Renovation Makes a Happy Home

Steve and Joy Chamberlin bought their West Hills split-level home the summer of 1990. With their then-3- and 5-year-olds and one on the way, the Chamberlins had plenty of room to spare and the kind of backyard that begs for busy children. The large, looming magnolia tree was well-suited for climbers.

Fast forward 25 years and the Chamberlins found themselves at a crossroads. In that time there had been marriages and grandbabies, and despite being in the midst of raising their fourth child, they considered moving. The house was mostly quiet and brutally outdated. It was time to make a change, but how?

“A realtor came over and told us what we’d get for it. If we’d moved, it still would’ve been a financial decision. We either needed to fix it to enjoy it or fix it to sell it,” Joy says. “But I grew up near here. I went to high school with my neighbor. We both went to UT. I like going places and running into people I know. This is our neighborhood.”

So that was that. The Chamberlins were staying put, but that meant charting a course for renovation, which, as everyone knows, is something that can put a marriage, family and budget through the wringer. They hired interior designer Brooke Phillips and started the conversation about what this process might look like.

“There’s something about an older, established home,” Brooke says. “I’m in new and old houses all the time, and there’s something about the lower ceilings that feels intimate and cozy.”

They didn’t move ceilings, but the Chamberlins did knock down a pantry and accompanying wall to open up the kitchen to the dining area and living room. They gutted all three bathrooms, replaced flooring and stair railings, built cabinetry and an island, and overhauled the foyer. The overhaul started in late-2016, and the finishing touches were finalized this January. The Chamberlins’ home had a complete facelift on the inside, and while each space reflects the family affectionately and authentically, the best part of the renovation is that they didn’t have to say goodbye to a home that holds so many memories.

“I want my clients to use their things to tell their story. Joy wanted all new art, but I asked her to remember what was important to her,” Brooke says. “Spaces are about relationships. She brought out this quilt, and I work with a framer, so we had this done.”

“It’s a yo-yo quilt that was on my grandmother’s bed,” Joy adds, “hand-stitched by my great-grandmother.”

Nearly everything that originally hung in the Chamberlins’ house was reframed and rehung from a fresh perspective. A new color palette was chosen, and they selected necessary details, such as light fixtures, with thought. Steve, who’s recently retired, took the opportunity to upgrade the home’s lighting and security to smart features with Lutron Electronics.

“It all started with wanting to prevent having cords everywhere,” he says. “Now we can program lights and thermostats to turn on automatically, to have alarms sent to my phone if there’s a water leak or a security problem. I’ve gotten a notification when the fire detector’s gone off. We didn’t have to rewire the house because it works with standard and dimmable lights.”

The biggest changes happened in the kitchen, the heart of every household. It’s where people gather and swap stories, where meals are made and celebrations erupt. When the conversation started about the kitchen, Joy recalls talking to one of her daughters about its undertaking.

“We went round and round about the island. Do we add a sink? Is that where we put the stove? But my daughter said she could see me there making cookies with grandkids, so that was it,” Joy says. “The island is my favorite part. The lights above it are like a piece of art.”

“I’m not a decoration person,” Brooke says. “If we have beautiful things, you don’t need decorations.”

Today, the work is finished and the newness hasn’t worn off. There’s still the occasional seek-and-find for misplaced, rearranged items, and every once in a while, the bright, airy kitchen catches them off guard, as if it’s too good to be true. Yet, every bedroom and bathroom has been redressed, as well as the large family room in the basement. It may not look like the old house it used to be, but a quick glance at the reframed family photos or the heirlooms now on display, and the memories come flooding back. It is home. It always has been.