W.G. Tait, Inc. Bear Lake Trading Company Home Page

The small project that grew into a big success
Text by Lori Roberts
Photos by E. Anthony Valainis

From the road, the traditional style home looks as though it has stood the test of time. The weathered white brick exterior shows a hint of red peeking through. Cedar shingles line the roof, giving it a warm and endearing character. Only those familiar with the home's history would know that they are viewing the result of a magnificent metamorphosis.

Photo by E. Anthony Valainis - Indianapolis Monthly Photographer

Almost a year's worth of work went into bringing this 1960s home into the millennium. Mazes of hallways and small compartments that used to pass for rooms have been replaced by a serene setting of spacious rooms, calming colors and abundant natural light. Very little of the former home remains; instead, the homeowners have created the quality home of their dreams.

No one expected a complete transformation. The homeowners bought the home because they loved the location: it sits adjacent to the Crooked Stick Golf Course, offering the perfect vantage point for viewing the rolling green expanse. But the husband and wife did not love the home itself. A dark and closed in structure, it featured too many small rooms and too few windows to truly take advantage of its setting.

"When you walked in, you just kept seeing walls," say the wife. "You bumped into walls and hallways. You did not see the golf course at all unless you went thru a couple of rooms. We knew we had to do something about that."

It was through their real estate agent and friend, F.C. Tucker Realtor Cheryl Olsen, that the couple connected with the man who would help them transform their new home. Olsen referred them to W.G. Tait, Inc. President, Bill Tait, who, in addition to his track record as the builder of two Indianapolis Monthly Dream Homes, enjoys a good reputation for building and remodeling luxury homes.

When he first sized up the home, Tait thought he could address the homeowner's desires with a partial remodeling project. As he discovered structural shortcomings and other problems that could not be easily repaired, however, Tait realized the project needed to expand. "Some remodel projects just grow," he says. "They just kind of get a life of their own. When you start getting into it, you see things that were done wrong."

For instance, Tait discovered that the home had been wired with aluminum wiring, which poses a fire hazard. As a result, although the original plans did not call for the home to be completely rewired, Tait and the owners deemed it a necessary change. Other flaws became apparent as Tait and his crew started work: they found instances of poor supporting structures and inferior materials, all of which demanded more than simple remodeling. Before long, the entire home was gutted and rebuilt from the ground up. At one point in the renovation, the home was nothing more than "a roof on stilts," the wife says.

Of course, now the homeowners are reaping the benefits of this remodeling project that grew and grew: they have a new home that has been designed to their specifications. They enjoy such classic touches as tumbled stone tiles and marble accents, as well as large windows that add to the home's airiness. They also live among the clean lines and consistent color that give their home a harmonious feel.

In short, the homeowners found that welcoming touch they had in mind when they first began working with Tait. "We like a house where you can walk in without taking your shoes off," the wife says, "and where you sit on the sofa and put your feet up."

This ambience greets visitors as soon as they step into the home's spacious entryway, a stark contrast to the original entrance that opened up to a staircase and a hallway. While it was functional, the old entry added little character to the home. To improve the home's first impression, Tait added about 10 feet to the front of the structure, giving him the space to open up the entryway and create a more welcoming reception area for visitors.
Once inside, visitors find the home to be a striking combination of whites and taupes, from the tumbled stone tiled floors to the walls and woodwork. To complement this contemporary style, Tait eschewed the traditional detailed woodwork that fits so well into some of the old-style homes on which he has worked. Instead, he chose a simpler molding created by W. G. Tait Woodsmiths, a separate company specializing in handcrafted, custom woodworking. The result is a one-of-a-kind accent in a one-of-a-kind home.

The first floor of the home has ample space for living and entertaining. The homeowners, who prefer casual parties to formal sit-down dinners, wanted a relaxed yet classic setting, and architect Don Scott, who designed both of Tait's Dream Homes, gave them what they wanted. The main level includes a formal dining room, spacious kitchen, living room, sitting room, screened porch and master suite, all combined in a breezy floor plan that allows rooms to flow into each other. Entryways have been widened; small rooms have been combined or enlarged. Windows, doors and skylights have been strategically placed to welcome the outside view so dear to the couple. "The golf course is part of the house," the wife says. "Everywhere you look, you see the golf course."

