looking for a house in North Buffalo.
“We had been looking for a year. She gave me two weeks to decide about the house,” Jan Capuana said.
So 10 years after she had moved out of the house at age 22, she and her husband decided to buy it – the same house from which he had picked her up while they were dating. They paid $69,500 for it in 1986.
The couple raised three children in this house – Michael, Lesley Sievert and James – and have four grandchildren, ages 2 to 11. On one recent weekday, as soup simmered on the stove and dinner cooked in the slow cooker, the two youngest – 2-year-old first cousins – arrived after preschool for the afternoon.
Tiny backpacks were dropped. The toys came out. The electric train chugged along a track installed by Joe Capuana near the ceiling of the family room.
While Jan Capuana enjoys decorating, this is a child-friendly home. There’s a toy station in the family room, dress-up clothes in the third-floor playroom and a pillow-filled window seat in the living room.
The train project is just one of the many Joe Capuana has tackled through the years. He said he has learned much along the way.
After they moved in, he got to better know a couple in the neighborhood who were handy around the house.
“They had been here for a long time. Whenever I had a house question I would go down and talk to them. Plus I had some family members who were fairly knowledgeable to help me do different things,” he said.
Among his home-improvement projects, with help from his wife and grown children:
• Building the deck near the pool.
• Painting the interior and exterior of the house.
• Installing the new floor on the porch.
• Installing composite stack stone siding on the lower section of the front of the house.
• Helping in the renovation of the second-floor bathroom.
• Installing crown molding in the dining and living rooms and installing a few of the new windows.
Professionals have been brought in for other home improvements, including converting the fireplaces to gas; updating the kitchen; enlarging the patio; updating the electric; gradually replacing windows; installing new flooring in the kitchen, foyer, half bath and family room; installing a corner gas fireplace in the family room; adding fencing; re-landscaping the front yard, and replacing the driveway.
As for the decor, Jan Capuana describes the style as ranging from “really modern to traditional to eclectic.”
The modern glass-top dining room table on a wood frame extends to seat up to 12; the extensions are stored below the top and slide easily into place. No need to store leaves in a closet or under a bed.
(With toddlers frequently in the house, Joe Capuana attached soft corner cushions from Buy Buy Baby to the thick glass tabletop).
They bought the table at the former Advance Furniture. The buffet and six chairs were a Craigslist find. Jan Capuana later found four additional chairs – same wood, same size – at a moving sale.
Those are stored in the basement until the next family gathering.
A chair and sofa in the living room are from the bargain basement at Calvin’s Furniture. Another living room chair – this one upholstered in polka dots and Jan Capuana’s spot for morning prayers – came from Raymour & Flanigan.
She found the family room sofa and love seat at an estate sale in Amherst.
The chandelier in the dining room also comes with a story – and one that reflects how special this house is to this family.
Back when Jan Capuana and her sisters were still in high school, they pooled their money and bought it for their mother for Mother’s Day.
When their mother moved to a townhouse years later, she took the chandelier with her. After her mother died in 2013, Jan Capuana made sure to return the chandelier to its original home.
“I touched it up and hung it back in the dining room,” she said.
A few minutes later, while continuing the tour of the house, Jan Capuana stopped and said: “I can’t even imagine not living here.”
The house at a glance:
Layout: Living room, dining room, kitchen, half bath and family room (not original to the house) on the first floor. Three bedrooms and bath on the second floor. Finished third floor used as a playroom. There’s also a basement, new landscaping by Regan Landscape in front and a fenced backyard with patio and above-ground pool.
Floors: Original hardwood floors topped with area rugs in living room and dining room. Vinyl plank flooring from Lumber Liquidators installed two years ago in kitchen, foyer and half bath. Laminate flooring in family room. Carpeting on stairs and in upstairs rooms.
Furniture: A combination of items found on Craigslist and at consignment shops, estate sales and furniture stores.
Wall colors: Benjamin Moore Pomegranate AF-295 in the dining room. Benjamin Moore Waynesboro Taupe 1544 in the living room and hallway. The staircase is lavender; the upstairs bath is tangerine; the master bedroom is soft blue; the other two bedrooms are taupe and pale yellow.
Artwork and accessories: Paintings and family photos. Lionel train in family room. Pillows and throws. Dog accent table and dog statue in living room.
Love your home? Tell us about it
One of the most popular features in The Buffalo News Home & Style section is the Home of the Month, which features a local home and the people who live there.
Today we feature the Capuanas’ home in the University Heights neighborhood in Buffalo – the house where Jan Capuana grew up.
Our Home of the Month appears online – along with a gallery of photos by a News staff photographer – as well as in a print edition of Sunday Home & Style. Today's story will appear in the Sunday Home & Style print edition Nov. 3.
In fall 2017, we launched another feature that appears online only – the Home of the Week. This lets readers inside even more 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 is the case with the Capuanas’ home, the residence also could be chosen as a Home of the Month.
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) to email@example.com.
It’s OK to send the images split among several emails. Please include your name, the city or town where you live and a phone number.
We will contact those chosen to be featured on BuffaloNews.com. We also will publish online 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. If you have problems submitting photos, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Susan Martin
* In case you missed our October Home of the Month: