Stuck in hours of traffic, our founder, who was driving, suggested to her sister, in the passenger seat, that scrolling through lake homes for sale would be a fun way to pass time. She had visions of living on a lake someday, but kept remembering her husband’s words – ‘where there are lakes, there are snakes, and I really don’t like snakes’. Couldn’t hurt to look. They were in the middle of a significant renovation project on their home, so they weren’t going anywhere. Fast forward one week. The couple fell in love with the home, made a deal, and started packing. They hoped their new home would be a gathering place for their seven children, grandchildren, family and friends, without snakes.
The home was built in 1960. From the street side, it originally resembled a ranch home. The lower level opened to the lake and served as the main living space, with the kitchen, dining area, living room with fireplace, one bedroom, a bathroom, and a small utility room. Over the years, a kitchen and principal suite were added to the upper level. A trend called ‘add-a-level’ became popular for ranch homes and a previous owner decided to incorporate this concept to add three extra bedrooms, a shared bath, and a lounge by building up.
When our founder saw the home for the first time, she was so enamored by the water views that she announced ‘this house is just fine as is – no need for any renovations’! This was a big statement coming from a designer who can’t get enough of renovating and creating cozy home spaces. This big statement was also not true.
The lower level was straight out of 1960. Although mid-century modern can be well done, this was not. A patio off the dining area had been enclosed as an office space with an awkward door and few windows. The original flagstone floor had flaking yellow remnants of sealers from years past that were impossible to remove. The u-shaped kitchen was dark and aged. The placement of it blocked the view of the lake. The bathroom sported original pink and brown wall tile with a white, brown, yellow and orange mosaic floor. The dark living area was separated from the dining and kitchen areas by a wall. The flow to the outdoor living spaces was cumbersome as the only ways in and out were through the bedroom and office. This was a full gut job.
This would be a good test for our founder and her newly hired son. Their working relationship would be challenged. He would learn how to deal with difficult clients who have trouble making decisions yet expect things to get done quickly. She would push his design skills and his patience.
The wall between the kitchen/dining and family room would come down to create an open concept for gatherings and to allow light and lake views to flood the space. A large, steel beam would support the span. We wrapped the beam in reclaimed white oak for rustic warmth to compliment the crisp white board and batten on all the walls.
The original 1960 U-shaped kitchen was dark and awful. The window above the sink was small and provided just a glimpse of the lake. Our goal was to relocate it so that the wall with the small window could become double glass doors, maximizing the view. The logical new location was the long wall next to the fireplace. There was one big obstacle associated with this idea – the main electrical panel for the whole house was on that wall. It would be very complicated and expensive to move it. The homeowner resisted this for months trying to come up with a clever way to hide the panel in the new kitchen design. Finally, her designer son helped her come to her senses by designing a gorgeous kitchenette featuring a wine column and all the conveniences of a larger kitchen. Details such as having the counter top, backsplash and shelf made from the same marble, an exclusive door style and hardware, and pretty sconces were too hard to resist. Somehow moving the electrical panel began to make a lot of sense! A pantry/bar with tall, retracting doors and a finished interior featuring adjustable shelves with color-controlled lighting, a contrasting drawer base inside topped with soapstone completed the kitchenette.
The gentleman’s office had to be snake proof, so we removed the door to the patio (just kidding!). We removed the door for privacy and for better flow inside and out. The wall with the door became a wall of windows with a magnificent view of the lake, pool and outdoor entertaining areas. Windows were added to another wall that had none, creating a panoramic view from the desk. A wall of custom cabinetry was designed to hide the printer and office supplies with shelves for displaying personal collectibles and family photos. The executive desk was designed using an exclusive door style and metal feet. New French doors were installed to separate the office from the living area when desired.
The bathroom was made wider to accommodate for aging in place needs. The layout was redesigned to include a curbless steam shower with a marble bench and handheld shower head next to it, a rain head and third showerhead on the opposite wall. Good looking grab bars were installed in the shower and by the toilet. A double vanity was incorporated with a marble top and backsplash. Reclaimed white oak was used for the built-in armoire, shelves in the toilet alcove and furniture style vanity. Natural marble hex flooring gives a nod to mid-century shapes and white wavy subway tile keeps the shower bright. Knurling details on faucets, lighting and hooks play to a subtle nautical vibe.
Enlarging the bathroom took space out of the bedroom that was gained back by shrinking an oversized closet. The tiny door into the bedroom was enlarged for aging in place needs. Cosmetic changes were made to the bedroom, including board and batten walls and a new glass door to welcome lake views. A fan was added to bring in the breezes. A picture light in the hall by the bedroom adds charm.
Thick five-panel doors with matte black and white porcelain hardware replaced the hollow slab doors throughout. The fireplace got a makeover taking it from a dated brick façade to a sleek, hand finished metal and concrete focal point. Some research resulted in a true hardwood, finished on site floor that could be installed on concrete. We used it everywhere except for the bathroom. This allowed the lower level to feel like a natural extension of the home without the basement feel. The new railing adds interest with metal and stained wood.
Needless to say, the design decisions were quite numerous. Making these decisions posed some of the biggest hurdles. Deadlines from contractors were helpful. Troubleshooting issues as they arose throughout this year long project created learning opportunities. We are happy to report that mother and son enjoyed the process and are thrilled with the outcome.