By Ingrid Schnader
Christopher Architecture and Interiors took an outdated, one-level ranch house and transformed it into a modern farmhouse with sweeping archways and pops of color.
It was open for tours last week as the CAI’s 2019 Designer Showhouse, with proceeds from the tours benefiting Lifeline Children’s Services. The nonprofit works to help vulnerable children and families, including helping adoptive families like the showhouse homeowners, the Waltchaks. The Waltchak’s three youngest girls, were adopted from China.
“The footprint has basically stayed the same,” said Madeline Hoisington, a project designer with CAI. “We just took the roof off and went up. It’s not the same layout, but the same exterior.”
When the Waltchak family moved out of the house to begin renovations, they were a family of seven. Since then, they have added one more child to their family, in addition to some pet bunny rabbits.
“I’m just thankful to have space for our kids to grow up in and have friends over,” Rushton Waltchak said. “There are some afternoons where there are 14 or 15 little boys over here; they all congregate here. And I love it because it doesn’t feel overwhelming.”
To accommodate such a large family, some things in the house had to be bigger. The table in their dining area had to be custom-made to seat eight. They had to upsize their kitchen island, too, to fit eight stools around its perimeter.
The house at 2445 Chestnut Road in Vestavia Hills features five bedrooms – a master, a guest bedroom, a bedroom for the eldest girl, a bedroom for the three youngest girls to share and a bedroom that the two boys share.
Modern Farmhouse With a Touch of Grandeur
“As far as the exterior goes, we did a couple of iterations of what kind of style the family wanted to do,” Hoisington said. “We finally settled on this modern farmhouse look. It went hand-in-hand with the kid-friendly, fun, colorful theme that they wanted to establish.”
The house has sliding farmhouse doors that add a pop of bold color against the white walls. The craft spaces throughout the house make it casual, while the sweeping arches and curved ceilings add a sense of grandeur. And the hallway of floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the backyard add a modern touch; it’s the type of hallway you might see in a corporate office downtown.
“We wanted to marry that farmhouse, traditional front with a more modern touch on the back,” Hoisington said. “That juxtaposition.”
Typically, the CAI team will do 10-foot ceilings on the first floor and 9-foot ceilings on the second. But this house uses 12-foot ceilings in the living room, and the rest of the house has 10-foot ceilings, leaving plenty of space for long curtains, tall bookshelves and windows.
The area that was once a screened-in porch was renovated into a family room. The designers kept certain elements so guests still feel like they’re outside when they’re in that space.
“That was one thing we wanted, not only with all of the windows, but also with the stone on the fireplace,” Hoisington said. “to kind of tie that together, and that’s the exact same stone that’s on the exterior.”
Finding a Perfect Color Scheme
Although most of the walls throughout the house are a neutral white, the designers found other ways to incorporate lots of color.
In the laundry room – which fits a desk, two sets of washers and dryers and plenty of space for storage – Ruston knew she wanted to start with a fun, patterned linoleum.
“This is actually linoleum that came from the UK,” said Lydia Smith, an interior designer with CAI. “One thing Rushton said is, ‘I’m spending most of my time in my laundry room probably. I just want it to be fun, happy and bright,’ so we thought this was a fun, unexpected something on the floor.”
From the linoleum, they pulled colors to use on the cabinets and cafe curtains. Originally, they painted the cabinets a lighter blue color.
“Once they were painted, we were like, ‘It really needs something a little bit more bold that pops in contrast to the floor,’” Smith said. “And then having the real clean, white countertops and penny round backsplash, we felt like doing a bolder color would stand out more.”
For Anne Rainey’s bedroom, who is the eldest daughter, the color scheme started off with her favorite wallpaper pattern.
“She found it and said, ‘I really want to use this,’ and so we figured out a way to incorporate it and make sure her bedding, furniture and things coordinated,” Smith said.
The wallpaper is busy, so the designers decided to just use it on one wall.
“We talked about different places to put it. We talked about the ceiling or maybe just a different wall,” Smith said. “We wanted it to be more of an accent instead of having it on all of the walls and having it overwhelming.”
The youngest three daughters – Mei Sims, Mimi and Colley – share a bedroom covered in different shades of pink, purple and green. This started off with a pillowcase.
“She sewed a lot of her own pillows, and they’re so cute with the little ruffles,” Smith said. “So, she brought this fabric to me as something she really liked, so then we went from there and pulled the colors.”
A wall of silly family photos upstairs turns a boring white hallway into a colorful masterpiece. These photos are far from professional; they showcase children making angry faces, covered in dirt, sliding down slides or hula hooping.
“It brings such a personal touch to a house to see photos and say, ‘Oh, these are the people who live here,’” Smith said. “Even these are some silly photos, but I feel like it captures real life.”
Incorporating Kid-Friendly Elements
With a family of eight moving in, the designers knew they would want lots of nooks, window spaces and hidden passageways for the children to enjoy. One example of this is what they call the “Narnia Door,” a hobbit-sized door that connects from one of the girls’ bedrooms to the other.
The navy blue door is tucked away in Anne Rainey’s closet. In the youngest girls’ room, a set of steps leads up to the door, ready for them to crawl through.
Even the boys have a secret spot to hide away in. Their room is set up like a dorm – two smaller bedrooms on each side of a common living space. In the common area is a ladder that leads up to an attic transformed into an indoor treehouse.
“They have their hammocks hanging up there,” Smith said. “There are little windows up there, so to have the view and have additional space for them to play.”
For more information on the team behind the showhouse, visit christopherai.com.