Editor’s note: In the first of a series on those new to Wheeling, meet Elena D’Angelo, who has her hammer set on transforming Wheeling’s housing market through creative renovations.

If one of your guilty pleasures is marveling at the before-and-after transformations on HGTV, then get ready to peek inside a home remodeling project happening right here in Wheeling and get to know the woman behind the magic, Elena D’Angelo.

FINDING PURPOSE

An architect by trade, Elena has made a business out of transforming average houses into move-in-ready dream homes.

When Elena and her family relocated to Wheeling from Italy for her husband’s job, she found purpose in improving the housing market in Wheeling through her home renovations.

“Here in Wheeling, I found that most people only think in terms of getting their money back when making updates to their house.” That  makes sense, as remodeling for personal preferences can be a financial risk for most families.

“As a Wheeling resident, I want to be part of this community and help by improving the quality of housing,” which for Elena is delivering completely remodeled homes at fair prices — taking the risk and guesswork out of the renovation process. Elena hopes to start a trend by encouraging more local homeowners to take the risk and design their homes for personal enjoyment, rather than simply for resale value.

She is also keeping her eye on the downtown market, and hopes to one day invest in more historical buildings.

Steadfast in her mission to improve the quality of housing in Wheeling, in the last year and a half she has remodeled four homes in the area. In fact, her most recent project is set to hit the market this week — and this isn’t your average coat of paint and some new light fixtures. Elena and her team renovate the entire space from top to bottom to deliver homes that have character and charm with plenty of modern amenities.

Elena added plenty of space for entertaining by finishing the basement at 306 Jefferson Ave. to include a media room, laundry room and bathroom.

ITALIAN ROOTS

“I think I was born an architect. I have always been a builder, so when I graduated from high school I came straight to architecture school.”

Elena’s education in the Italian university system provided her with a comprehensive set of skills that allows her to see renovation projects through from start to finish, something she likely would not have received here in the U.S. Aside from learning about the structural design of buildings, she is also well-versed in landscape and interior design, staging and real estate evaluation. Throughout her career in Italy, she even had the opportunity to work on projects at the Vatican and other religious institutions. Although she still retains her architecture certification in Italy, here in the U.S. she operates as a licensed contractor and focuses primarily on remodeling homes with her business, Enhanced Design and Remodeling.

BUILDING A TEAM

While her business is now flourishing, it was hardly an overnight success. Elena admits that moving to Wheeling after being born and raised in Italy was a rocky transition. With the language barrier being an obvious hurdle in the beginning, one of the toughest obstacles Elena encountered was assembling a reliable team to help see her projects through. Luckily, she has built a strong team — two builders and a painter work for her year-round. Her team also includes local electrical, HVAC and haul-away service providers.

She admits that when she first moved to Wheeling, she wasn’t sure if she’d ever find true friendship — that person you can call when your car is broken down on the side of the road.

Happily, Elena has found that in her team. In fact, she recently found herself in that very predicament when she got a flat tire. Her foreman, who noticed something was wrong, lent her a helping hand by changing her tire. “It was my biggest fear, and it’s nice now knowing I have people who are here for me. My team is amazing. I cannot ask for anything more than what I have in my job.”

Elena and her team work side-by-side on all of her remodeling projects. With Elena, center, are Debbie Wilkinson and Peter Miller standing with her signature artistic door.

FROM DEMO TO DREAM HOME

While Elena and her team create homes that could easily be compared to the homes featured on popular HGTV renovation shows, she’s quick to point out that there’s a lot more work that goes into these projects than many 24-minute television shows lead on. She demystifies a lot of misconceptions, including how easy it seems to “blow out a wall” to create a more open space.

“You have to work with the house’s structure first. You cannot demolish a load-bearing wall without supporting it. In those shows, you don’t really see what goes on behind [the scenes] when they knock down a wall. [For my current project] I would have loved to knock down a wall and open everything up, but then I had plumbing issues. So, sometimes you have to redesign your first idea to make it technically work — and that doesn’t just happen by the magic of TV.”

Common goals among all of Elena’s projects are to increase square footage, add bathrooms and leave her own special touch on the home. With her most recent project on Jefferson Avenue in Wheeling, she’s done just that. What was once a 1,500-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bathroom home is now a whopping 2,100 square-foot dream house. How did she gain all of that extra space? By not leaving any single square inch go to waste.

She converted the attic into a dreamy shiplap-covered bonus room — the perfect space for an extra bedroom, office space or playroom. She also finished the basement to add a media room, spacious laundry room and bathroom. None of her projects are complete without leaving behind one of her signature hand-painted artistic doors. At this particular home, she’ll leave behind a charcoal and white painted door adorned with a splash of gold foil paint. While she keeps the designs of her homes modern and neutral to appeal to more potential buyers, she does like to leave behind a bold, personal touch that reflects her personal style.

By converting the attic into a bonus room, Elena was able to add an additional 450 square feet to the home.

The key to Elena’s success is designing modern homes that have the qualities buyers want — this includes being located in a safe, clean neighborhood with a garage or off-street parking and a yard, at least three bedrooms and, at minimum, contain at least 1,500 square feet of living space.

When planning a renovation, she pays close attention to ensure her homes blend in well with its neighbors. “I want the house to really respect the colors that are already in the neighborhood. I’ve been bold with colors [with previous projects], but I want my houses, especially smaller ones, to fit in with the rest of the neighborhood.”

WHAT’S NEXT?

With her most recent project on Jefferson Avenue coming to a close, Elena is not slowing down. She and her team have already hit the ground running on their next project that she lovingly refers to as “the zombie house,” located in the Springdale area. The 1,500-square-foot home is situated on a large lot overlooking Springdale and is filled with gorgeous original woodwork. Elena has big plans to resurrect the “zombie” with large landscaping projects in the front and back of the home and installing large picture windows on the main living floor to take in the views.

To follow along with Elena’s projects and to learn more about her open house at 306 Jefferson Ave., follow Enhanced Design and Remodeling on Facebook.

Alex Panas is a marketing and public relations specialist at Wheeling Hospital. She earned an undergraduate degree in health communication from Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and a master of arts in communication studies from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Since moving back to the Ohio Valley, Alex has been involved in a variety of organizations dedicated to revitalizing Wheeling, including the Wheeling Young Preservationists, Generation Wheeling and the United Way. A self-proclaimed cat lady, Alex lives in St. Clairsville with her two cats, Zoey and Millie, and her husband, Aaron Moore.

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