Christina O'Brien has discovered you really can go home again — or at least the next best thing to home, your grandparents' house.
For the past six years, O'Brien and her husband, Joe, have been renovating, while keeping the retro vibe, of the house built in 1953 by her grandparents, Frank and Cookie Bologna. It was like her second home.
She grew up a fence away on the street behind her grandparents' house with her parents, Re and David DiVincenti.
"I spent my life going between the two houses," she said.
After Frank Bologna died in 2011, the O'Briens bought the home from the family and set out to preserve its Mid-Century Modern style while adapting it for their family of three young girls — Mackenzie, now 11; Lucy, 9; and Ellie 5.
"I love the house so much, that I didn't want to change," Christina O'Brien said. "This was a wonderful party house. We wanted to bring it back to life."
Over the years, her grandmother had made many changes to the home including the addition of a deep front porch and columns in 1992.
"My grandmother kept bringing landscape people to the house to fix up the front until one of them told her she needed an architect," Christina O'Brien said with a laugh.
That's when the Bolognas hired architect Kevin Harris, who came up with the plan for the porch.
"That porch is what sold us on the house," she said. "I grew up having pizza on the porch with our family."
But the memories go far beyond the porch, into the living room, still filled with Cookie Bologna's 1960s-style furniture, but now called the "singing room" by the O'Briens, whose children practice the piano, sing and dance in the large space.
What originally was Frank Bologna's study is now a home office for Joe O'Brien, director of external reporting for Lamar.
"We like to sit in this room and watch the trees," Christina O'Brien said.
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With assistance from architect Chris Ferrari and contractor Ken Russell, the O'Briens completely redid the kitchen, which had opened to a sunken den added by the Bolognas in the 1960s. The O'Briens raised part of the sunken floor to create a breakfast area on the same level as the kitchen. The original pink brick walls of the den are now a putty color called "Witchcraft" and the kitchen cabinets are "Anonymous Gray."
The breakfast area and downstairs den overlook the patio and 1960s kidney-shaped pool. The landscaped patio also features a seating area for outdoor enjoyment.
And, most importantly, that gate is still there leading to the home of Christina O'Brien's parents.
The home originally had three bedrooms — one for the two Bologna sons, a large pink bedroom and pink bath for the three Bologna daughters and the master bedroom, which had a glass porch that was a later addition.
The O'Briens bumped out an external wall and divided the pink bedroom into two bedrooms so that each of the girls could have a room of her own. They removed the glass porch and added a master bath designed by architect and lifelong friend Kevin Alford, who also planned the bedroom expansion. They moved the heating and air-conditioning from a closet to the attic and created a powder room a few steps off the living room.
Contractor Dwayne Blanc, who has helped the O'Briens with many of their projects, was contractor for the downstairs den, master bath and expansion of the bedrooms. He came up with ideas for increasing storage in the den and breakfast area and also built a new bar for the den.
The home has a separate formal dining room furnished with pieces that belonged to Christina O'Brien's great-grandmother.
"I have gotten such joy from having things from my family," she said. "The furniture from the '60s is fantastic. It's just so comfortable."
The home is a stone's throw from St. Joseph's Academy, where Christina and many members of her family attended school. One day, she hopes her girls will make that same short walk.
"My parents and aunts and uncles have been so supportive of the work we have done to the home that was so important to our family," she said. "We are making some new traditions but keeping the old ones, too."