House TalkN is a fun lookiloo at houses, houses, houses. It will answer pressing questions like, "When folks build a McMansion on a small lot, what are they compensating for?" or "Was the real estate agent drunk when they staged this house?" or "Why don't the Smiths' ever leave their drapes open when I am on a harmless walk-by?"

Sunday, July 21, 2013

HouseTalkN With Casey Wakefield

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. 

From the outside, Fred and Casey Wakefield's house may appear to be one of those magazine-perfect showplaces, but there's much more to this family home.
The picturesque gray two-story on Armory Street, just across from the Champaign Country Club, is spacious but doesn't overwhelm its neighbors.
Inside, it boasts plenty of to-die-for features – rich painted woodwork, coffered ceilings, gorgeous kitchen, huge stone fireplace, stylish mudroom, and a finished basement with a man cave that would make any sports fan drool. (Former NFL football stars do have cool memorabilia.)
But you don't have to look far to find signs that three children live here – a chalk wall signed by neighborhood kids in the basement playroom; the guinea pig cage in one bedroom; Legos scattered on the carpet upstairs.
The Wakefields, who are both from Tuscola, have lived in the house since August 2011 with their three children, Jamison, 11, Carlee 9, and Emma, 6. They moved back to Champaign toward the end of Fred's career as an NFL lineman with the Arizona Cardinals and Oakland Raiders. Before that he was a standout at the University of Illinois. 
Fred is now studying for an MBA, and Casey recently formed a new business with two friends, That's What She Said, to encourage young women to live a purposeful life.
They initially lived in the Trails Edge subdivision in west Champaign but bought this house when it was about half-completed. They liked the layout, and while the builder had already chosen the stone and cedar shake-style siding, they had input on the interior. The entire downstairs is done in neutrals of cream, tan and cocoa.
“It was something we were comfortable with,” Casey said.
The entryway features an alcove with a large family portrait taken the first summer they moved back to Champaign.
It opens onto the expansive family room/kitchen, where the traditional cream cabinets blend with speckled granite countertops and dark wood floors. But it's not fussy – nothing is upholstered (easier to clean, Casey said), and the kitchen table has seen plenty of kid traffic. 
“I'm sure there's permanent marker there somewhere,” she said.
One item stands out: a white and blue milkglass coffee cup on top of the range hood, a keepsake from her great-grandmother. Under a silhouette of two people at a table is the familiar blessing, "God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food.”
Her late father's side of the family is Amish, and the tradition is to pass down dishes. On the bottom of the cup is a piece of tape with the words, “Old Grandma Miller's,” written by Casey's grandmother.
“I remember seeing it in my grandma's kitchen,” she said.
French doors open onto the deck and back yard from both the family room and kitchen eating area, creating a nice flow for parties (and kids chasing each other). 
Outside, a fire pit is the perfect spot for making s'mores or gathering with friends visiting from out of town on chilly fall football weekends.
The mudroom off the kitchen has wooden lockers with drawers and nooks, which help keep everyone's backpacks and shoes corraled during the school year.
In the master bedroom suite, a nook gives Casey a place to sit and read, surrounded by framed family photos and art work by her children. The porch just off the bedroom provides a quiet spot to have morning coffee or watch golfers across the street – complete with a plastic owl to keep birds from flying into the windows. It didn't work.
A wide staircase leads to the kids' rooms upstairs. The two girls' rooms – in pinks, purples and blues – are connected by a bathroom, with a vanity for each. (Carlee's room has the guinea pigs.)
Across the hall Jamison's sports-themed room also has its own bathroom. The pennants hung above his bed include the Cardinals, Raiders and Illini, of course, but also souvenirs from the Colts, Bears and other games he's attended.
 His dad's office downstairs has a similar d├ęcor: helmets from Fred's playing days – Oakland, Arizona and the UI – and others signed by the state champion Tuscola football team, former Illini Dave Diehl of the New York Giants, and Cardinals' star receiver Larry Fitzgerald. A nook with shelves holds Fred's awards, including Big Ten All Conference in 2000.
The theme continues in the basement. The giant TV  is perfect for Super Bowl parties, and Fred's jerseys line the wall, along with framed photos of Dick Butkus, Brett Favre, Gale Sayers, and several from Fred's playing days. There's also a signed jersey from “Mean” Joe Green, Fred's former D-line coach at Arizona.
Completing the basement are a workout room, guest suite and kids' playroom. “In the winter this is where the neighborhood kids hang out,” Casey says.
The Wakefields are thankful to be back close to home, and Casey's mom now lives in Champaign.
“The people here are great and we've made good friends,” she said..
Casey, who has a master's in elementary education, put aside her career aspirations while her children were young. Her new business (The She Said Project) is dedicated to empowering other women to “be what they're called to be, not just what they think they should be doing.”
Too often, she said, young women go off to college and pick a major they're supposed to do, rather what they really love.
“I want them to feel free if they want to be an art major to be one. You never know where it will lead."
Enjoy the tour:

Link Par-taay at:


  1. Thanks for the tour of this wonderful home. I would KILL for the farmhouse sink!

    1. Don't kill anybody, Pinky! Get yo'self a farmhouse sink!

  2. Beautiful home...beautiful family!

    1. So true, Stephanie! Thank you for popping by!

  3. What an absolutely gorgeous home!! Relaxed yet still elegant. Beautiful tour!

    1. Vanessa! I am so sad that I won't get to romp with y'all at Haven! Thank you for popping by, cutie!

  4. Beautiful home, indoors and out! Thanks for the tour. :-)
    Kim @ Curtain Queen Creates

  5. Everything is just gorgeous!

  6. Thanks so much for the fab house tour. This is such an awesome post. I would love it if you would share this post at our WIW linky party. Hope you can join us today!



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