In Piatt County, a ‘very rough’ house becomes a weekend retreat

Homes: In Piatt County, a ‘very rough’ house becomes a weekend retreat

In Piatt County, a ‘very rough’ house becomes a weekend retreat

With its proximity to the Sangamon River, this affectionately updated house in rural White Heath makes the ideal weekend getaway for the owners and their family and friends.

Story: Christine Walsh

Photos: Rick Danzl

With its proximity to the Sangamon River, this affectionately updated house in rural White Heath makes the ideal weekend getaway for the owners and their family and friends. They converted the old home into a practical and appealing living space, where family life and an appreciation for decor coexist.

The house sits on a 10-acres lot, which owner Chad Ebbert describes as being a beautiful, peaceful, park-like setting. He and his partner, Jared Decker, now enjoy kayaking, four-wheeling and other activities they had never before had the opportunity to experience. They live in the 2,300-square-foot home from Friday through Sunday.

It took Ebbert about three years to renovate the four-bedroom, two-bath house, working every weekend. They removed all of the walls, took out shag carpeting, and all of the windows are new. “The whole house is new on the inside,” Ebbert said. “It had really been neglected.”

Ebbert originally was interested in the property, which includes a 36-by-36 machine shed and a 24-by-32 detached garage, because he needed a shop. He had no idea what he would find when he went to see it for the first time. “It looked like a haunted house,” he recalled. “I said, ‘I’m not really interested in this place.’”

Eventually, though, Ebbert began to envision what the property could be with some tender loving care. The owner of Precision Painting had previously undertaken a renovation of a central Champaign house.

“I do a lot of design for my clients,” Ebbert said. “I just daydream all the time. I really didn’t have a plan when we started.”

Ebbert reclaimed some cabinets from clients and gave them a dramatic makeover with some striking black paint. Split faced granite tile that would have otherwise been discarded as leftovers from a Champaign restaurant renovation was used for a kitchen accent wall. “It seemed like a waste to throw them away,” he said. “We did it as nice as we could but as affordably as we could.”

Ebbert describes the decorating style of the home as “modern farmhouse.” “Being out here, it wouldn’t look right to do something more urban,” he said. “I wanted it to be warm and inviting but to have that modern look.”

There are modern farmhouse cabinets in the laundry room and a modern farmhouse coffee table in the living room with the wood stove. Ebbert has modernized the look of farmhouse décor items like barn door faces on the double-sink master bathroom vanity and a round wood mirror in the entryway with simple furnishings in crisp neutral colors. Ebbert gave the raw texture of exposed brick on the living room fireplace farmhouse flair by pairing it with vintage-look lanterns and a dark-stained wood mantel. Ebbert paired the industrial-chic design of the kitchen with framed wood wall signage and vintage upholstered bar stools with ornate curved backrests. A distressed wood box and crate that flank the fireplace and plants in a vase lend a warmer, more organic look to the otherwise modern furniture. Turquoise, pink and yellow accents in the living rooms give the otherwise cool and contemporary foundation a cozier feel. The turquoise even provides a tonal shift on a rustic sliding barn door near the entryway. Elegant pendant lights are a theme throughout the home, adding homey character to the stark surroundings.

“I know what I like when I see it,” Ebbert said. “I don’t even use Pinterest; I don’t watch HGTV. I just go with what I like.”

Ebbert recently completed his final room, which has an electric fireplace.

His favorite room depends on the season. In colder weather, it’s the wood stove room. “It’s so cozy,” he said. “In the spring, fall and summer, we live on the porch when it’s nice outside.”

Ebbert decided not to do a formal dining room but instead has guests gather in the living rooms. When you think of farmhouses, you may think of gatherings, and that’s what this home is clearly designed for. “This is where I’m at on my free time,” he said.

Ebbert has a friend, Bob Mueller, who’s a union carpenter and did all of the carpentry work. Ebbert does other tasks like caulking and painting. “It’s been wonderful,” Ebbert said. “He would tell me what to get.”

His cousin Austin Ebbert, who lives with him, helped too. “We had a good time,” Chad said.

Chad would advise anyone else planning to take on a renovation to remember that it takes time. “You’ve just got to be patient,” he said. “It’s no fun if you feel like you have to do something. All of a sudden it seems like it comes together at the end.”

Chad said the location presented the biggest challenge in the project. “With it being a bit out of town, you had to plan what you’re going to need more carefully,” he said. “In town it’s five minutes down the street to get something.”

In the end, it was worth it, though, according to Chad. “I always find doing it myself, with my own two hands, satisfying,” he said. “I love working with my hands. In my free time I love working on cars and houses. When it’s done I’m ready to start the next thing. It’s more rewarding.”

They repainted the guest bedroom four times – in colors like red, dark green and blue — before settling on a neutral pallet. “Getting everything to flow is tricky,” Chad admitted. “I didn’t want everything to be exactly the same gray or taupe.”

Future plans are to complete the landscaping around the home, which Ebbert anticipates they can do at a slower pace since it doesn’t require quite as much urgency.