A Home in Revision

By Kathleen Seaman

Empty nesters in China Spring remodel their home

From the outside, the home Lisa and Ron Daniel built 15 years ago looks the same. Nestled in China Spring near the Childress Creek, it has the same Mediterranean feel and the same stellar view from the back patio. But inside, their home is in the midst of a complete transformation.

For the past few years, the family had actually been looking to move rather than remodel.

“We were looking all the time, trying to find a new home,” Lisa said. Because of the home’s interior, Lisa felt stylistically stuck: “I couldn’t do anything here anymore because of the way that it was [built]. I will never again go with a specific style like that. It kept me trapped in a certain thing.”

Lisa confessed that she hadn’t been truly happy with her home for about five or six years, but she wasn’t convinced she’d be happy with another home either.

“We came out [to this area] and loved the view. We were lucky enough to find a spot we liked. I raised my kids out here,” she said. “But you have to decide, how much do you really want to put back into a house that you’ve been in? You have to make the decision that you’re going to spend that money to be happy, and that’s what we finally did. We knew we needed to redo everything if we were going to stay out here, and we decided to go for broke.”

To help with the renovations, Lisa enlisted the expertise of Renae Palmer of Palmer Davis Design, and first on the punch list of projects was tackling the main living areas which, like the rest of the home, had plaster walls and golden-colored paint.

“It was just a yellowy cream, the whole entire house,” Lisa said. “You couldn’t change anything to be more modern because [the walls] were dictating what it was going to be. But once we got new paint in, then everything changed.”

In line with the current housing trends, Lisa lightened up the walls and went overall with a cool gray color scheme that she said is more calming. With a cleaner, more neutral palette in place, the Daniels wanted to address the layout of the kitchen and living room, which didn’t have the best flow for entertaining their large extended family. The Daniels have two grown children, Austen and Alex, and two grandchildren. Lisa also has 10 siblings. When the whole group gets together, they obviously enjoy being all together in the same space, but the wall that separated the kitchen and living room hindered that.

“When I designed the house in the first place, I specifically wanted the kitchen closed off,” Lisa said. Before this home, she had an open-concept layout, and she thought she hated the noise that came in from the other room if she was trying to work in the kitchen. “But then of course everything changed, and everybody had an open kitchen but me, and I kept thinking, ‘God, I have got to get that back,’ because it really does make a difference. You’re a part of what’s going on everywhere, and I realized how much I missed having that.”

The wall that needed to come down was in fact a load-bearing wall, but Lisa and Palmer worked with the home’s original framer to find a structural solution, which ended up being a large arch that opens the kitchen to the living room.

After taking down the wall, the kitchen was gutted, and the layout completely rearranged. The sink was moved from under the corner window to within the center island. The island and kitchen countertops are cut from Calacatta Gold marble, which Palmer said was extremely hard to find. The slab is a creamy white with gray veining and sporadic striations of gold.

“We only had a certain amount of slab, so we’ve used it in here and then the butler’s pantry,” Lisa said. “It’s the best thing in the entire world. It’s gorgeous.”

Off the kitchen is a working pantry. Previously, the home had what Palmer called a “baby pantry” that backed up to a powder bath. The new pantry was expanded to take over the space of the bathroom, and the bathroom’s stained-glass window was replaced with clear glass to let in more light. Custom cabinets and drawers were added for food items as well as Lisa’s baking supplies, equipment and cookbooks. Instead of marble, the countertops are quartz, a more durable material. Raw steel open shelves were added along the back wall.

“It’s just so much easier for organization,” Lisa said. “I had [Cody Benton of Reckless Iron Works] build the shelves on the back wall because when I looked in, I wanted to be able to see some of the pretty things that I have.”

All the custom metal work in the home was designed and created by Benton, the Daniels’ son-in-law; his work has been seen on HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.”

The pantry’s sliding pocket doors are also steel, with reeded glass-and-gold handles.

“It’s really a working pantry, and I love that about it. Everything is [in the pantry], so it’s actually where I work. If I’m making a cake or cooking, it’s really good because all the mess is in there.”

The flooring in the kitchen was replaced with a hardwood in a herringbone pattern and an inlay border that was actually a surprise for Lisa. The Daniels’ original intention was to not redo the living room’s hand-scraped floors, but once the kitchen was underway, they saw that the wood floors in the kitchen wouldn’t pair well with the wood floors in the living room, which was now too red. So they had those stripped and restained to match.

