A House Becomes a Home

Two locals turn a standard West Jackson house into something special.

By Lila Edythe ∙ Photography by David Agnello

Sally and Mike Brin outside of their Boise Cascade modular home. It was built in 1973, and the couple remodeled it in 2015.

Sally and Mike Brin outside of their Boise Cascade modular home. It was built in 1973, and the couple remodeled it in 2015.

Because planning a wedding for two hundred people wasn’t enough, Sally and Mike Brin decided to almost completely remodel their 1,638-square-foot, split-level home at the same time. (There’s a 500-square-foot garage, too.) The first step was replacing all the windows, which were original from the home’s 1973 construction. Contractor Scott Diehl did that in October 2014. And then he began the process of transforming the couple’s Boise Cascade modular home, of which there are dozens in West Jackson between the library and post office, into an open and airy space with nice flow. The Brins love entertaining and wanted a home that allowed them to do just that.

Diehl had until June, when the couple were hosting a wedding event at the house, to finish. “That was a definite deadline,” Mike says. Even though Diehl ended up needing to rewire about 70 percent of the house—“We were expecting we’d have to do maybe 30 percent,” Mike says—the couple moved back in in late January. “Sometimes during the process it felt like things went really slow, but for the transformation that happened, it’s amazing it went so fast,” Sally says.

Sally bought and moved into the house in 2006. “It appealed to me because it was turn-key,” she says. “The house wasn’t anything special, but the backyard is amazing, and I love the location. I figured there were little things I could do over the years that would make it special.”

“The house wasn’t anything special, but the backyard is amazing, and I love the location. I figured there were little things I could do over the years that would make it special.”

[ Sally Brin, homeowner ]

When Mike moved in in 2013, the couple immediately started talking about doing big things. “We had a lot of unusable space, and the kitchen was tiny,” Mike says. “We spent about one day looking through real estate before deciding we weren’t going to find a better location with a better backyard in our budget.” The couple quickly pivoted to talking about remodeling the kitchen and the master suite, both on the upper floor. Like many remodels, though, the scope quickly grew. Sally has an upright piano that, if the upstairs was being remodeled, needed to be relocated downstairs. “We couldn’t get it down the stairs the way they were,” Mike says. “So we decided to blow out the walls around the stairs.”

Sally’s piano is now downstairs in a dedicated music room. The stairs, with a custom railing by welder Alex McFarland (of Butte West), “is one of the cooler parts of the house,” Sally says. “That railing was probably a splurge, but it was worth it.” Opening up the stairway makes the living room on the lower level more practical, too. “We didn’t really use it that much when it was closed off,” Sally says, “but since the remodel we are always down there, using it as our main living room while the upstairs is more for dining and entertaining.”

To make the kitchen larger, the couple got rid of the adjacent bathroom and replaced a sliding door to an outdoor deck with a standard swing door. “We knew what we wanted to do with the floor plan, but we weren’t as sure about the details,” Sally says. The couple saved money during the remodel by forgoing hiring an architect, but did go to Bison Custom Cabinetry for kitchen help. “Kristen [Carter] really knows how to make the most out of a space,” Sally says. “She had suggestions we never would have thought of that make the kitchen really user-friendly.”

The home’s original floor plan did not have a master suite, but did have two bedrooms on the upper level. Diehl combined these to create a spacious master suite. A window was added in the new master bath. “Natural light in a bathroom is so nice,” Sally says. “All of the light in the whole house now is great. This house was fine the way it was, but now it is special and works for our lifestyle.”

Preremodel, Sally Brin’s piano couldn’t fit downstairs because the staircase was too tight. The remodel, though, opened the stairs up, and Sally now has a downstairs piano room.

Preremodel, Sally Brin’s piano couldn’t fit downstairs because the staircase was too tight. The remodel, though, opened the stairs up, and Sally now has a downstairs piano room.

Opening up the staircase, which is in the home’s entry, makes the whole space more inviting and functional.

Opening up the staircase, which is in the home’s entry, makes the whole space more inviting and functional.

The top of the kitchen bar is custom-made by a childhood friend of Sally’s, Andy Sovick, who is now a contractor in Crested Butte, Colorado. “I called him and told him we’d love something cool made from beetle kill,” Sally says. “He called me back and said he had wood that worked. He got all the specs from [our contractor] Scott, and now we have this special piece in the kitchen. It was his wedding gift to us.”

The top of the kitchen bar is custom-made by a childhood friend of Sally’s, Andy Sovick, who is now a contractor in Crested Butte, Colorado. “I called him and told him we’d love something cool made from beetle kill,” Sally says. “He called me back and said he had wood that worked. He got all the specs from [our contractor] Scott, and now we have this special piece in the kitchen. It was his wedding gift to us.”

Sally and Mike imagined and assembled the fireplace surround themselves. They had scrap pieces of reclaimed barnwood from a remodel at Teton Mountain Lodge, where Sally is a manager. “We invited friends over one evening to help,” Sally says. “We assembled it like a puzzle on the floor and then Scott later tacked it up. It was really fun.”

Sally and Mike imagined and assembled the fireplace surround themselves. They had scrap pieces of reclaimed barnwood from a remodel at Teton Mountain Lodge, where Sally is a manager. “We invited friends over one evening to help,” Sally says. “We assembled it like a puzzle on the floor and then Scott later tacked it up. It was really fun.”

Sally and Mike made their dining table themselves, from reclaimed pine. The couple stripped the dark stain from the wood, which was a large, built-in bookshelf in its prior life. To get the width they wanted, Mike fastened several shelves together. They filled holes with aqua green sand before finishing it with a high-gloss, natural stain. “The red legs bring a pop of color to the space,” Sally says.

Sally and Mike made their dining table themselves, from reclaimed pine. The couple stripped the dark stain from the wood, which was a large, built-in bookshelf in its prior life. To get the width they wanted, Mike fastened several shelves together. They filled holes with aqua green sand before finishing it with a high-gloss, natural stain. “The red legs bring a pop of color to the space,” Sally says.

The downstairs wood-burning stove is original to the 1973-built home. Sally and Mike still use it to help heat the house in the winter.

The downstairs wood-burning stove is original to the 1973-built home. Sally and Mike still use it to help heat the house in the winter.

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