Who doesn’t love sunflowers? From Georgia O’Keeffe, to the huge fields that draw visitors searching for the next Christmas photo, sunflowers have been a staple of the garden.
It was a long journey marked by the triumphs and challenges that come with a major renovation, but Ann and Mike, a busy couple from Amherst, New York, kept their eyes on the prize: a wonderfully welcoming home where they will host family and friends for many years to come.
With nary a look back at their previous residence, they walked through the door on move-in day in April 2018 and said to each other, “This is it. This is home. This is us.”
Their adventure began with an online search after deciding that, even though they had become empty-nesters, it was time for more space and a bigger yard. When Mike’s interest was piqued by a brick house just a few miles away with 3,800 square feet on a generous lot, he had to convince his wife to take a look.
“When we saw it online, I said absolutely not. There is no way,” Ann said. “I didn’t like the (pink-tinged) brick. I didn’t like the flat front of the house.”
But Mike was undeterred.
“The bones were good,” he said. “We had a 1,500-square-foot house and we wanted to upsize. And when we saw the large rooms here, we thought, ‘Okay, this could work.’ We could open up some walls and get that nice, open concept that we wanted.”
A delayed closing due to its foreclosure status gave the couple plenty of time to map out a highly detailed renovation plan for the house, which was built in 1960 and had been vacant for two years.
“We totally gutted it. We went down to the studs,” Mike said. “New plumbing and electric, new heating – all the mechanicals of the house are brand-new.”
They had the brick exterior painted a crisp white and accented the window trims in black. Deteriorated wood inside and out was replaced. Walls were knocked down. New hardwood flooring in a distinctive shade of espresso was installed, as were new windows and doors.
“We had a great set of workers here for months ... the best of the best,” said the couple, both of whom run their own small businesses in the Buffalo area.
They put their hearts and souls into the project, with Mike basically serving as the general contractor and drawing on his background in the wood flooring and construction industry to painstakingly map out every element. Attention to detail was the name of the game here, and it shows in the end result: a super-comfortable yet sophisticated home with clean lines that effortlessly blends function and beauty. “I just love it,” says Ann.
And why not? This stunning home has a luxurious interior that offers a warm welcome after a long day at work but has the bonus of being perfect for entertaining, with statement pieces such as a 14-foot-long table in the oversized dining room.
“We’ve had 20 people around this table,” Mike said. “That was a top-of-the-list desire for us – to be able to fit 18 to 20 people around our table. And we’ve done that several times already since we’ve lived here.”
Indeed, the dining room represents one of the biggest transformations. Once a music room with a piano and mirrored walls, it now features white wainscoting contrasted by a daring, deep blue paint on the walls. The dark floor is wide-plank, long-length white oak that was hand scraped and distressed.
The centerpiece of the white gourmet kitchen, meanwhile, is the 4-by-10-foot island topped by a slab of “White Thunder” granite. Off the kitchen is the bar area, with contemporary dark cabinetry stretching the length of one wall and a round dining table in Brazilian cherry that’s perfect for smaller gatherings.
The family room is pure coziness with soft lighting, a modern shag area rug and a cream-colored sectional facing the fireplace, which is wrapped in gray porcelain tile set vertically for a unique aesthetic. Atop the fireplace is a simple wooden mantel that Mike hand stained right there at home.
An original element of the house is the spectacular spiral staircase in the foyer, illuminated by a five-tier chandelier with a contemporary sparkle.
Ask this couple to name their favorite room of the house and Mike quickly points to the master bath, a marble masterpiece that, to him, is luxury to the nth degree.
“That’s a tough question to answer,” counters Ann. “Every room that you go into feels homey and I’m so happy about that.”
She spearheaded the color palette of the living space, an artful mix of neutrals and vivid hues for the walls, furniture and accessories. She was particularly inspired by “cobalty blue” drapes that she spotted in a local fine dining establishment and replicated them here for the high-ceilinged foyer and family room.
The home’s abundance of natural light is a mood lifter, she insists. “I love how bright it is,” she said. “There’s so much light coming in these windows.”
Still to come? An outdoor kitchen where Ann and Mike, who both love to cook, can put their culinary skills to work for guests.
“People would say to us, ‘Why would you want such a big house?’ and I tell them, ‘We love to share things. We love to entertain,’ “ Ann said. “We don’t do a lot of vacations; we’re both very busy. So for us, this is what we like to do.”
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