The Williams home in Shell Beach: A modern update with warmth

Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired elements drive this Prairie-style house’s remodel

Special to The TribuneFebruary 12, 2013 

  • Tips from Heidi Williams

    GO MONOCHROME A tone-on-tone, monochromatic palette can be very soothing to the eye. The same goes for repeating materials throughout the house.

    BREAK UP CABINETS Cabinets don’t have to run wall-to-wall. Eliminating some upper cabinets creates a greater sense of openness. Areas of open shelving break up long expanses of cabinetry. You could even eliminate corner cabinets if you dread losing things in the back of them. The Williamses used that space for a closet on the other side of the wall.

    FIND BALANCE One rustic element softens the severity of modern design. The Williamses chose distressed oak for the floor because it would show less wear and tear over the years. Its random board lengths and aged look balance the strong horizontal lines of the house. A gray stain helps it blend with the overall design scheme.

By the time Jeff and Heidi Williams became empty nesters, their Shell Beach nest was ready for a complete transformation.

The couple had purchased the ocean-view lot in 1982, before the arrival of their two children. The house they built was designed by architect Robert Richmond of Parallel Design Studios based on elements of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie-style house. Features integral to that design include strong horizontal lines, blocks of windows, integrated hip roofs and overhanging eaves.

Although the Williamses have long been partial to the clean lines and minimalist look of modern design, the interior of the house was more straightforward with many elements typical of 1980s homes. After 30 years, the couple was ready to evolve their style in a more modern direction.

“We updated virtually everything you can see, and everything behind it,” said Heidi Williams, who noted that they took great pains to retain all Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired elements.

Keith Hall of Parallel Design Studios designed the remodel, and Mark Sullivan Fine Custom Homes was the general contractor. Terri Sullivan of First Impressions headed up the interior design.

The remodel began with an almost complete tear-down of the structure. New electrical and plumbing systems went in. Nearly all windows were replaced with newer, more energy-efficient ones.

The team added an office and enlarged the kitchen, increasing the square footage of the house by 30 percent. Strategically relocating the staircase would allow light from upstairs windows to flood the downstairs. While they were at it, they replaced the basic, utilitarian staircase with a gracefully arcing stairwell and modern stainless steel railing.

The new kitchen would be the centerpiece and inspiration for the entire remodel. The Williamses wanted a modern, European look, so they worked with Richard Jess, who is the local distributor of the German-based cabinet manufacturer SieMatic.

Although SieMatic offers a variety of styles, it is best known for its high-end European designs. Jess worked with the architect and builder on the cabinetry, countertops, lighting and overall kitchen layout.

The remodel doubled the size of the kitchen and added new vaulted ceilings. An island, two ovens and two sinks allow the couple to work in tandem. Out went their 1980s-style traditional oak cabinets. Their new flat-front laminate cabinets have a raised textured surface that is laser-sealed for durability. The surface mimics the look of a horizontal wood grain, echoing the strong horizontal lines in the house. Quartz composite countertops and a glass panel backsplash complete the dramatic modern makeover. As a bonus, the modern materials the Williamses chose are easy to clean and maintain.

Well-designed storage is key to the couple’s streamlined aesthetic. The kitchen has a large pantry, drawers in place of lower cabinets, and customized inserts to organize kitchen tools, cookware and dishes. The Williamses were choosy about where cabinets were placed. They decided against wall-to-wall upper cabinets in order to maintain a cleaner, more open look. They also opted against corner cabinets.

“We know things always get lost back there,” Heidi Williams explained.

She is partial to the sleek simplicity of grays and silvers, so the color palette repeats throughout the kitchen. She took those material choices and used them as inspiration for the rest of the house.

“I liked everything in the kitchen that much,” Williams said. “Plus, using the same materials everywhere makes the house look a lot cleaner.”

They used the same cabinets and countertops from the kitchen in each bathroom, only changing the sink. The same distressed oak flooring with a subtle gray stain runs throughout the house, and doors were stained to match. Walls in the house are varying shades of gray. Fixtures and hardware are brushed nickel or chrome. In the living room, replacing the traditional brick fireplace with dark gray basalt cemented the home’s modern transformation.

The Williamses moved out of their house for seven months while the remodel was under way. The project wrapped up in July 2011.

The house may be like new inside and out — but the furniture is not. The couple found that most of their old furniture still worked in the house. Though it ranges in style from contemporary to tropical, with some family heirlooms in the mix, most pieces sport simple lines and classic designs. The only furniture they purchased was a modern dining set for the kitchen.

“That probably represents the direction we’re going now,” said Heidi Williams.

The remodel has taken the Williamses’ abode from family home to its next phase as a sophisticated retreat.

“The house has a calming effect now,” said Heidi Williams. “We feel like we’re on vacation every day.”

Reach Rebecca Juretic at

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