Pollock Journal | Issue 4: Transformation

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JOURNAL A showcase of the community, people and homes that inspire us


Vanessa Pollock Founder/Chief Creative Officer REALTOR Sales Associate

518 Millburn Ave, Short Hills NJ 07078 973-376-0033 Office | 973-544-8484 Direct Each office independently owned & operated


a transformed space

original entrance


or us, like so many, the pandemic prompted some serious soul searching. There we were, in sunny California, ostensibly “living the Silicon Valley dream” but in reality, feeling disconnected. Disconnected from our families, our people, a sense of true community, and from worlds and environments where our two biracial / Black boys could see themselves reflected all around them. We’d spent the last couple of decades as itinerants with 20+ addresses over the last 25 years (including a short, but beloved stint in the Montrose neighborhood of South Orange before we moved to California), so as we thought about putting down roots - and for the the first time, solving for Community instead of just Career coming back to South Orange felt really natural.

With that decision made, we called up our old friend and superstar Realtor, Vanessa Pollock (who had sold our previous home in South Orange) and got the ball rolling on finding our new home. Thus began an 18 month saga from search to moving in. We had a notion of creating a space that could truly be ours, so the first thing we looked at was a plot of land on Irving Avenue for a full build. That fell through rather quickly, so we expanded our search and looked at a wide variety of homes - from move-in ready to fixer uppers. We even put in a couple of offers on places, but lost out to other buyers. We were doing all of this remotely from California - with Vanessa taking us on handheld FaceTime tours, while working on selling our California home. Suffice it to say, all of this felt rather stressful!


Somewhere along the line, we came across 370 Franklin Place. We fell in love with the hearth of the home and the central open plan, but the rest of the layout didn’t work for our family. We said no to it and kept searching. But, we couldn’t shake it fully - it stayed in the back of our minds as an intriguing prospect that could be really special. A month later, Vanessa sent us a video that laid out how an addition would solve the layout issues and we came back to it - really excited about the possibility, only to find that there was already an offer in play. So, we started looking at other places again, only to get a message a week later that 370 Franklin was still available. We made an offer in October 2020, and closed around Christmas Day. With Vanessa’s help, we assembled an all-star team Greg Ralph (Architect), Evan Topilow (General Contractor), and Jerry and Rachel Sullivan of Melrose Studio (Interior Design & Project Management). In a wonderful bit of kismet, we discovered during our introductory Zoom call with Jerry and Rachel that they lived - literally - across the street from our new home, and were perfectly placed to be our eyes, ears and boots on the ground. Together, we collaborated on a vision for the renovation: to maintain the essence of this 1920’s ranch home with modern amenities and a layout to meet the demands of both daily living and entertainment. Our initial plan included an addition of two rooms for the boys and a hall bath, but our ideas and vision continued to grow. Greg Ralph and his team visited the property to create detailed drawings of the existing footprint and then a series of virtual design meetings was underway. As we were still in the middle of the pandemic, we decided we needed a dedicated home office. Our boys are also young and still wake in the night so we wanted our primary suite to be near the boys' rooms; the planned addition grew. Our new plan was to build a primary suite with a full bath, two bedrooms, and a hall bathroom. We also decided that the new basement would be fully excavated with 9 ft ceilings.


Our intention was to preserve the second floor ensuite guest room, but plans continued to evolve. We relocated the powder room and the washer/dryer to create a true mudroom and laundry room off of the back entrance. Along the way, our primary suite gained a tray ceiling, window seat, and a unique bathroom layout. Kate’s Pinterest board had run amok by this point. We envisioned a grand foyer with a huge vertical window to let in the maximum amount of light. This also aided in the balance of the exterior and created a strong central focal point. With changes to the ground floor ceiling heights, we started over with the second floor. Now our second floor guest room has soaring ceilings, a new bathroom, and a small loft space overlooking the foyer. It's Kate’s favorite corner of the home and a place to really enjoy the two-story window.

powder room

We broke ground in March of 2021. Neighbors took turns guessing about what was to come. With a giant hole in the ground, many were betting that we were adding a pool and were surprised once the framing began above ground. The home continued to evolve and transform. We were grateful to be on the opposite coast and not present when the sun shone and the wind blew between the existing and new sections of the house. There may have been a few moments of questioning, “what have we done?” But the two sections were tied together and rough in’s for electrical and plumbing began. As Evan and his team continued to build, we worked with Jerry and Rachel on the next set of details: cabinetry in the mudroom, trim in the office, foyer, and primary bedroom and bathroom. We repurposed some fixtures from the previous second floor bath and ground floor powder room. In the end, we have 4 full baths and 3 half baths. We never planned on so many toilets in one house but this was part of working with an existing footprint. We vacillated by the hour between pure excitement and decision overload. In July 2021, we made the move from California to New Jersey. We lived in an AirBnB and readied the boys for the new school year.


new basement kitchenette

laundry room

There were a few elements in the home that changed after seeing it in person. We struggled with the framing of the new foyer and loft area. There was a beam over the staircase that didn’t meet code requirements for height. We also wanted a very open feel to maximize the new height of the foyer and large window. We solved it by pushing the loft back, creating a much more open foyer and adding a vertical beam for support. The staircase design that we fell in love with on Pinterest proved challenging but not impossible. Who knew that a railing with no posts and only balusters was extremely difficult to assemble!? Our incredible stair craftsman figured it out but not without many extra days of labor on-site.


new basement rec room

Benjamin Moore Paint colors: Foyer and Living Room: Swiss Coffee Laundry Room: Old Blue Jeans Office: Deep Royal Powder Room: Galapagos Turquoise Primary Bedroom and Bath Panels: Silver Fox Flowers by Wildly Floral Special thanks to RE/MAX Broker Owner Robert Oquist for the "before" images of the home and the "before" floorplan


home office

new entrance


rebuilt staircase

We also doubled our “stair problem.” There was an existing stair in the living room that leads to a small 2nd floor dormer bedroom. The stair itself was pulling away from the wall and the railing was exceptionally short and definitely not to code. We worried that any change to repair the stairs would trigger further inspection. We either needed to leave it alone or fix it completely. We doubled-down and completely removed and rebuilt another new staircase. We love the new design and architectural details of the two staircases. The home also feels unified and it is not as easy to discern original home sections from the new addition. By October we were feeling far from the finish line and under enormous pressure to get moved in. We had extended our AirBnB rental as long as we could. All of our belongings were still in storage. Although we attempted to pack for changes in the weather, we were not ready to face the winter without the rest of our belongings. We moved to another AirBnB and pushed for completion and a move into our new home by Thanksgiving. This was not meant to be. By early December the floors had been sanded and refinished. We were finally ready for our moving truck, but not before a final calamity. A blessing in disguise, the water main to the house burst the day before move-in. Fortunately, Evan and his team were all on-site. In the preexisting section of the basement, water crested over the top of our defunct sump pit. Evan’s team grabbed a pump from their truck and within minutes water was being pumped out of the basement.

new primary bedroom

new primary bathroom

We could not determine where it was coming from. All mains were shut off and still the water continued to flood despite it being a dry and sunny day. By midnight we called the fire department and the next morning ‘American Water’ was on-site to turn off the water from the curb. We finally determined that the water main broke right near the foundation. So on moving day, we also had an excavator on the front lawn digging a trench and putting in a new pipe. Move-in was on a Friday. By Sunday we passed another inspection and the water was turned back on. Phew! We hosted Kate’s family for the Christmas holiday. We had a full and cozy home with 10 people around our farmhouse table. It was hard to believe that our vision had finally become reality. We are so grateful for the entire team that made this possible. Renovation requires a vision and some imagination and a LOT of flexibility. The amount of decision-making and details can be overwhelming - and for design addicts, also a ton of fun. There are MANY opportunities for things to go wrong, for delays in just about everything, and for workers and teams to fall ill, especially during a global pandemic. Our timing may not have been ideal, but we couldn’t be more thrilled to have transformed this home into our ‘forever home’ and to be back in SOMA, building community alongside each of you. Akwaaba! Welcome Home! By Kate & Kofi Amoo-Gottfried


What an honor to serve this family. To be honest, when I first walked into this Living Room, I knew that it was Kate's house. Being a part of this process with them was an absolute joy! - Vanessa Turn the page to see the floorplan & meet the team!




