Designing Minds: A Tuscan Facade Reveals a Contemporary European Heart

In considering the scope of their remodel project, Laura and Steve soon came to the realization that when the issue of “spaciousness” has little to do with the actual amount of space, the only viable option is to “reconfigure.”

Steve and Laura moved into their Southeast Boise home fourteen years ago.  They loved the neighborhood, and while the Tuscan-inspired exterior of their house was attractive, the carry over of that theme into its interior created a number of issues for the couple from the very beginning.  There was a cramped and dark feeling to some of the rooms that just couldn’t be alleviated with new paint or flooring — particularly when it came to the kitchen.

“The kitchen was large from the standpoint of floor plan,” Steve explained, “but it always felt crowded.  If you had more than one person in the kitchen, you would run into each other.”  Laura loves to cook, and as a venue for expressing her culinary passion, the space just didn’t measure up.  “It was very inefficient,” said Steve.  “There wasn’t a good workflow between the cooktop, the preparation space and the refrigerator, and the cabinetry was neither efficient nor sufficient.”

The description, “cramped” is a recurring adjective in the litany of dissatisfactions that Steve expressed regarding the original layout of his and Laura’s home.  “The house felt smaller to me than it really is,” said Steve.  “I’m a tall person, so I like tall ceilings and open space.  The ceiling felt low, and the spaces felt small just by their design.  They felt chopped up.”

Besides the kitchen, several other spaces suffered from the afflictions that Steve and Laura so keenly felt.  The house had a separate dining room, but it wasn’t large enough to host the family gatherings that the couple had envisioned — while the dining area next to the kitchen gave the term “nook” a meaning more synonymous with “cramped” than “cozy.”  And then there was the home’s decor.

“None of the decor was anything that we would have picked out,” Steve said.  “We did some minimal stuff when we moved in — changed out some flooring, did some painting to put a little of our signature on the place, but nothing else.  The house was in need of an overall update, so we held off until we decided to do a full remodel.”

In considering the scope of their remodel project, Laura and Steve soon came to the realization that when the issue of “spaciousness” has little to do with the actual amount of space, the only viable option is to “reconfigure” — which in their minds clearly made it a project for Strite.

Laura had spent years looking through remodeling magazines and websites for inspiration.  As Steve recalled, “She had a stack of remodeling magazines about three feet deep, and she would go through them and mark the things that she liked.  There was a lot of hard work and years of thinking that went into considering what we wanted.”

Along the way, however, Steve noticed a profound evolution in their attitudes toward design.  “Over the years, we found that we’ve changed our view of things.  Earlier in our marriage we probably would have never looked at a house with a great room or a contemporary European feel, but that is where we evolved to — simpler, cleaner lines.”  It didn’t hurt that Steve’s brother and his wife, who live in Seattle, had recently completed a kitchen and bathroom remodel with a similar sense of esthetics.  “It is more contemporary than the look we wanted, but we really liked the feel of it.”

How that feel translated into the remodeling project that Steve and Laura undertook with Strite resulted in nothing less than a virtual gutting of their home’s interior, beginning with the transformation of their kitchen and dining area into contiguous spaces in which form follows function with a contemporary European sensibility.

“The kitchen is completely rearranged from what it was originally,” said Steve.  “Even though we didn’t significantly change the footprint, we changed the nature of the space and visually opened it up.”  This was achieved partly by adding a bank of windows over the kitchen sink — an effect that was repeated in the former breakfast nook, which was squared off to pick up enough additional square footage to make it a viable family dining room (the former dining area has since become a cozy sitting room alternative to the family room adjoining the kitchen).  The bank of windows installed in the reconfigured breakfast nook also had the effect of bringing in views of a beautiful backyard to enhance the overall feeling of light and space in the home.

The flow of great room/kitchen/dining area was further enhanced by continuous cork flooring throughout, where it eventually met with another interior design issue that had increasingly troubled Steve and Laura as they began the remodel process: the staircase.

“The staircase ended up being a bit of an afterthought,” Steve recalled, “but as we talked through the design meetings, one of the things that really came up was that it was unattractive: bulky, dark, ugly.  There was a half wall that went all the way up the stairs, and we wanted to take it out and create a more open bannister.  (Strite designer) Michael (Snow) said that a custom rail that would match the curve of the stairs would be cost prohibitive, so we began to look at other options.

The option that Strite designed for Laura and Steve involved the demolition of the old staircase, and its subsequent reframing to create the straight, clean lines that the couple was looking for as the consistent theme of their remodel design.  This was a theme that continued to carry itself out, under Strite’s supervision, to the updating and reconfiguration of almost every other space in the downstairs area of the home, including the laundry room, guest bath/powder room, and master bathroom — subjects of separate Strite case studies.

If the thought of a whole house remodel as extensive as the one Laura and Steve embarked upon with Strite seems overwhelming enough to warrant considering the purchase of a new home, look at it from one couple’s perspective: how else could you get the personalization of a custom build without having to leave a home and neighborhood you’d come to love over 14 years?  Think of it as the remodeling equivalent of having your cake and eating it too.

Hit here to read another article and see more pictures of this home.

Click photos to enlarge: