Before & After: Home Refresh
Northern designers share tales of design challenge and triumph
By Kristi Kates | Oct. 6, 2018
Increasing home prices and a limited inventory forcing you to stay put in your current, not-so-beloved home? Either you can learn to live with it, try a little DIY, or — the surest path to love — call in a local design pro to help you reimagine your space (or lack thereof). Here, we showcase some eye- and space-opening refreshes that have taken several Up North homes we viewed from average to outstanding. (Note: See this week's issue, on newsstands now, for accompanying photos.)
THE CUTE COTTAGE CONDO
Designed by Angela Goodall of Kitchen Choreography, Traverse City
The Client: A recently retired couple who inherited a condominium unit.
The Location: Vantage Point at The Homestead in Glen Arbor.
The Revamp: An ’80s condo with dated architecture, “builder-beige” walls, and restrictive spaces. “This project was a combination of updating the style and just opening it all up,” said Goodall.
Design Goals: The homeowner wanted a cottage-style revamp that would be comfy, not fussy: with overstuffed furniture, floral prints, driftwood, and blue and white tones. “The condo sits way up on a hillside looking out over Lake Michigan, so part of our goal was also to take out the drop ceilings and fluorescent lights and raise up the ceiling so you could enjoy better views from farther back in the home,” said Goodall.
Biggest Challenge: There were several. The kitchen was full of small, compartmentalized spaces that needed to be broken apart. The bath was completely internal, with no windows or natural light. And the ’80s architecture posed a challenge to creating flow.
Favorite Update: “The biggest transformation was the stairway,” Goodall said. “It had a half-wall and a big, chunky honey-oak rail. We took out the half-wall and opened the whole thing up with big white newel posts at the bottom, and white spindles.”
THE BLISSFUL BUNGALOW
Designed by Kirsten Pappas of W.I.N.K. Interior Design, Traverse City
The Client: A working mom with kids away in college.
The Location: Downtown Traverse City.
The Revamp: A remodeled bungalow in need of modernization. “It had an older kitchen, with a layout that just wasn’t great,” Pappas said. “It wasn’t functional for a modern kitchen, and the large table she had in there didn’t work with the space. We also redid the bath in that house, which turned out quite nice. Both were pretty small spaces, as well.”
Design Goals: Redesigning for cleaner lines and better function. “We used a lot of Shaker-style white and stainless steel throughout. We took the kitchen cabinets right up to the ceiling, and instead of the table, we actually took all of the furniture out of the kitchen and installed a deep, rounded ledge with three barstools to make a breakfast nook.”
Biggest Challenge: “Just structural issues, really. I was pretty worried about the bulkheads,” Pappas said, “mostly because we didn’t know what was going to be under them. Thankfully, there wasn’t anything of concern there!”
Favorite Update: The new “butler’s pantry,” a previously unused closet right off of the kitchen. “That actually turned into what’s now the client’s favorite space,” said Pappas. “It wasn’t being utilized for anything before. Now it’s a coffee station and a wine bar and storage — it’s so great.”
THE LEELANAU RETREAT
Designed by Gretchen Knoblock of New Leaf Interiors, Traverse City
The Client: A couple, with young adult children, transitioning their summer home to a full-time residence.
The Location: Lake Leelanau
The Revamp: A whole house remodel to open up the dwelling for lakeside views and to better accommodate family and guests. “The house was built, I think, in the early ’80s,” Knoblock said, “so our entire plan basically centered around opening up these closed-up rooms to make the space very airy and contemporary.”
Design Goals: To really showcase Lake Leelanau, create an open-plan layout, and have plenty of space for entertaining. “We completely rethought the interior, reorienting all the main living spaces toward views of the lake,” said Knoblock. “There was a swimming pool indoors that we removed to make room for a master suite. We also added new flooring throughout the house, kitchen cabinets, and two fireplaces in the master suite and main living area.”
Biggest Challenge: The pool-to-master-suite conversion proved to be pretty troublesome. “Figuring out how to raise the floor up from where the swimming pool used to be, and then add in space for the master suite’s bathroom, was quite a challenge,” Knoblock said.
Favorite Update: “Definitely the custom island in the kitchen,” said Knoblock. “The client wanted something that spoke to the lakes and the color of the water, so we put a special glass insert in the center of the island, that’s lit from underneath, and inserted one of my own photographs of Petoskey stones and Leland blues. It took forever to figure out how to make that work, but it’s so striking.”
THE CLASSIC CHOICE
Designed by Kelly Paulsen of Kelly Paulsen Interior Design, Petoskey
The Client: A family of four revamping an historic dwelling into a long-term home.
The Location: Downtown Petoskey
The Revamp: Keeping the charm of the 100-year-old farmhouse while updating and bringing it into the current century. “Things were a little different back in the day, with smaller rooms and spaces,” Paulsen said. “So we had to make the house more livable overall.”
Design Goals: Opening up and designing a kitchen that would bridge the “then” to “now.” “The family had a kitchen table that had also been in the family for over 100 years, and they asked me to modernize the kitchen in such a way that they could still use that table, and it wouldn’t seem out of place,” said Paulsen. “So we did an updated farmhouse feel, putting in French doors to create more indoor-outdoor space, and putting in high-end appliances by Thermador and Sub-Zero to meet their other ‘want’ of having a real gourmet kitchen.”
Biggest Challenge: Dealing with the vintage building was more difficult than Paulsen had anticipated. “In opening up those spaces, we had to be careful to keep the structural integrity of this beautiful older home intact,” she said. “Then, when we pulled the floors up to do some other work, part of it had been eaten by insects. With older homes, you just never know what you’re going to find.”
Favorite Update: Just look up. “I’m a huge texture person, and I think ceilings are often forgotten, so I think my favorite update for this project was the coffered ceiling. I did it with a faux grasscloth made of vinyl, which is nice, especially in a kitchen — if you pop a champagne cork, everything can just be wiped clean!”
THE GLOSSY GETAWAY
Designed by Renee Guthrie of Lake Street Design Studio, Petoskey
The Client: A retired professional woman redoing her summer residence
The Location: A four-bedroom condominium at The Cliffs at Bay Harbor.
The Revamp: An entire “strip it down and do it again,” as Guthrie calls it. “When we started, the place was very, very dated, and dirty white everywhere — dirty white walls, cabinets, and carpet,” she said. “The client wanted us to bring everything to a slick, contemporary look, and she was willing to let us do and spend most anything.”
Design Goals: Guthrie’s vision was to achieve that look by pursuing high-end, sleek styles — stainless steel, marble, and glass. (The client kept a lot of the white theme but with a much more sophisticated look.) “We started with the kitchen/dining/living area, adding wide-plank weathered wood flooring, replacing all the cabinets, and refacing the fireplace,” Guthrie said. “We contrasted the modern elements with natural ones — a barnwood beam mantle on the fireplace, walnut shiplap in the kitchen — to craft a high-style space with Lake Michigan flair, especially since the condo is right on Little Traverse Bay.”
Biggest Challenge: “Timeliness!” said Guthrie. “We weren’t able to start working on this project until February 2018, and the client wanted to enjoy the space this past summer, starting the end of June 2018. The building industry here is hopping right now, so everything we ordered was delayed, and we had to hire extra help. It was crazy, but we did it!”
Favorite Update: “The kitchen! We did all high-gloss white, flat-panel cabinets, with 2.5-inch thick quartz countertops,” Guthrie said. “The countertop at its end was mitred at a 45-degree angle and continued right down to the floor. And the backsplash is marble with a pattern printed on it. It’s all very different. There are a lot of really cool things happening in that space.”