Client Q+A: Schoolhouse Transformation

The Caple's on Adapting a Schoolhouse Into Their Forever Home + Contemporary Apartments

Jocelyn and Brian Caple share insights on their ambitious Dover, New Hampshire project, the process along the way and how they feel now that it is complete.

Why did you decide to purchase and invest in this particular property?

We love downtown Dover and were on the lookout for an opportunity to create a unique living space within easy walking distance of the restaurants, shops, city services, and community walking trails; we also love historic buildings.  When we saw this old brick schoolhouse – which had been converted to commercial office space – come up for sale, we immediately knew this was our next home! In addition to providing a beautiful, unique and solid shell in which to create modern living spaces, it also sat on a “larger” lot by downtown city standards which offered the potential for expansion. In fact, to others the building may have been a tear down to make way for one large apartment building, but we were excited by the possibility of preserving the historic building and some of the green space for the neighborhood.

What was your initial vision for the renovation and expansion and how did the design process go?

We knew that we wanted to preserve the exterior of the building as much as possible, and there were some amazing interior aspects – like the large hexagonal windows, 12 foot ceilings, brick accents, gorgeous staircases and old wood – that we wanted to find a way to highlight. We *hoped* that we would also be able to utilize the side yards for expansion, but wanted to see if our money and nerve held out after the renovation of the main building before committing. We have long admired the work of WINTER HOLBEN, whom we selected for this project because we knew they would optimize the historic building while also excelling at developing our vision of modern additions that complimented the original building. The design process was iterative and so much fun, as each new version saw our vague ideas and idiosyncratic desires brilliantly translated by the team into exactly what we wanted! The experience of the design team also meant that we were presented with new products and building material options that we wouldn’t have considered on our own.

What challenges did you face along the way?

With any renovation, little surprises pop up along the way; luckily, WINTER HOLBEN and our contractor were always available and provided creative solutions at every turn. Window openings were too large for the largest standard size window on the market. The addition of reclaimed granite sills to reduce the size to allow for standard windows was very economical and incidentally allow the kitchen counters to meld seamlessly into the window sill. Of course there were numerous code compliance issues and questions that arose along the way (particularly when retrofitting an old building) which Winter Holben was able to work through to everyone’s satisfaction. Building in the Covid era meant we had more than our fair share of supply chain issues and difficulties with securing subcontractors, but flexibility ruled the day with all involved and we ended with a high quality product, mostly on time!

How do you feel about the outcome, any response from the neighborhood?

We are so excited about our new home; we had the privilege or preserving this beautiful old building, while creating modern and fresh interior spaces. We feel that the modern additions compliment the historic building, which we never would have been able to replicate. Certainly, the project generated a lot of interest over the past several years while we were under construction and we have received many positive comments now that it is completed.

Learn more about this project.