It is often said first impressions are the most important. For Julia Kirkendall, owner of Kirkendall Design, the same rings true when it comes to houses. 

“I walk into a house and can tell a lot about it by the first walk through,” she says. 

When she first toured this 1950s, 3,800-square-foot-ranch home, Kirkendall says she knew almost instantly it would be the perfect home to renovate — a challenge she and her design team go through about once a year.

“It’s a chance to give our designers an opportunity to do a design plan from start to finish, as we would do it,” Kirkendall says. “It keeps us on our toes and creative.”

The home is located in midtown’s Charlane Estates neighborhood, which Kirkendall says was named after the developer’s wife. This particular build was one of the first around the neighborhood’s pond, so it was purposefully designed with both views and privacy in mind. 

It was well built and still had the original architecture, a trait Kirkendall favors when looking for homes to renovate. There were some updates done in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Kirkendall says, most notably a primary bedroom. And while those were functional, they were now dated. 

“Our goal when thinking about a home renovation is to look at the assets and try to enhance those,” Kirkendall says. For this particular home, that meant focusing everything around the outdoors and picturesque backyard. 

To achieve this, Kirkendall and her team took out the wall separating the home’s two living spaces and removed the fireplace in the original den to make room for doors to a new outdoor living area. In total they removed two fireplaces and added one. The original dining room became part of the kitchen with a large pantry and created space for an updated and fully functional laundry/mud room. 

With the new open floor plan, the kitchen was now a focal point, and Kirkendall wanted to make it visually interesting, too.

“We didn’t want to do an all-white kitchen,” she says of the laminate upper cabinets. The shelf in the island also is visible from the living room, so Kirkendall and her team opted to illuminate it as a statement piece for the room. 

Only two areas required minimal expansion. The garage was not connected to the home, so Kirkendall added a small mudroom to enclose the breezeway. To keep two living areas in the home, Kirkendall covered 8 feet off the back of the house, just off the original laundry and housekeeper quarters and adjacent to the kitchen, to make room for a new keeping room — an informal, cozy living area, which “keeps” people from getting in the cook’s way, according to Kirkendall. 

Kirkendall reconfigured the generously sized primary suite, taking advantage of space once used as a large dressing room for a previous owner.

Perhaps the biggest challenge, says Kirkendall, was adding the outdoor living space. The home had a typical 1950s brick patio the team covered with a gabled porch with cedar beams resulting in a new 800-square-foot outdoor entertaining space that now connects the “U” shape of the house.

Even the home’s original gate house was part of the remodel. Kirkendall updated the space’s bathroom and added new flooring, windows and paint. “It’s a great little flex space now,” Kirkendall says. “It would make the perfect yoga or art studio.”

“This was a true gut,” she says of the project. “Not many walls were left intact.” All new electrical and plumbing were added throughout the house. The project took around 13 months and was sold in 2020 to new owners, who have since added a pool. The final square footage totaled 4,165.

Kirkendall is careful to note these renovation projects are not traditional “flip” homes.

“We don’t do this to get the best bang for our buck,” she says. “We do it to create homes that will easily evolve for future generations.”

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