The home's most striking interior feature greets visitors immediately when they enter: a wrought iron and oak staircase that replaced the enclosed stairway of the original home. A work of functional art fashioned by Ron Schouten of Schouten Metal Craft, the stairway features handcrafted balusters that seem to float in place, holding silky steps that remain open in the true style of the home. With the entryway walls eliminated, very little obscures the view of the golf course, which is easily accessed through the French doors at the back of the room. "When you walk in the front door, the stairway allows you to see out the back," Tait explains. The east side of the home serves as the setting for the dining and kitchen areas. The formal dining room, just off the entryway, has remained essentially the same, but Tait opened up its small doorways to create a 6-foot opening to the entryway and a wider, 12-foot opening to the kitchen area. The dining room furnishings are simple tasteful, with the centerpiece being a sturdy, circular pinewood table designed by Bob Beauchamp of Beauchamp Antiques. A removable lazy Susan sits atop the table, allowing the homeowners and guests to easily serve themselves during a casual dinner.

The kitchen that sits adjacent to the dining room serves as a focal point for the family. "The kitchen is always an important place," the homeowner says. "It has to be big, comfortable, cozy and just practical."

To ensure those qualities, a new custom kitchen was designed by Reese Kitchens. The original kitchen's dark brown cabinetry was replaced with warmer taupes that blend in with the rest of the home and add brightness. Corian countertops sit above an abundance of cabinetry, while bar stools help make the center island a comfortable spot for preparing the evening meal. The result is a warm and inviting kitchen suitable for entertaining party guests or cooking for two.

Photo by E. Anthony Valainis - Indianapolis Monthly 1999 Photographer

Just off the kitchen, Tait created a cozy spot for relaxing or conversing with the cook of the evening. Just big enough to accommodate a couple of chairs, or a reading table, the space also includes a wet bar made of rich maple accented with a copper faucet and sink. The wet bar's dark colors provide a rich contrast to the light colors of the home, making it a conversation piece with a unique flavor.

In that same area, the old home had a screened porch overlooking the back yard. The homeowners appreciated the view, but wanted to make better use of the porch as a space they could use year round. So Tait remodeled the area as a breakfast nook and included a picturesque bay window. He then relocated the porch off to the side, but gave it a facelift as well, adding a bluestone floor and beadboard siding to give it the air of a lakeside cottage.

The family's living room sits at the back of the home. While the original home design did not take advantage of the view afforded by that location, Tait added two and a half walls of paned windows that both bring the outside in and accent the room's spaciousness. A wood floor and a marble-hearth fireplace add warmth to the space. As in the rest of the home, the homeowners have kept furnishings to a minimum, hoping to keep the living area uncluttered. They hope to maintain this clean look, but do plan to add accenting pieces as they find and fall in love with them. "We don't overfurnish. We don't have too many bits and pieces standing around," the wife says. "We do look for an uncluttered."

As visitors return to the front of the home, they find themselves in a cozy sitting room. A French rectory table sits in front of a fireplace, while a line of French doors that open to the patio dominates the back of the room. A wet bar just off the front room has been converted into a powder room, complete with an antique bureau serving as a vanity. Beauchamp Antiques provided both the rectory table and the bureau.

In order to give the homeowners the spaciousness and abundance of light they sought, Tait had to remove walls and add large windows and doors. He explains that the original floorplan's small rooms and closed-in spaces were fairly common in homes of the 1960's. In those days, Tait says, architects were apparently more concerned about privacy and multiple spaces than they were about views to the outside world. "I think in a lot of cases, it's prevalent countrywide," Tait says. "Since then, floor plans are much more open."