Pointing out the border inlay, “Those are my original floors right there,” Lisa said. “[Kelley’s Wood Floors] surprised me and did that little accent. When I came in, that inlay was done all the way around the same color [as the living room floor]. They took the time to cut the old wood, cut it, shape it. We loved it even more.”

In the center of the downstairs is a bar. At one time, you could look into the living room via a pass-through window, but it’s since been closed up.

“It used to have a big huge cutout, but it kept me from being able to [rearrange] the living room. We could only have it one way, and it drove me nuts,’ Lisa said.

Plus, the window didn’t actually enhance the flow or interaction across rooms. Even with a window, the wall still physically separated the two spaces, and guests could only overhear background noise.

In the updated bar space, the upper cabinets were removed, a TV was added, and Benton created metal open shelves with a reveal to hide LED lighting. To add texture, the walls were redone with paper that looks like antique tile mirrors, and the ceiling wallpaper looks like metallic cork.

“The bar’s our favorite area when we have people over,” Lisa said. “Everybody just hangs out in there. How we reimagined the space, it really turned out well putting this wall in.”

So far, in addition to the main living spaces, the other areas that the Daniels have either remodeled or touched up include the dining room, the butler’s pantry, Ron’s office, two downstairs powder baths, the laundry room and the sitting room.

“We’ve kind of been all over the downstairs,” Palmer said.

The dining room received the same fresh coat of paint as the kitchen and living room. It also has new floors and wallpaper on the ceiling.

“We didn’t want to wallpaper the whole room and overkill it, and there’s not really a good place to stop the wallpaper in here,” Palmer said. “So, we decided we’d wallpaper the ceiling, which gives it a nice effect, and it doesn’t cost as much. It’s a patterned grasscloth.”

In the butler’s pantry, they added a mercury glass backsplash, a new gold sink and faucet and then changed out the cabinet hardware. The old hardware — crystal knobs — were repurposed and used in the bar. The powder bath next to the office was outfitted with new lighting, fresh paint on the ceiling and grasscloth wallpaper, on the walls this time.

The update to Ron’s office was a quick project that happened while he was out of town.

“Ron went on vacation, so Lisa and I went into his study,” Palmer said. “She said we’ve got to do something. So he was gone, and the painter got in there, and we got everything out. We went all gray. We redid the wood trim because it was kind of orange-y. We got him a new desk. We redid the chair. He came back. He loves it. Lisa said he stays in here every day now.”

The other downstairs half-bath got more of a facelift than its counterpart. Before it had what Palmer described as a typical countertop, a “head knocker” cabinet over the toilet and dark painted walls. Now, it has a living brass vanity base that Benton built, marble countertops and chinoiserie wallpaper.

The laundry room countertops were exchanged for a light-colored quartz, the sink was updated, and a blue-and-coral backsplash was added to tie into the color of the existing tile floors. The laundry room also doubles as the area where Lisa sews and does her floral arrangements for the house.

Next to the living room, at the back of the house, is a small sitting room that overlooks the pool and landscape. It once had a built-in computer desk that her kids used for homework when they were still in school. It also had a tropical ceiling fan with palm leaf blades.

“We were at the Bahamas,” Palmer said. “But Lisa was tired of being at the Bahamas in here with the dark colors and palm fan, so we lightened it up.”

They also lowered the mantel over the double-sided fireplace and exchanged the stone for a wood beam to match the home’s existing beams in the living area.

“They had some really great bones to start with,” Palmer said “Lots of great light and windows. They had awesome beams that came out of an old train station and really neat things architecturally. That made it really easy to just go in and freshen everything up.”

The projects that have been completed took about four months, and the house was company-ready just in time for Thanksgiving and the holiday season.

“Everyone was blown away,” Lisa said. “People could be everywhere congregating, so you didn’t feel like you were crammed in. But the flow, I can’t even tell you. It’s more functional with all the family we have.”

Lisa said there are definitely future projects in the works — the master bedroom and bathroom are up next — but they’re waiting until later in the year to start those. Once they decided to remodel their existing home, and especially once Palmer came on board, Lisa said she knew that the scope of the project would increase.

“When I texted Renae, that’s when I knew we were making that plunge. We knew we were all in,” she said. “But we’re not spring chickens. And we’re not a foot in the grave either. We’re just pleasing ourselves with changing things.”

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