Lake house remodel for a client who’s really into metal. [Insert lame hair band joke here.]

Know those comparison-pics where you have to look really hard to find the thing that’s different? Yeah, these aren’t that.

There’s a certain era of architecture (talkin’ to you, 1970s) where dark wood, dark stone, small, unassuming kitchens and sunken family rooms were a thing. We’re not exactly sure when this particular lake home was built, but it defffffinitely felt like the kind of place where the Six Million Dollar Man might’ve had the Bionic Woman over for dinner. Or where Sabrina, Kris and Kelly would’ve gathered around the speakerphone as Charlie outlined their next “assignment” (likely involving very necessary bikinis or clingy body-con dresses).


So yeah, a little dark and dated – but with tonnnnns of remodel potential. Silver lining seers that we are, we recognized what the style DID have going for it – sweet vaulted beamed ceilings and semi-open layouts. Plus a prime lakefront perch with loads of glass for maximizing the lake views. We could work with that. The homeowners’ main goal was to keep the cozy feel while upping the functionality factor for everyday family life – and giving it a far more style-forward, lake house vibe, rather than the more rustic camp cabin badge it was proudly wearing.

We started with de-awkwardifying the layout of the main living space. The throwback step-down sitch was our first and foremost problemo to el-solve-o. The kitchen/dining area dropped down a step or two to the family room, which really interrupted the flow and limited the seating capacity. Because the house was built on a non-budgeable concrete slab, there was no changing anything underneath – though admittedly there were conversations about obliterating that sucker and starting over. Instead, we worked with what was there, thinking the stepped part needed to move over toward the kitchen, but a little perplexed as to where a step would make sense and not be a trip hazard. We knew the trick would lie in making it “interesting-cool” vs “interesting-whaaa?


We ended up raising the level of the floor in the family room, pulling a floor-height reversal switcheroo – and creating a step down into the kitchen instead. We aligned the elevation change with the new island, which sat partly on the raised floor and more-ly on the sunken floor. (Pics here to save us from our confusing attempt at trying to describe.)

We reworked the kitchen to flow better overall, and got rid of some curious features, like a pointless random partial beam over the island with can lights tucked inside it, and a window overlooking the kids’ playroom. There was a closet behind the fridge wall that we opened up and turned into a fab walk-in pantry with all white cabinets and open shelves, keeping the style level on par with the kitchen so it felt way less closet-y.


We did white cabinets on the range wall of the kitchen and designed a black hood with brass banding and rivets, which the homeowners fabricated themselves (hidden talent!). Well, not totally hidden. They own a metal shop that fabricates and finishes pieces for high-end furniture lines (which shall remain nameless but happen to be among our faves), so we worked in as many cool metal accents as we could, like brass mesh on the cabinets, iron shelves at the bar, nickel hardware and mixed metal lighting. We brought in some black cabinets as well, and went with classy white quartz countertops and a simple, all-white geometric mosaic tile for the backsplash. We used a separate freezer and fridge to flank the short hallway leading back to the pantry, and an antique mirror on the pantry door reflects the lake views.


We painted the doors and windows black, and brightened the space overall by painting all that heavy wood on the ceiling white, leaving just the ridge beams stained. The fireplace was another major contributor to the dark feel of the house – there was a lotttttta brownish gray stone across that whole wall in the family room. We left the main part intact, kept the TV (new and firmly attached, so pretty much non-negotiable), and added a mantel that tied in the custom storage we built on both sides of the fireplace. Then we did a semi-opaque white paint on the stone to lighten it up, and added picture-light sconces, chopped wood and other displayables on the shelving.


We painted the entryway white as well, replaced the front door, flooring and lighting – and removed the chair rail (for obvious and out-of-style reasons). We installed a comfy, pillow-laden built-in seat with a reading lamp in an inset nook in the wall just inside the front entry, then we modernized the loft railing with black metal spindles and a brown stained handrail that tied in nicely with the new pre-engineered wood floors.


The master bedroom was situated right off the main living space – which layout-wise was fine. But the all-glass French doors leading to the bedroom? We’ll call those “not fine.” We replaced them with actual door-doors and added a built-in bar to the right of them, in a space adjacent to the main living area. There were some supply vents above the bar cabinets that were non-moveable no matter how creative we tried to get with a re-route, so we cleverly camouflaged them with metal mesh, which we custom designed and the homeowners fabricated. On the wall to the right of the bar, we added a striking, oversized geometric pattern out of applied molding which we painted dark gray to complement the cabinetry.

We kicked up the powder room’s style-game more than a few notches by cladding the walls in these crazy-pretty marble tiles with brass banding, and installing a black vanity with a sleek, matte black faucet and quartz countertop. Even the back spiral staircase up to the loft got some Designstorms love. It was a forgettable dull brown with a sort of fire-escape-y or institutional look, so we powder coated the handrail in brass and painted the rest black before calling the project “fini.” Then we staged the house (plants everywhere!) for a quick photo shoot, so we could have all the final touches in place before a family birthday party. We wrapped it all up and skedaddled just in time for them to light candles and greet guests.


Triple. Gold. Stars. That’s what this family gets for staying put. Onsite. Allllll the way through construction – moving their entire lives into the kids’ quarters as the rest of the house was being torn apart and put back together. While the process is exciting, it’s also really trying – one of those life experiences that falls into the “character-building” category. That’s not just feigned empathy on our part – we’ve lived it, and had (multiple) moments that were not reflective of our “best selves.” (Had he been there, Dr. Phil would’ve for sure been tsk-tsk-ing.) So we get it, and are in awe of this family’s patience and graciousness regarding the noise, drywall dust and all-around life-upheaval. The final ta-daaaa is so worth it, but fun is not the first word that comes to mind to describe those construction months.


Anyway – if these before/after pics have you thinking mmmmmmaybe it’s time to do some reno’ing to the home you’re in now, we’d love to come see it and chat about those pics you’ve been screen-shotting and filing away in the Someday folder on your phone. Let us know when you’re free and let’s make it happen.

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