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Family Affair
By Tracy Dickinson | Photography by Kerry Bern, Courtesy of Compelling Homes
home :: home & garden :: featured remodels

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A Johnston remodel designed with the whole family in mind.

When Jarod and Jennifer Haxton bought their newly constructed home in Johnston in 2003, it more than met the needs of their young family. But more than 16 years later, with three growing daughters, the Haxtons’ needs had changed.

“The kitchen layout wasn’t working,” explains Jennifer. “The original layout had a peninsula with an awkward corner sink. And the cabinets didn’t go all the way to the ceiling, so we never seemed to have enough storage. And with three daughters, we wanted to make the kitchen and family room work better for everyone.”

Jarod adds, “It was just time for a refresh of the first floor. Everything looked pretty dated, and we knew we wanted to switch out the fireplace wall. I wanted the television centered over the fireplace, and we hadn’t used the gas fireplace in more than 10 years because it wasn’t efficient.”

The Haxtons met with Rusty Green of Compelling Homes last February after seeing a remodel he’d done, and they knew right away it was a good fit. “They were ready to get started almost from that first meeting,” Green says. “They had a lot of specific ideas and some good guidelines for what they wanted for the whole project. It felt like we were just frantically trying to take detailed notes and keep up with them. In a lot of ways, they made the design process fairly easy because they had been thinking about what they wanted for a while.”

Although the design went through a couple of versions before it was finalized, the Haxtons say the result provided everything on their wish list and more. “I knew we weren’t changing doors or windows or anything that would involve the exterior or structural changes,” says Jennifer. “And we wanted full-height cabinets, some sort of island with dining to accommodate our family, and to rework the fireplace surround. Then we decided we needed to do the flooring throughout the main floor and refresh the bathroom, too, while we were at it.”

Tina Noel of Moehl Millwork partnered with Compelling Homes on the kitchen layout. She says working with the existing footprint provided some challenges but also offered clear boundaries for the design. “When you know ahead of time what your parameters are, where the walls and appliances are going to be, it gives you clear boundaries to work in. Removing the peninsula and incorporating the new island presented some challenges, too, because we wanted the design to enhance traffic flow. That created some unusual angles to take into consideration.”

As with any remodeling project, a few surprises and bumps surfaced along the way, such as the day they discovered the original fireplace surround was, to put it mildly, poorly insulated; the challenge of increasing the electrical service to the new fireplace from the opposite corner of the house without tearing up the finished basement; and, of course, the load-bearing wall incident.

“The original kitchen had this little pantry closet in the hall between the kitchen and dining room,” Jennifer explains. “With the new island, we didn’t have room for a basement door to open into the kitchen anymore.”

So the new design included a custom-built barn door to the basement and a drop zone and charging station in place of the inefficient pantry closet. Unfortunately, that awkward corner wall was supporting the upper floor, so the Compelling Homes team had to make some adjustments to the plan while not sacrificing the features the Haxtons wanted.

“We had to reinforce the wall between the kitchen and the half bath, which meant we had to modify the placement of the bathroom light switch to the outside of the room. And we added a header beam over the hallway,” Green says, which also allowed the barn door to hang several inches away from the wall.

“I love that feature,” Jennifer says now. “I was able to create a command station behind the barn door, with baskets for each of the girls and a family calendar. And when the barn door is open, it’s hidden.”

Green says that’s an example of what he loved about the whole project. “I loved that the whole family was involved. We would bring samples in, and the girls would gather around and give their opinions and get excited about helping pick things out. It was really a family project, from the colors to the drop zone at the front entry to the way we designed the island with the table area. Everyone was involved and excited about it.”

Even the remodel schedule was designed around the family.

“The Haxtons had a hard-finish date of Independence Day,” Green says. “We had a design by spring break, started demo in late April, and were done by the Fourth of July. We were able to hit all the major milestone deadlines because they had all the decisions made on time and knew what they wanted.”

“Our girls are busy with softball in the spring and early summer,” Jarod says, “so we knew we could be out of the way most days. It was perfect timing. We were back in a mostly functional kitchen before the end of June. Rusty and his team were right on target all the way through.”

“My Compelling Homes team, Naomi and Andy and Andrew, is so meticulous that it frees me up to be the big-picture guy. I know I can count on this team to handle anything I throw at them,” Green says.

Not only was Compelling Homes able to give the Haxtons everything on their wish list, but in the months since finishing the project, the family has discovered that some of the little touches have turned out to be highlights.

“I got my television where I wanted it,” Jarod jokes. “But I love that whole wall with the stone surround and the new shelves and all the lighting from the kitchen on into the family room.”

“I didn’t expect it to be a big deal, but I love the undercabinet lighting,” Jennifer says. “And I love the spice drawers. They were sort of designed by necessity to use the few inches on either side of the oven because we were working with the existing space without moving walls or anything. But I love them and the barn door and the quartz on the island.”

Noel says, “The island design is a perfect example of that process. The dining area was created so the family could eat together, but it also offers the perfect space for baking and entertaining. The unusual angles on the island were designed for function, but they look really cool, too.”

Every project is meant to reflect the needs and tastes of the homeowner. This one does that. It’s also a reflection of the way all the pieces and people came together, a lot like a family.


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