When the kids fly the coop, is it time to give up the nest? Al and Linda Maxson decided the answer is “Not just yet.” Instead, they updated and upgraded their 1980s brick colonial in the Dewey Hill neighborhood to suit their current empty-nest lifestyle.
To make the transformation, the Maxsons enlisted the expertise of Vujovich Designs after touring a Vujovich-remodeled showpiece on Lake of the Isles. “We loved their work,” says Linda Maxson. “They met with us and offered many great ideas and finishing touches that we wouldn’t have thought to consider on our own.”
Vujovich designer Christine Bleyhl says that the biggest renovation challenge for homeowners like the Maxsons can be the length of time they’ve lived in their home. “The longer clients have lived in a space, the more difficult it can be for them to envision that space differently,” she says. “The Maxsons had a goal but a less than clear vision of how to achieve their goal. They wanted to update their home to make it more suitable to their own needs. But they also wanted to make it more sellable in the event they should ever decide to move. In essence, we were designing for the homeowner and for a future buyer.”
Bleyhl began by asking the Maxsons about how they live and entertain, and how often they host family events. She discovered that Linda loves to cook, which plays a big part in Maxson family gatherings. Two of their three grown daughters live out of state but return home regularly. The Maxsons also have two grandchildren. These details required a spacious kitchen for cooking and entertaining, but one that wouldn’t feel overly large or impersonal when just Al and Linda dine at home.
The basics were easy. Removing wallpaper and updating fixtures and woodwork are simple fixes that make an immense visible impact. “Removing the kitchen peninsula was one of the biggest changes,” says Bleyhl. “They hated that peninsula but didn’t know how living with an island might work for them.” Linda’s cooktop had been located on the peninsula; Bleyhl recommended moving it to a countertop location rather than incorporating it into the new island. This arrangement allows grandkids to sit at the island without risking hot spatters. The result is a stunning Amsum and Ash granite-topped kitchen island that serves as a wide-open canvas. It’s perfect for assembling a family buffet or providing a casual place for Linda and Al to have breakfast together.
White enameled cabinetry by Cabinetech has clean lines and completely camouflages a cabinet-faced refrigerator to look like fine furniture. Distinctive perks in the kitchen include a designer tiled backsplash behind the cooktop, a spacious hidden spice drawer and a combination of pendant and recessed lighting. “I feel like Betty Crocker in this kitchen,” says Linda. “It’s light, pleasant and convenient.”
Another practical modification meant eliminating the traditional walk-in pantry in favor of one that captures the same amount of storage in a more efficient design. Beyond the pantry is an updated laundry room that includes direct-draining, high-efficiency stacked appliances. This does away with the messy laundry tub and creates more usable counter space for sorting or folding clothes. A new pocket door leads to the finished basement and prevents intrusion into the kitchen’s traffic flow.
Near the family room, a wall once separated the cook from the guests. That wall has been knocked out to provide a more open living and eating area. Paneling, beams and an outdated popcorn ceiling were removed. Decorative pillars were added with hidden storage on the kitchen side for cookbooks. Built-in bookshelves on the family-room side make the pillars a functional addition. Vujovich was able to match hardwood flooring for an inclusive visual flow that ties the two rooms together.
The entire project took only four months to complete. The Maxsons lived in their home the entire time, cooking either on the back deck or using a microwave. “It was a good experience,” says Al. “The project manager, Paul Grachek was so nice. We hated to see him go.”
The Maxsons say it took a while for their kids to adjust to the changes to their childhood home. “They’re fine now,” says Linda. Al adds, “These changes are much better than relocating. We’re so satisfied with the results that we plan to stay as long as we can.”