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Majestic Makeover

By Terry Hoover | Photography by Dustin Peck

Posted: Tuesday, Jul. 02, 2013

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Finding the perfect house is never easy. Sometimes, the best you can do is buy something that’s in the ballpark and then set about trying to make it the house you’ve always dreamed of—a process that usually takes twice as long and costs twice as much as originally planned.

When Chris and Michelle McKoy moved from Greensboro to Lake Norman in 2009, they were quite familiar with this process. “I’ve renovated every one of the eight houses I’ve lived in since college, either by myself or with Chris’ help,” says Michelle.

You can now add house number nine to the list, as the McKoys recently finished a three-year renovation on their 6,000-square-foot home on the lake’s west side in Denver, situated on the main channel with sweeping views of the water.

“It was a good house and had been well maintained, but it was very traditional,” says Michelle. “Not really our style.”

With the help of some key contractors, the couple completely overhauled the house inside and out and landscaped the backyard to take advantage of their lakeside location.

Along the exterior, the couple painted the home’s pink bricks tan and replaced the plain black shutters, white columns, and garage doors with rustic cedar. In the back yard, they extended the lower patio’s fascia to provide more shelter, creating a seating area perfect for socializing and soaking up the area’s natural beauty. The addition of two pergolas flanking the pool and a floating dock with a copper roof capped the backyard re-do.

The final task before the moving trucks arrived was painting all the rooms in the house, beginning with the soaring two-story foyer. “Color is an easy fix,” says Michelle. “Just painting the white walls a warm beige made it feel much more homey.”

After receiving an estimate for switching out the white staircase spindles for black wrought iron, Michelle painted all 254 of them herself. The two-story fireplace, nearly invisible in its white sheetrock box, took center stage when refaced with stone.

The rest of the transformation evolved gradually.

“We didn’t do anything major for the next two years,” says Michelle. “We wanted to live in the space and take the time to figure out what we needed to make it work for us.”

Once they had a game plan, renovations started in earnest. First, hardwood plank flooring replaced the plush carpet upstairs. The dining room, master bedroom, and bath were transformed with dramatic faux treatments.

Lining the walls of a little-used upstairs loft with custom built-in cabinets converted the space into an office big enough for the couple, who work together as sales reps for the same firm. An unneeded storage room in the basement was finished and converted into a 300-square-foot gym.

For the kitchen, the final and biggest renovation in the house, Michelle worked with Tom Cox of Charlotte-based Thos. Woodhouse and Co., which specializes in timber and wood framing, and Liz Slater at Davidson-based Firefly Construction.

A wall between the kitchen and a small, adjoining bedroom and bath was moved, expanding the kitchen to approximately 28-by-24 and creating space for a Subzero refrigerator and bank of cabinets. The former bedroom closet became a pantry with an antique rolling ladder. And at the urging of Tom Cox, they painted and reconfigured the existing cabinets rather than replacing them, saving a great deal of money in the process.

An adjoining sunroom was converted to a breakfast area with a table and built-in bench. The original breakfast nook became a seating area with a settee, two chairs and a table.

“It’s really a cool place to hang out,” says Michelle. “It feels kind of like a coffee house.”

The centerpiece of the kitchen is the 9-by-8 island. The Alaskan granite countertops were leatherized, a process that brings out the natural colors of the stone and produces a finish similar to soapstone.

“Guest always want to touch it,” says Michelle. “It’s like a piece of art.”

They applied the same process to the black granite countertops adjacent to the second sink and Wolff cook top, which has a double griddle and a hood painted the same olive green as the cabinets but treated with a faux finish to look like metal.

Subway tile on the wall behind the Wolff gives the space a simple, classic look. The couple opted for leaded glass windows salvaged from a warehouse in High Point to provide privacy without sacrificing natural light.

Despite the inconveniences and waiting, the couple is glad they took their time over the renovations. “You can expect the unexpected and to go over budget on any renovation project, but you have to have a vision and know what you want,” Michelle says. “You also need contractors you trust and to be patient with the process. But in the end, it was all worth it.”

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