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Lori Rogers and Roxanne Cullen Przybysz take pride in restoring St. John's home

Lori Rogers and Roxanne Cullen Przybysz stand in front of the stained glass transom window in the front entrance to their home.
Lori Rogers and Roxanne Cullen Przybysz stand in front of the stained glass transom window in the front entrance to their home. - Sam McNeish

It’s like a mix of music genres — a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll — with a whole smattering of jigs and reels.

The award-winning renovation project at 114 Quidi Vidi Rd. has a mix of it all.

Homeowners Lori Rogers and Roxanne Cullen Przybysz incorporated all of these and more into their home, which was honoured with a City of St. John’s Heritage Award.

Both women grew up in the downtown district of St. John’s and throughout their many address changes, always knew this was the area they wanted to be in.

So when the home was purchased in 2003, Rogers had a vision.

“We are going to live here someday,” she told Cullen Przybysz, who was dubious, telling her, “I don’t see it, Lori.”

The couple has been buying and selling residences for years, and fixing them up to provide homes for people with complex needs such as mental illness and others who just need a second chance in life.

“We are trying to help people who have had hard times in their lives,” Rogers said.

In addition, maintaining the historical part of design and the ties to cultural heritage are important for the couple, as they note that as each year passes, these things have been dwindling, bit by bit.
As an example, they said vinyl siding is taking over from original clapboard designs.
So when they started looking for people to complete each phase of the Quidi Vidi project, they hired an excellent team of carpenters, an engineer, a mason and other local artisans to help bring their historical concept to life.

They maintained the heritage characteristics of the home to make it fit well with the original homes in their neighbourhood, and added a few heritage flares of their own, while at the same time incorporating modern designs and amenities that gave them all the comforts of home.

The couple completed these extensive renovations, both to the exterior and the interior, and expressed their individuality in the concept, design and follow-through of the restoration process, trying to keep in mind the way the home related to the other homes in the area and how it would define the space on the street.

“The city was a great asset on the project for us. They have a lot of resources that residents can use to help make their projects go easy and at the same time match its heritage criteria,” Rogers said.

“We hoped that with their guidance, as well as our eye for detail, this would help our home relate in a congenial manner to the other houses in the neighbourhood,” Cullen Przybysz said.

In addition, they did their legwork, talking with neighbours who had been in the neighbourhood for decades to see what buildings looked like in those days, and referenced that knowledge with research through the city and its heritage officer at the time, Peter Mercer.

“We wanted to follow the strict guidelines, so we went and got permits — A to Z — for everything to make sure nobody was at us while we did the renovations,” Rogers said.
“Our file had to be this thick,” she added, measuring about an inch with her fingers to drive the point home.

Rogers’ father was the project manager for Olympic Construction, so she got her knowledge and desire for projects like this from following him to work and learning how to do design and renovations.

In addition, Cullen Przybysz has a flair for colours and design, which worked well with Rogers’ construction knowledge.

Criteria set
The story of the heritage property at 114 Quidi Vidi Rd. was created because the homeowners had a vision of the past that they committed to bring to the future.
“We were fortunate enough to have a team of dedicated individuals with an acute sense of local history, in-depth knowledge of traditional building materials and techniques, along with an uncompromising attention to detail to allow us to faithfully recreate historic elements that will stand the test of time and maintain historic integrity,” Cullen Przybysz said.
When they set out to restore the property, and after doing their due diligence with the City of St. John’s, the couple set out criteria that was included in their submission for the Heritage Awards that included:

• Preserving or restoring the original character of a heritage building or any building in a heritage area.

• Rehabilitating an older building, including successfully integrating modern elements.

• Respecting the character of a modern building in a heritage area.

• Stewardship and long-term preservation of a heritage building or any building in a heritage area.

“I heard about the heritage awards on the radio and approached Lori with it,” Cullen Przybysz said.
“Lori said, ‘I don’t know Roxanne,’ so we waited until the final day before we put in our submission and just ‘hope for the best,’” she added.
The outside of the home was done over a five-month span, starting in late April and finishing in September.

“It was funny, after we had all the work done, we came home one day and saw these tourists in front of our house taking photos. They were sitting in a chair out front, on our steps,” Rogers said.

“We didn’t interrupt them. We pulled over and sat in the car and watched them. They just took their photos and moved on. That made us happy to know someone else loved the work we accomplished here.”

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