Melrose Studio is a local boutique business that provides comprehensive design and project management services for home renovations. We are a husband-and-wife team with over 30 years of design and construction experience, living in South Orange for the past 18 years. The foundation of our business is built upon providing creative design solutions, keen oversight, and open communication. Creating strong relationships with our clients brings us great joy, and we love to contribute by adding beautiful spaces within our community. "This was an amazingly rewarding project and the team truly collaborated to meet Kate and Kofi’s vision. We couldn’t have asked for more trusting, open-minded, collaborative clients– who are now our friends and neighbors! Thank you for the introduction and trust, Vanessa!" Contact info: w: www.melrose.studio p: 917.836.8505 e: Rachel Sullivan: rachel@melrose.studio / Jerry Sullivan jerry@melrose.studio

Evan Topilow is at the helm of Topilow Development, a custom home builder and remodeler based in Westfield, NJ. In addition to being leaders in construction management our experienced team dovetails old-world craftsmanship with modern building techniques to create homes with an unwavering attention to detail. ”We had the pleasure of working on this 1920s era home for an amazing family Vanessa Pollock connected us with. It was an absolute pleasure to work on this house with architect Greg Ralph of GRA Design Studio and the amazing husband and wife design team, Melrose Studio. I loved how this project gave us the opportunity to use some very unique building materials and custom features, and in the end it made this home very special. " Evan Topilow Topilow Development Topilow Development - Lagrand Ave LLC - Westfield, New Jersey NJ Lic. #: 13VH07901500 Registered Builder #: 46558 Contact info: o: 908-301-6035 c: 917-903-4888 w: http://houzz.com/pro/etopilow/

transformed by design

Vanessa started staging our listings OVER 15 years ago, before it became an HGTV phenomenon! Now with an entire Design and Staging department, Pollock Properties Group has designed and staged HUNDREDS of homes over the years. We are known for our very intentional and recognizable "high design" aesthetic. We have heard clients say "my house isn't pretty enough for your team", but MOST homes we list do NOT start out anywhere near how they end up being presented to the market. Our Group is in the “know” about what buyers want in today’s market. With careful strategy and service-oriented project management, we will elevate your home’s appeal to buyers and help you see the highest return possible on your greatest investment. And we do it all with "champagne taste, but beer budget", to keep as much money in YOUR pocket as possible! Our fierce and experienced Group will help you every step of the way – from design, preparation, and staging. We provide our Sellers with a "Roadmap to Success," a step-by-step Roadmap that provides you with vital, detailed information on what you should specifically focus on to help your home get top dollar in today’s market. The room by room guide acts as your "to do" list and we help you pick and choose which preparations will make you the most money. If you love a good "before and after" as much as we do, take a look at how we have transformed some recent homes for sale!

Need help with some of the preparation costs? We may be able to provide the resources to prepare your home for market with reimbursement due at closing! No hidden fees or charges! Ask your Agent about this option if your resources are tight. We want you to be able to present your home at its best so that you get TOP dollar!

These fabulous Sellers left us with a gorgeous and memorable fireplace surround as inspiration for a chic mid-mod living room staging.

By merely decluttering, changing the chandelier and staging the dining room, this room transformed and this home received 8 offers!

This kitchen had such great space and sunlight + an existing IKEA island. Our team recommended this on-trend paint color for the cabinets and island and voila! Transformed! We made sure that our staging plan tied together the existing countertops and pendants in order to stay very budget-minded.

We asked the sweet owners of this lovely little vacant Colonial to pack up and move out as much as possible, so that we could stage each room. With full staging, this starter home received 82 offers!

