Mind Your Manor

Q&A with designers, renovators, and lifestyle bloggers Megan and John Kaplar

When homeowners, John and Megan Kaplar first came across The Arched Manor, it was in a state of disrepair and needed extensive work. The property’s state did not dissuade the couple, however. If anything, it was an invitation to indulge their deep-seated passion for transforming spaces, and they jumped at the chance. 

John and Megan Kaplar from the Arched ManorLocated just outside Leesburg, Virginia, the Georgian colonial home got its name from its 57 arched windows and instantly caught the eye of John and Megan. Prepared to pour their heart into turning The Arched Manor into their dream home, the Kaplars also began documenting its renovation along the way.  

What began as simple documentation in 2020, soon blossomed into a full-time endeavor, allowing both Megan and John to leave their corporate jobs and build two companies: Arched Manor and FOCUSED SketchUp--both passion projects that blossomed from their own in-home DIY experiences and expanded to provide eDesign, 3D rendering, and design consultation services to clients across the United States.

One of the major renovations in their own home, was replacing Arched Manor’s windows—a project that required careful planning and consideration. We sat down with John and Megan to learn a little bit about their work with Renewal by Andersen, and to talk about all things Arched Manor.

How long have you been remodeling homes? How did you get started?

We mostly remodel our own personal homes, but we have completed a few projects for friends and family. 

John started by doing work on his parents’ houses during summer break in college. His first house was a distressed property in Colorado that he fully renovated. Our first home reno together was when we purchased our first house in Ashburn around the time we were married in 2013.

Exterior shot of the new windows on arched manor

How did you find the Arched Manor? What appealed to you about it?

It was actually John who discovered The Arched Manor on a real estate site. We weren’t really looking, but once we saw it…we fell in love with the property and it’s potential. It has a very unique layout, tons of space, and an extra helping of charm and character. But when we first found it, it was very rundown and required a significant amount of work. Perfect for DIYers to swoop in and work some magic (albeit slowly). 

How long have you been working on the Arched Manor? Which areas have you tackled so far, and what do you have left to do?

Arched manor office viewWe have been working on The Arched Manor since we moved here in 2019. Actually, a little before we moved in since we refinished all the hardwood flooring and moved a few walls before the moving trucks arrived.

Once we moved in, our first big project was our mudroom renovation. We wanted to create a more functional locker area where we could store our shoes, jackets, hats, etc. as we entered and exited the house. 

That was then followed by the home theater…which was not our original choice for our “next project,” but we discovered some foundation issues (yuck!) which led to a redesign of the space. That actually ended up being such a blessing because of all the special movie nights we have had with our boys now. 

The next two projects were our pantry build and our dry bar. Those were back-to-back since we ordered new cabinetry for those areas at the same time. 

Other big projects we’ve accomplished since we moved in have been our dining room (including a new fireplace), our home office (we constructed our own built-ins), our guest bedroom and basement bar

How would you describe your design style? Do you each have your own design styles and the AM is a merge? Or are you pretty much in line with each other? If it’s a blend, how do you decide who’s…deciding?

We would describe our design style as ‘Formasual’! Partly formal, but also partly large California casual accents. 

We have always had similar styles, but when going into new projects, it was difficult to explain our vision for the space. What has helped us out immensely is when John learned SketchUp (which he now teaches – FOCUSEDSketchUp), so we could make sure we were aligned on the overall design!

You became the client when you worked with Renewal by Andersen for your window replacement project. What was the impetus to decide to replace your windows, and how did you decide what your criteria for a company to work with were?

When we moved in, we thought we could live with the existing wood windows for several more years. Being 20 years old, they had rot and gaps, but we figured we could just deal with that for the short term.

However, after a drafty winter, water leaks from spring rainstorms, and swarms of bugs that migrated inside our house that summer, we knew we had to seriously consider replacing them. We shopped around and had a few companies come out for quotes, but ultimately decided that Renewal by Andersen was the best fit. 

