I am excited to share another feature from the series "HouseTalkN With..." - a lookiloo at how local movers and shakers live. While we all enjoy the aesthetics of homes, what really counts is how we live in them. I have teamed up with fellow house nut and journalist, Julie Wurth, to explore how local folks make their houses a home.
"MEET THE HAMBLYS"
|Photo credit: Mike Koon|
The Hambly home is one of those that makes you want to plunk a "For Sale" sign in your front yard and yell, "Where do I sign?"
It meets all the items on the checklist for old-house lovers (porch, fireplace, woodwork) who want every convenience of a modern house (four bedrooms, two-car garage) - and then some. Like a gorgeous renovated kitchen. And one of those mudrooms straight out of Pottery Barn.
Of course, it didn't look exactly like this in 2004, when Kevin and Mary Hambly moved in. He is better known as the coach who took the University of Illinois volleyball team to the national championship game last year, and she is a former star volleyball player for the Illini.
Wallpaper covered every inch of the house when they bought it. The downstairs kitchen was about the size of a butler's pantry, boxed in by a maze of closets and mechanicals.
"It was terrible," Mary says.
But the charm and overall layout won them over, and the couple has spent the last few years turning it into the perfect family house.
It wasn't easy.
"This was my first house, and Kevin is definitely a Renaissance man but he is definitely not handy," Mary says.
She assured Kevin they could take off all the wallpaper themselves - "not knowing 100-year-old houses don't have drywall." They spent six months pulling down the wallpaper from the first floor in between hectic work schedules, then gave up and hired someone else to do the second floor.
They chose the wall color first, knowing they wanted black and white photos on the walls. They replaced their "ugly sectional" with grown-up furniture from These Four Walls in Monticello. Kevin got his leather chair, and the store's designer helped them choose the rest.
The sofa flanks the fireplace and provides good movie-watching. The coffee table is converted to a game table for frequent Uno matches - "We're big board-game players," Mary says. A comfy upholstered chair on the other side of the hearth is where Mary likes to curl up with her daughters to read a book.
"I wanted my chair by the fireplace. I love to snuggle up by the fire," she says. The painting is from Checkered Moon and the stool from Ballard Designs, but almost all the accessories, including the matching mercury lamps, are T.J.Maxx finds.
The room isn't fussy, and has an airy feel - plus the mandatory circle for the couple's young girls, Quinn, 6 and Mara, 4 to run around.
"It is open for an older house," she says. "We got the best of both worlds."
The dining table is new but looks like reclaimed wood. Behind it, sage green paint provides a neutral backdrop for the kids' artwork on a wall under the divided light-windows.
The kitchen renovation was more complicated. The original tiny kitchen was separated from the dining room by two closets and a wall housing a chimney, dumbwaiter and laundry chute. Mary's father, a retired contractor, has assured them they could renovate but the potential cost was "enormous," she says.
In June 2007, Mary's brother (Contractor and builder, Pat Coleman) announced that he and a friend were taking two weeks off to re-do the Hambly kitchen. Mary and Kevin joined in for the demo, ripping out walls and opening up the space into one large room.
The updated result maintains the feel of the old house. The cabinets are cream with a brown glaze, blending with the stone tile backsplash and brown quartz countertops. Where the wall once stood, two graceful metal and glass pendants hang above an expansive island where the kids can climb up for a snack or homework.
Just off the kitchen is a former back porch that was enclosed and converted to a mudroom every mom would love - beadboard walls, benches with storage underneath, open shelves with baskets for the kids' belongings.
"Seriously, this is my favorite part of the house," Mary says.
Behind the dining room is the girls' playroom, which is being "transitioned" to an office/music room/den. It also could be a fourth bedroom or guest suite, with a full bath attached. The Hamblys hope to put in French doors that would open to the wraparound back deck.
Part of Kevin's vast guitar collection is already in the room, but the rest is upstairs in the sunroom off the master bedroom, where he spends hours playing alone or with the kids. The girls have their own guitars for the family rock band, The Robins, with Maura as lead singer. Kevin comes from a musical family and even played in garage bands as a teen.
"This is definitely what makes the stress peel off," Mary says.
The room also sports an olive-green velour chair that Kevin bought at a thrift store on their first date in Rochester, Minnesota. Mary was playing for a professional volleyball team, Kevin was the assistant coach, and they frequented thrift stores as they explored the city together.
The couple's next project is an upstairs bathroom makeover, scheduled for January.
Down the hall is a guest bedroom and the girls' bedroom, done in green and pink with white bunk beds. Tulip appliques that look like hand-painted flowers cover one wall.
Mary remembers coming up the stairs on her first tour and seeing the angled walls, sloped ceilings and the huge tree outside the girls' window. It felt, she says, "like a treehouse."