An Old World feel

Homes: An Old World feel

An Old World feel

A major remodeling and expansion project completely changes look of home.

Story: Jodi Heckel

Photos: John Dixon

When Laura and Kurt Salmon first saw the home they now own in Lincolnshire Fields in Champaign, they loved the location, with a large lot, mature trees and water beyond the backyard.

“We liked that we have the lake out here, and the golf course, and all these windows,” Laura Salmon said.

But they also knew they were going to do “major, major work” to the house itself.

Laura Salmon wanted a more open floor plan on the first floor. She disliked the two-way fireplace separating the living room from the family room at the back of the house. She wanted to replace the spiral staircase leading from the kitchen upstairs with a regular staircase. And the home’s decor desperately needed updating.

The home is completely different now than it was when they bought it in late 2009. The low-profile siding-and-brick façade with a pitched roof has been replaced with a dramatic brick-and-stone structure with a square tower.

The Salmons added a great room at the front of the house, a finished basement below it, the tower room and a second tower on the back. The project almost doubled the square footage of the house, to more than 6,000 square feet. The area that contained the living and dining rooms is now open, with brick archways setting off the large dining room.

The kitchen was expanded and is now a long space that extends nearly the entire length of the back of the house. The main stairway was moved and is now a dramatic double staircase.
Demolition of the front portion of the house and the digging of the basement began in February 2010. The Salmons used Wells & Wells Construction for the work. Laura Salmon said the company worked with many subcontractors and could expedite the project.

Her attention to detail helped keep the project on schedule. Salmon had a file system that included pages for each room in the house, with the flooring, lighting, windows and wall colors listed. She insisted on meeting with the contractor and subcontractors once a week to review and coordinate the work, rather than trying to communicate by email.

The construction and remodeling was finished in six months, and the family moved into the home in November 2010.

The kitchen was one of the most challenging areas of the project. The work included removing a load-bearing wall that had separated the living and family rooms. It was replaced with brick archways surrounding the dining area that also provided support.

The kitchen was expanded into what was previously a breakfast area on one end and a screened porch on the other. The porch was enclosed and now has a corner banquette for seating.
The kitchen is a very long and narrow space with two islands. The custom cabinetry, from Das Holz Haus in rural Tuscola, features breakfront cabinets on either side of the sink and another, larger breakfront cabinet on one side of the stairs. The cabinets have glass doors on top, and lights inside illuminating the shelves holding dishes and glassware. Below are drawers, and one cabinet has a faux front that hides the dishwasher.

“I wanted them to look like their own free-standing pieces of furniture,” Salmon said of the breakfront cabinets.

The cabinets are distressed cream and black, with roping trim at the top in alternating colors.

“My approach to design is that everything is in the details. You can have something that looks nice, but then you add a few design details and it goes from nice to beautiful,” said Salmon, who studied at the Harrington Institute of Interior Design in Chicago and worked as an interior designer in that city before moving to Champaign-Urbana.

Lavern Schlabach of Das Holz Haus designed cabinets that would fit below the staircase in the kitchen. The cabinets include a double oven, refrigerator drawers for drinks and the microwave.
He also made an entertainment center that includes a flat-screen TV that raises up out of the lower cabinet and can be lowered again when not in use.

The kitchen islands include a gas stovetop on one and a warming drawer in the other. The second island is used as a buffet for serving holiday meals at family gatherings.

One obstacle for the remodel was finding the various materials the Salmons wanted in a sufficient quantity – both brick and granite. For example, the granite for the kitchen countertops was Salmon’s fifth choice, but it was the one available in the quantity needed for the space.

“We wanted the granite to have a lot of movement in it,” she said. “I didn’t want this much rust in it, but it brings the black and cream together nicely.”

Salmon had a particular style in mind for the home.

“We wanted it to be kind of Old World in feeling, without it being heavy and dark,” she said.

The great room has a ceiling the height of the second story, with cathedral-style wood beams, a stone fireplace and a “Romeo and Juliet” balcony. The front tower room on the second floor serves as a study, with a wall lined with bookshelves and a high, wood-covered ceiling.

The master bathroom on the first floor was changed from an L-shaped room with lots of mirrors to a long, narrow space covered with tile. Salmon selected tiles in various sizes and soft tan colors that cover the bathtub, the wall behind it and the shower.

“I wanted it to be a real mix. I like the visual effect it gives you,” she said.

The whirlpool bathtub is raised, with a gas fireplace behind it. Salmon said she imagined a great place to soak in the tub, with a fire going nearby. The golden brown stone floors are heated, and they are Salmon’s favorite floors in the house.

The cabinets feature inset burled wood panels surrounded by roping trim, and there are doors that slide out for storage on either side of the makeup table. Upstairs, the Salmons added a dormer to a large bonus room where the previous homeowners had a pool table, and the space is now Laura Salmon’s craft room. They took one of three identical bedrooms upstairs and split it up to provide a walk-in closet and bathroom off each of their daughters’ bedrooms.

A second tower room was added at the back, reached via a spiral staircase from the girls’ playroom. It is decorated in soft blues and greens, with windows overlooking the backyard and lake beyond, and a fireplace surrounded by tile work. It serves as Laura Salmon’s reading room.

“That was kind of a little splurge for me. It’s soothing up there, with the soft colors, and you can see everywhere,” she said.

The basement features a bar area, a wine cellar with sliding glass doors, a home theater room and a brick, barrel-vaulted ceiling.

Salmon said the family designed the house to be everything they wanted.

“We were really, really blessed. It worked out well,” she said. “We worked with great people.”