We knew we wanted something long-lasting that used composite materials (that don’t rot like wood), and that had UV protection and insulation properties.  

Can you tell us what you had done (in terms of your replacement windows and doors)? What did you choose for colors/hardware/finishes? You also went from some mulled, floor-to-ceiling windows to some slightly different sized picture windows—tell us a little bit about that choice, and how it worked and how you are feeling about it now.

Our large arched windows in the back of our house are one of the reasons we bought the house, so we knew these had to be statement windows. 

We worked with our Renewal rep to design single-piece picture windows that mimicked the look of steel windows (black mullions).

Our design consultant actually saved us thousands of dollars by suggesting that we NOT do floor-to-ceiling windows (like we previously had), because that height required tempered glass, which would greatly increase the price. 

Instead, he suggested building the bottom window frame up by 15 inches, which would allow us to have a non-tempered glass window–a much more affordable option. We also worked with our rep to design single and double entry doors to replace the existing ones. 

For our HOA compliance, we were able to have the outside finished in white and the inside left bare wood, which we primed and painted black. The matte black hardware on the exterior doors looks very high-end, and we love the triple locking mechanism that these doors have. 

What stood out to you about Renewal? Why choose a full-service company, especially with your skills at reno? 

Having experts who know what they are doing and have the skills to troubleshoot any issues that might arise (wood rot, insulating, alignment, etc.) was a huge factor for us. Also, some of these windows are massive, so there is no way we could tackle this as a DIY project. 

Safety is also a big concern for us since we have two small boys, so ensuring that professionals secured the windows correctly was a big selling point as well. (And also, John does not like heights, so carrying a window 30 feet up an extension ladder to install it is just not something he would enjoy.)

Renewal by Andersen installation day in arched manorWhat questions did you have—either from your perspective as homeowners or from your perspective as design pros—about replacing your windows? What questions do you think other homeowners have, and what can we tell them to help make their decision easier?

One of our biggest questions was what material would hold up the best in our Virginia climate. Having to replace wood windows every 20 years is just not something we can stomach, so asking questions to each window vendor that came out about their materials was first and foremost.

This is where the Renewal by Andersen Fibrex® composite material really caught our attention. We also wanted that steel window look, and not every company had products that mimicked the look we wanted. The customization factor of RBA was outstanding, and we could design these windows to get the look we wanted. 

Timeline and price were the other questions we had, and it should be no surprise that Renewal by Andersen was not the cheapest option…but when you consider the longevity of the product, the installation quality, the customization options, and the warranty provided, it was the clear winner in our book. 

What was the best part about working with Renewal, for you? What was something unexpected that surprised you during your experience?

We had an amazing experience with Renewal–from the very first interaction with our design consultant, all the way to the maintenance team that serviced some issues we had a couple months after installation. We really enjoyed working with our sales rep and collaborating on creating a package that fit our aesthetics and budget, and the installation team was top notch. We never had any concerns or issues during the installation–they were prompt, friendly, communicative, and fast. 

As designers/remodelers, you undoubtedly don’t like to let grass grow underneath you when it comes to projects… how does that work when you’re talking about window replacement (something that theoretically you shouldn’t have to do again for a very long time—if ever)? What sort of design considerations did you have to make for that? 

In our previous home, we purchased it directly from a builder, and they selected all the finishes. So we were stuck with almond color windows and trim. We have a very light and bright style to our designs, so even after we would renovate a room, we would still be stuck with those almond windows. So having our new Renewal by Andersen windows installed with white and black accents means that any renovations we do on the inside are not going to be overshadowed by a window eyesore. The windows are really the star of the show, and we love that these are already a part of our home, and we can tailor projects around them!

Want to design YOUR dream window?

Learn more about custom-made replacement windows and doors from Renewal by Andersen, visit our inspiration gallery, or schedule your free, no-obligation design consultation today!


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