Bloom and grow!

Bloom and grow!

Homes: Bloom and grow!

Bloom and grow!

Bloom and grow!

When Sharon Shelley talked about the purchase of their 30-year-old Champaign home, she laughed. Her husband, Clarence Shelley, known as ‘Shelley’, was surprised when she suggested that they remodel their ranch home.

Story: Bridget Broihahn

Photos: Heather Coit

When Sharon Shelley talked about the purchase of their 30-year-old Champaign home, she laughed. Her husband, Clarence Shelley, known as ‘Shelley’, was surprised when she suggested that they remodel their ranch home.

“I think he could not believe it,” she said. He said, “I thought you said the house was perfect!” She then responded, “No, I said the house has good bones.”

Sharon had a vision for those bones of their home, which they have lived in for 16 years. She and Shelley like to entertain and they enjoy out of town guests. Sharon knew there were smarter ways to use the space in their home.

Recreate the home’s form, to help it with its function

The Shelleys have remodeled their home eight times, although two out of those eight have been “redo’s”, according to Sharon. Having spent a great portion of her life as a school teacher, she knew each remodel had to make the grade. Likewise, Shelley has been in the learning industry, as well.  At the University of Illinois he is known as Dr. Shelley, former dean of students and associate vice chancellor.

“Your main reason to remodel is form and function,” she said. “We asked ourselves how did we want our home to function, and we wanted to use the space better than it was being used at that time. That’s when Di Di Cook, the designer from Carter’s Furniture, came in to help us. She is an expert on form. Plus, we were about staying local for the work we wanted done.”
Cook said her goal is to make every person’s house their home.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time, and it’s what we do here at the store,” she said. “The Shelleys are really nice people. They compliment each other so well. I know they do a lot of entertaining, so I wanted to take that into account in the design and furnishings.”

They really wanted to expand their living space, because they love to entertain. So the first remodel was to add a porch/three seasons room in 2001, built by Cramer’s Siding and Windows. The couple views gardens and trees as extension of their home.

Well, the three season room was nice for awhile. But, it didn’t last.

Ironically, the very last remodel was in 2014, when the same three season room was remodeled to a porch/guest suite. “We had Four Seasons put on the porch/guest suite. We wanted to be able to use the space all year long. We wanted our guests to have a private space, because this room is on the other side of the house from our bedrooms,” Sharon said.

The porch/guest suite has a full bath included in the space.  According to Sharon, the builder had to really stretch from their comfort zone to make the Shelley’s vision of a suite into a reality. “We added the bath, and one of the things I insisted on was that I really wanted not to see the toilet when looking in the mirror,” Sharon said. “It’s a matter of perception.”

Shelley said he likes the room because he feels like he is outside when he is in it. He likes the views of the garden and said they are wonderful all year long.  They both enjoy the flowers, as well as the snow falling from the porch/guest suite.

“All of the windows have shades to make it more intimate as a suite,” Sharon said, adding that all of the windows are Pella from Illini Pella in Champaign.

Remodeling is like giving birth

Sharon laughs at the thought. “It is like giving birth. You forget the pain,” she said.

Besides the three season room conversion to porch/guest suite, the Shelleys have remodeled all of their bedrooms, their bathrooms, the family room, the den-affectionately known as Shelley’s Command Center- and the back half of the house which was converted into a Great Room/Kitchen/Eating area. The outside deck was restructured to include a lavish elm tree, the gardens transformed into a garden walk complete with night lighting, seating and a garden path.

“I knew we had to take things in steps, as everyone does when they remodel.  There are considerations like finances to think about,” Sharon said.

“The hardest part is the wait once you get the remodel going,” Shelley said.

Sharon said when a remodel is in its planning stages, it is important to think of everything that the remodeled space is going to do-its function-when the form of the space has actually changed.

“How do I want this to function? I want to use this better than it is being used now in its current form,” she said.

When a space is being redesigned, Sharon suggests that a detail like a closet can be an opportunity to customize it to fit the needs of the family.

“Yes, pay attention to your closets. Tell your designer what you want, and believe me, they can do that for you, too. Even a detail like blankets or wrapping paper storage can be something to consider,” she said. “Another example is in the master suite.  When you remodel the room, again think about the closet.  You want room for ties, sweaters, shoes and suits, along with your regular attire.”

Sharon has a handy closet that stores multitudes of shoes and boots, which is located in the computer room. This particular room is styled like a den/computer area that also converts to a guest bedroom in a flash.

“Again, it’s form and function. You don’t need to hire a closet person.  You just ask your general designer to help you, and they can certainly do that,” she said.

Bloom and Grow

The Shelleys’ family room is another example of transformation when necessary. The space has a wet bar, counter space, lounging area, electronics there-but-not-seen in respect to gadgets and cords, and eating area.

“This small table that allows for us to expand it during entertaining time is very functional,” Sharon said. “We can bloom and grow so we can entertain 145 people.”

The family room has transom windows and herringbone wood flooring. The flooring, installed by Custom Flooring of Champaign, is also seen throughout their home. There is good use of mixed floor types. Careful consideration was made with respect to the function of the room and which type of flooring would go best with that particular room.

The kitchen is the heart of entertaining and food preparation, so when the Shelleys decided to bloom and grow, they knew the back side of their house need to be remodeled. This was their second remodel. And it was a big one.

“We opened up the whole back area of the house: living area, dining area, and kitchen. Each room was separate. It became one room,” Cook of Carter’s said. The great room/kitchen/eating area is now centered on guests interacting with one another. Many details were considered from the way the countertop would be used to the swivel barrel chairs that can turn completely around so people can face one another. The designer  of this area was Gary Hentges. Sharon said he made smart use of the space.

“I thought, ‘Oh, I need a pantry. I need another room.’ Not so,” Sharon said.

In another 5×5 feet area, they installed a full pantry, storage cabinet, and refrigerator. Cook said that the space was formerly used as a small eat-in section of the former kitchen. She said it’s difficult to imagine that area in the room’s current form. Everywhere there is an open concept and design. Form and function.

“Plus, the backsplash tile behind the oven has a completely different design. It brings the eye up,” Sharon said. “We also anchored two tones of wood on the cabinetry with the countertop design.”

Remodeling is really a love story

It hasn’t been easy. But, anything worth anything has growing pains involved. “We’ve been on our hands and knees doing the dishes,” Sharon said of the time when both their kitchen and bathroom were remodeled together. “That’s right. Oh boy,” Shelley agreed.

Sharon speaks of ‘Her Heart.’ This is the name she has given to the wall adjacent to the family room. On it are many pictures of the family that the Shelleys have successfully blended together. “I’m a minimalist so I tend not to have family pictures all throughout my house. That being said, this wall is my heart,” she said with a smile. “I’m blessed to have lived through this journey-our love story.”

The Shelleys love to socialize. When they are out and about, the one thing they do enjoy the most is the simple pleasure of coming home.

“What do we always say, Shel,” Sharon asked her husband.

He said, “At last.”