By Shayna Mace | Photography by Kayser Photography
Sometimes in the real estate market, you encounter a home that you know needs work—but has great potential. That’s how Jon and Jessica (who asked their last name not be used) felt when they found a 1940s home that had been added on to a few times over the years, in a very desirable location on Geneva Lake.
Although they hadn’t planned on searching for a vacation home in Fontana for a few years, a friend let them know a home in their desired area was for sale. The couple realized they had to act fast if they wanted it. “Our plan was to start looking in a few years, but we bought this home from the owner off-market. We had the vision of retrofitting it. I’ve worked in the real estate field and we’ve done a lot of these types of projects in the past, and we had the vision to create what we wanted to. We wanted to do the work, and [add] the value for ourselves,” says Jon.
The couple turned to Stebnitz Builders to help them visualize and strategize on what needed to be done, since they wanted to remodel the existing property, rather than build a new one. And that was no small feat.
“The home was a gut rehab,” says Jon. “It didn’t have gas or central air and the roof was shot. We had to get a new roof, central air and natural gas to make it a much more efficient home.”
But that wasn’t it—the floor plan also needed help, too. “The kitchen wasn’t really functional. And we wanted to take down walls in there. And then there were three bathrooms in the house, but they were [laid out] funny and very tight—they weren’t functional for guests, so we blew them out and started over to make them usable, full bathrooms,” says Jon.
Stebnitz Builders designer and remodeling consultant Jeff Auberger agreed with Jon’s assessment when he was brought into the project. “The house was nice, but it was dated and closed off. So the goal was to open the home up [and] allow more light to pass through the space. There was also a strong desire to bring it up to today’s standards with [enhanced] products and materials, and create a consistent feel for the house that was current.”
The team started with opening up the kitchen and removed walls between the kitchen and dining area, as well as removed walls between the dining and living rooms. The living room has skylights that made the whole area dance with light once the walls came down.
“That was a game-changer for the way the house functioned. Before, there were different floor coverings between all of those spaces, smaller wall openings and a lot of obstruction and shadows,” explains Auberger. “With those changes, the skylights allowed a lot more light into the space.”
Once an old peninsula and half-wall was removed in the kitchen, the couple and Auberger could piece the space back together.
“[Kitchens] tend to be places that people congregate, and we wanted it to be open and airy, and feel like a beach house [mixed with a] farmhouse,” says Jon.
“We looked at the space as a clean slate,” says Auberger. “Virtually everything in there is in a completely different location than where it had previously been. The cooking wall became a focal point with reclaimed wood shelves, a stainless range hood and horizontal subway tile. Now there’s an island that’s great for seating, and there’s work and prep space.”
The quartz-topped island boasts smoky gray cabinetry that contrasts with the white upper cabinetry—which Auberger says was a purposeful design accent. “It was a nice way to contrast that island space. [Sometimes] without that, things can get washed out, and it also allowed us to center the work space. It worked wonderfully.”
The couple also removed a small eat-in area adjacent to the kitchen island and replaced it with a wine/coffee bar with upper and lower cabinetry and a sink. It also has a U-Line beverage cooler and U-line icemaker, hidden behind a custom cabinet door.
A new Sub-Zero refrigerator, Wolf range and double Wolf oven were installed in the kitchen. Polished chrome hardware, Kohler faucets and sleek, slightly nautical pendant lights add eye-pleasing polish to the kitchen for a functional, stylish space.
To unite the three spaces that had formerly been separate, Auberger says installing new luxury vinyl plank flooring (LVP) worked wonders. “Much of this house was slab on grade, but other parts of the house had a small crawlspace underneath, and some parts not at all. So the use of LVP allowed us to go over concrete and level the adjacent floors to look continuous throughout. It also gives a rich, historic kind of look with a somewhat rustic feel.”
Jon says throughout the home, the couple wanted to use creamy whites, shiplap and gray, blue and warm tones in the décor to convey warmth. “We wanted this house to be an elegant, comfortable lake house with a nautical feel,” he says.
In the newly-opened living room, the couple opted to install shiplap on the ceiling to add a lived-in feel. Cozy Crate & Barrel furnishings and a rustic Jayson Home coffee table round out the room’s minimal, yet classic vibe.
Echoing the shiplap in the living room, the entryway was also accented with white shiplap to instill a sense of tradition to the place. Auberger says throughout the common areas larger baseboards were installed as well.
Besides the kitchen revamp, the other major task to remedy was the arrangement of the bedrooms, bathrooms and laundry room, says Jon and Auberger. They integrated the master bathroom into the master bedroom—whereas before, the bathroom was located across the hallway. They also created a designated laundry and mechanical room for the newly-installed furnace and central air units. Changing the configuration of the remaining bedrooms and bathrooms and bumping up the size of each bathroom helped make the vacation home more welcoming for family and guests.
“There’s a continuity about the house that just didn’t exist before that we were able to achieve through the little things—like slightly larger door openings, reconfiguring the bathrooms … it feels so correct and exactly what you should experience. We took the entire home and brought everything up to code and to today’s standards,” says Auberger.
Jon is excited to bring his young family up year-round from their home in the Chicago suburbs to enjoy the lake. “We wanted the design to be comfortable, relaxing and inviting where everyone can just come to hang out and clear your mind,” he says.
This home was featured in the Lake Geneva: Fall 2018 issue. For more photos of featured Lake Geneva homes, visit the Lake Geneva Gallery page.
The Lakeshore Living publications are published by Nei-Turner Media Group, a full-service agency located in Lake Geneva, WI. Our four publications cover the picturesque lake communities of Lake Geneva, Madison, Lake Country and Northwoods.
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