Creating a Place to Stay
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Creating a Place to Stay

A gradual remodel transforms a worn-out property into a personalized forever home.

Compiled by Griffin Suber and Katherine Owen


When Julie Engelmann and her husband Sean bought their home in Trenton, Illinois, nearly 20 years ago, it was just an old farmhouse, built in the 1960s and clocking in at just over 1,700 square feet. Now it has grown to approximately 3,700 square feet with six bedrooms and three bathrooms, and every space has been updated for the Engelmann family’s lifestyle, including a taxidermy room, as well as a pool and a pool house with its own custom bar. Here’s their farm-to-forever-home journey.

Julie: We wanted a property in the country, and we saw the potential this place had. We love the location, and that’s really what it was about. You just can’t fix location, you know? Then, we just remodeled it little by little as we could until every room was done. But now, today, it’s about twice the size as when we first bought it.

The outside was my favorite expansion. I love all the flowers around my pool and my porch. All the potted plants, the hanging baskets — all of that I do every year. It’s a labor of love for sure. It’s something I work on every day.

Inside, the kitchen is my favorite. We did a complete gut. It was originally an old farmhouse, so the ceilings were only 9 feet tall. We took the whole ceiling up and vaulted it, then we covered it in cedar. It makes the room feel so much bigger. We put in black rustic cabinets, quartz countertops and we used mostly European mounts for decorating. Skulls – buffalo, deer and elk – provide bright white contrast against the dark walls.

We really like that Western look; we’re inspired by places like Wyoming and Montana. We like the stone and the wood together — that was really our goal. It was tricky, though; a lot of the cedar stuff was hard to find around here. There are some items that I did order from out West.

These days, our house is pretty full. We’ve got three kids, so we have an open house. We have people over all the time, and folks always stop by, so we entertain a lot. And that’s a good problem to have. Now, we’re done [renovating]. This is it — it’s finished. This is our home for life. 


See Also: This Cabin is Where City Meets Country

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