As a result of this shift, the homeowners actually reduced the number of rooms in their home; in exchange, they increased its openness. For instance, the master suite now fills the space that used to hold two bedrooms and baths. It was a reasonable exchange: while the couple has friends from all over the world and likes to entertain visitors, they do not need two bedrooms on the main floor. By combining the rooms and taking advantage of the space provided by the addition to the front of the house, Tait was able to create a luxurious master suite worthy of any five star hotel. This was accomplished without giving up the bedroom's site on the back corner of the home, which means the owners maintain their privacy and their own special view of the golf course. An original dark brick fireplace was replaced by a more contemporary one lined in stone tile and marble and accented with more of the home's bright white woodwork. Although the master bedroom itself is only slightly larger than the one it replaced, its new tray ceiling makes it look much larger and has the added benefit of adding character. "Anytime you've got a roof line that will allow you to raise the ceiling up, you do it," Tait says.

The master suite's bath is spacious and comfortable, with ornate built-in cabinetry, double sinks and plenty of countertop space. While the bath area is large, it doesn't seem overwhelming thanks to its design and the use of colors in keeping with the rest of the home. The shower alone plays tricks with space and perception: from the bath area it looks like a typical size shower, but it' actually an L-shaped shower that runs the width of the bathroom. To complement the spacious shower, a garden tub sits ready as well.

His-and-her walk-in closets put the finishing touches on the master suite. The closets have been built with enough light and space to allow the homeowners to choose a day's outfit and get dressed without leaving the closet. Built-in quality cabinetry with dovetail drawers offers a convenient place for storing clothes without cluttering the bedroom with extra drawers. The wife's dressing room also includes a large island and packing chest, a full-length mirror and even a full window to admit natural light. Wood blinds preserve privacy when necessary.

The upstairs is home to two spacious suites, one designated for the couple's son and the other for guests who are lucky enough to spend the night. In the son's room, Tait removed the closets that lined one wall and replaced them with a built-in desk and space to accommodate a computer, schoolwork and even a mini refrigerator. To replace the closets lost to this move, Tait added a walk-in closet. The teen's room also gained an adjacent full bathroom.

The guest suite, like the master bedroom, also benefits from the extension of the home's front. Thanks to the extra space, Tait was able to include a large bathroom and walk-in closet. This results in a huge improvement over the original floor plan, which required guests to use a bathroom that was down the hall – one that could not be accessed without passing in full view of the downstairs.

The original home also included an attached guest suite with its own stairway and entry. Tait guesses that this was the result of a remodeling project done after the original home was built. The old layout included a bath outside the bedroom, a setup that was not particularly hospitable for guest. Tait improved on this arrangement by putting an attached bath in the room's original closet, and then converting the original bath into closet space. The result is a room where guests can enjoy comfort and privacy while still sharing good times with their hosts.

In the lower level, Tait found a series of concrete-block walls forming a maze of rooms resembling a dungeon.

He and his crew took sledgehammers to those walls and opened up space for a large recreation room and laundry area, still managing to leave unfinished areas that can be used for storage or built out as the homeowners have the need. The original stairway to the lower level was removed, and a new stairway was built into the space created by the addition to the homes front.

The home's exterior received as much of a facelift as the interior. In order to change the home' original red-brick exterior, the couple hired an artist from Foley Custom Finishes, who sponge painted the home a subtle off-white, giving it a textured and natural appearance. The same artist worked throughout the house, so the effect remains consistent.

The homeowners didn't care for the older pool and deck that sat in the home's back yard, so Tait worked with a local landscape company to develop three levels of patio and decking. Both the top and the lower levels are accessible from the home, while the middle level offers a private spot for the hot tub that replaced the pool.

Although the finished product barely resembles the original remodel plans for the home, the homeowners are delighted with the result. Their patience has been rewarded with a home that meets their needs and fulfills their hopes. "We love it," the wife says. "It's a house that really feels good. It's a big house, but it doesn't feel really big. Each room flows into the next. It feels good to walk in there and sit down. We know that even when it's gray outside, it's still a very bright house."

When the new homeowners bought this house, they loved the location but not the house itself. They gutted it and created an open bright space where there had been a dark, compartmentalized house. For this story, home remodeling by Bill Tait of W.G. Tait, Inc. and photo styling by Diane Wright.

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