Our only changes to this grand formal dining were a new chandelier and bright white paint to transform it into a Pinterest dream! We helped present the home as "move in ready" as possible and it sold for over 20% over its list price, even though the kitchen and bathrooms needed total renovation.


transformational financing

Shopping for a new home is an exciting time that can lead you down many roads. Most buyers will have a specific wish list for their next home. This wish list might include the number of bedrooms or bathrooms or even the layout or location of the home. It's common for most buyers to have a desire to customize their new home with specific design options. Did you know you can also customize a mortgage product that will work for your finances, specifically the down payment? Most buyers start the process of buying a home with the assumption that a down payment of 20% is required. I can tell you this is NOT the case. Having flexible down payment options will allow you to consider homes that may be in the right location or have an ideal layout but may need kitchen and bathroom makeovers or even a full renovation. Having flexible down payment options will allow you to consider homes that you previously thought were not an option, based on the amount of funds needed to update the home.

Here is a financing solution that could work for a $500,000 purchase price: You can obtain a mortgage that allows for a 5% down payment ($25K), leaving you with $105K as available funds to pay for the updates you wish to make. Going with a lower down payment option allows you both the control and flexibility to pay for the updates with your own funds while having the satisfaction of transforming your recent purchase into the home of your dreams. An alternative option could be an actual renovation mortgage. If after reviewing your finances you realize you will need more money to update your home than you have available, you can always consider a product known as a renovation mortgage. A renovation mortgage is designed to lend you enough money to both purchase the home and provide funding for the updates you wish to make according to specific plans submitted. For example, if you are buying the same home for $500K and would like an additional $117,500 to update the home, you can obtain a mortgage for 95% of appraised value that will factor in the both the purchase price of the home plus funds needed for the renovation which would be $617,500. This allows you to put down 5% of the $650K ($32,500), the seller would receive the $500K for the sale and you would have the balance of $117,500 to use toward the updates you would like to make.

Here's a scenario: Maybe you have a price range of $500K-$650K to spend on a home and are prepared to put down 20% of the $650,000 price point ($130K). You’ve been looking for some time and not seeing anything that really appeals to you until you come across a home that is in the right location with the right layout, but the kitchen and bathrooms need updating. The home you are considering is listed at $500K and you are concerned that after you put down 20% ($100K) the remaining funds of $30K will not be enough to update the home.

This type of loan is more involved than the lower down payment option mentioned above because you would be working with the lender for months after closing to make disbursements to the contractor as the work is being completed. Regardless of which option, a lower down payment or a renovation loan are great alternatives that will allow you to consider a wider selection of homes in today's market. For all your residential financing needs, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly!

Matthew Keane SVP of Mortgage Lending C 973.464.7571 O 973.295.6478 matt.keane@rate.com rate.com/Matthewkeane 14 Main Street, Suite 140 Madison NJ 07940

NMLS ID: 12966, LO# NJ-9619063, PA-96121 Guaranteed Rate Inc.; NMLS #2611; For licensing information visit nmlsconsumeraccess.org. Equal Housing Lender. Conditions may apply NJ Licensed in NJ: Licensed Mortgage Banker - NJ Department of Banking & Insurance PA - Licensed by the Pennyslvania Department of Banking and Securities Lic #20371

ABOUT US: your transformation team Pollock Properties Group is proud to have helped over 1000 families achieve their real estate goals, which has allowed us to then raise and give back over $350,000 to local and global charities. We are high-tech, high-touch and high-design in our approach to real estate, and we are fiercely committed to being pioneers within the industry. Our purpose is to put people first in everything we do, provide the best service in the real estate industry and to make a difference while doing so. We have almost 100 years of combined real estate experience between us, and are committed to serving Northern New Jersey for decades to come with our mission of #CareServeGive! Every member of our team is committed to: CARE about you and your famly, SERVE you to the highest level of professionalism + your complete satisfaction, and GIVE back to this community that we love, as well as to the charity of your choice. Contact your Pollock Properties Group Agent today to get started on the preparation of your home - every home is special and every client is worthy of the best service.

Call us directly: 973-544-8484

@pollockpropertiesgroup Photographer: Thomas Leonczik

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.

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