Transforming a House into a Home

Transforming a House into a Home

This article appears in the September 2007 issue of Housetrends – Cincinnati

Montgomery homeowners don’t go far to find their dream home

By Bethany Meisinger-Reiff

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When Jonathon and Kathie Burns embarked on a year-long journey to find their dream home, they never imagined they’d end up right where they started—in the two-story house they already owned on a quiet, established street in Montgomery. The recently retired couple wanted an updated home that was more suited for their style of entertaining and offered one-floor living. Yet the Burns’ roots in the neighborhood extend back 20 years, and they live just two blocks from Montgomery’s quaint downtown—two amenities they didn’t want to lose. “We just couldn’t give up the neighborhood, but we also didn’t want to stay in the house we were in,” Kathie says. “We decided we’d take the best of both.”The couple opted to transform the first floor of their 30-year-old Colonial into a transitional-style plan. From the front entry to a new four-season room, the first floor was stripped to its support beams, redesigned and expanded by Neal’s Design-Remodel, a design-build firm in Cincinnati. Gone are the compartmentalized, dark rooms, formal dining area and galley kitchen. In their place is an open floor plan with generous sunlight and ample space that better reflects the vivacious personalities of the owners. The couple added only 900 square feet, just enough space for a first-floor master suite, bumped-out dining room and a four-season room. The change is bold and dramatic, the space entirely reborn.

Bringing the outside in

With the exception of the living room fireplace, nothing remains from the former first floor—not even the entryway. The concrete front stoop, which had been open to the elements, has been replaced by an elegant brick porch with a bead board barrel ceiling.

Comfy furnishings on the porch, combined with the addition of two new decks in the back, hint at the Burns’ enjoyment of outdoor entertaining. Yet because Ohio’s annual swings from grueling heat to bitter cold can severely curtail the outdoor living season, the Burns brought the outdoors in.

The generous use of windows—especially in the dining area, where three walls are paneled in glass—coax warm sunlight deep into the house. Natural and highly textured materials like stone and wood are worked throughout the space in sometimes surprising ways, such as the stone tile vanity in the powder room and the stained bead board ceiling in the four-season room.

Earth tones and sconces with willowy grass motifs reinforce the natural theme. The living room fireplace and a see-through fireplace shared by the four-season room and master bedroom offer cheer during the winter months.

The overall result is a living space that is at home with formal entertaining as it is with casual get-togethers. More importantly, the Burns and their guests can enjoy the best of all seasons from the comfort of their four-season room. “It’s wonderful to sit here and watch the snow fall, then turn around and watch the fire,” Kathie says.

Kitchen in transition

Transforming the kitchen from an enclosed galley into the center of entertainment required the Burns to think differently about a number of details, starting with their cabinets.

To depart from feeling too much like a kitchen, the Burns added formal elements that lend the appearance of furniture to the cabinetry. Egg-and-dart molding embellishes the rich cherry cabinets and the appliances are hidden behind cherry paneling. Glass doors on two of the cabinets create display space and an eye-catching niche backsplash picked out in metallic tile adds a touch of artistry. The angled island pulls everything together by casually defining the space.

“Details like this were especially important now that the kitchen is open to the whole house,” Alan Hendy, of Neal’s Remodel-Design, notes. Hendy worked with the Burns throughout the remodeling process.

Even the Bosch dishwasher was selected with careful deliberation as to how it would affect the rest of the house. “Quiet is never an issue if you have closed rooms. But now that the kitchen is open, we had to choose a dishwasher that was quiet,” Jonathon says.

One-story living in a two-story house

One of the reasons the Burns considered leaving was because their home lacked a first-floor master suite. Instead of moving, they created one.

“If you ask a lot of people who have been in their homes a long time what they would do if they could do anything, it’s a good bet that having a first-floor master suite is going to be high on their list,” Hendy says.

Since the bedroom is an add-on, the architect drew from an expanded palette to create higher ceilings and clerestory windows, resulting in a gracious use of space and light. The fireplace here is surrounded by softer, more feminine stone that is expertly paired with the ocean blue walls. An angled wall with a faux-painted niche was designed specially for the bed, adding an uncommon twist on the standard four-corner room.

In the master bathroom, the Burns enjoy his and her vanities, a luxury they did not have in their upstairs master suite. The room is adorned with finely worked details, like basket weave mosaic accents in the floor and the tiled shower surround. The attractive vahara exotica granite countertops are accented in the shower, creating a uniform harmony.

The bathroom’s crown jewel, however, is the stained glass windows over the Jacuzzi bathtub. Vibrant colors and geometric patterns hearken to the romance of craftsman-styled homes. “I wanted the stained glass for privacy, and it’s very pretty,” Kathie explains.

The Burns also moved their laundry room from the back of the house to a closet in their master bath; a trend that Hendy says is gaining popularity. “I can’t think of anything easier than having the laundry right there,” he notes.

At home in their home

The Burns lived on their second floor and in their finished basement for eight months while the work was done, but they don’t have any complaints. Jonathon attributes this to Neal’s “attention to timing and minimizing interruption.” The contractors also took good care of the Burns’ two dogs throughout the process.

By re-thinking their current space, the Burns created a first-floor home without losing the space afforded by the house’s original four bedrooms. With three grandchildren in the family and plans for more in the future, the Burns are glad they didn’t downsize to a smaller house.

While travel is in the cards for this retired couple, they aren’t in a big hurry to go anywhere. “We just love the house so much. Until we get tired of it, we’re really going to enjoy it for several years,” Jonathon said.


Designer: Connie Hampton; Architect: Bob Voigt; Builder: Neal’s Design–Remodel; Flooring: Hardwood, Shumacher; Kitchen cabinetry: Brookhaven Pelham Manor, cherry with a fireside glaze; Kitchen countertops: Uba Tuba granite; Kitchen backsplash: Artisan from Kemper Tile; Kitchen sinks: Franke; Kitchen faucets: Grohe; Dishwasher: Bosch; Cooktop, oven and refrigerator: KitchenAid; Master bathroom cabinetry: Brookhaven Andover Raised Oyster Bay on maple; Master bathroom countertops: Vahara Exotica granite; Master bathroom floors: Newfoundland from Kemper Tile; Master bathroom tub: Jacuzzi; Master bathroom faucets and shower: Moen Kingsley; Powder room cabinetry: Wood-Mode Edgemont; Powder room countertop: 2×2-inch Slate Solution in Summer Wheat from Kemper Tile; Powder room sink: Noce Vessel, Chocolat