The house was nearly invisible, hidden behind a wall of towering Norway spruce trees. But when Mark Andrew saw it, he knew he'd found the home he had been looking for. "The improvements the house needed were pretty simple," Mark says of the circa 1890 Folk Victorian, in South Plainfield, New Jersey. A fresh paint job and some overall streamlining—starting with the removal of two of those spruces—made for a dramatic transformation.
Landscaping: Aside from the overwhelming trees, the property had little in the way of plantings. During his first autumn at the house, Mark took advantage of end-of-season sales at his local nursery and created beds along the front and side yards, filled with rhododendron, azalea, barberry, juniper, and maiden grass. He also hired crews to cover the driveway with a fresh layer of crushed stone and to replace 180 feet of deteriorated concrete walkway, making it slightly wider.
Porch: To give the porch a cleaner look, Mark removed the screen panels that enclosed the left side and took out a space-eating vestibule that had been tacked on by a previous owner. Now the original glass-paneled front door, with its elegant scrolled surround, is once again the centerpiece of the facade.