Bruce and Marge Kerwin spent much of the past two decades living and traveling abroad in some of the world’s most exotic and far-flung locales. Kuwait, Latvia and the Philippines are among the countries the couple called home over the years, though they never forgot the South Hill rancher they purchased in 1989 — or their plans to eventually return and remodel it.
“The house was largely untouched since it was built,” says Marge, recalling the small, dark kitchen that was the initial focus of their plans. Bruce, a retired military officer whose career took the couple abroad for years, loves to garden and cook — another reason the couple made the kitchen a priority. But while remodeling was always the goal, “we waited because we knew we would do more than just the kitchen,” Marge says.
Marge, a nurse who spent much of her time overseas working as a volunteer, says she thought a lot about the remodel before the couple returned.
“I just had a boatload of books and magazines and my own quirky ideas of colors and things I want,” she says.
The couple finally set to work in May last year. Much of the renovation occurred at the front of the home, where an interior wall was removed to open the original foyer to a new, larger kitchen with an island.
A second wall was removed to open the kitchen to the home’s central living room, creating a large, open space ideal for entertaining while preserving the original dining room for more formal occasions.
A family room was added, along with new hardwood floors and a set of French doors that open onto the Kerwins’ lush and spacious backyard garden.
In the kitchen, a skylight was added to brighten the space. Marge says she collaborated with Kimberlee Melcher of Downtown Kitchen & Design on much of the kitchen remodel, which was focused on adding the island, a corner fireplace and a wine bar.
With an arched opening and honed granite tile set into a rounded corner wall, the little gas fireplace looks like something from an ancient Pueblo in the Southwest.
“It makes a nice little warmth around the table,” Marge says of the eat-in kitchen. “It really is cozy.”
The kitchen cabinets are cherry with a distressed, Tuscany finish that picks up hues of terracotta, warm gray and cornflower blue accents in the room.
“I wanted something that wasn’t dark and wasn’t light,” she says. “I really wanted to keep the room bright.”
Across from the fireplace, the wine bar features a tumbled travertine backsplash that was hand-painted by a friend with the words “In Vino Veritas,” and a winged wine bottle floating among flowers.
Nearby, an alcove houses a small cherry wine hutch with a chestnut finish beneath a large painting from Germany that depicts brightly colored poppies in red, purple and yellow.
Much of the Kerwins’ home is decorated with art from their international travels. Walls of chocolate brown, red and ochre boast gaily-colored paintings from Latvia, Italy and Kuwait.
Nestled in small, lighted alcoves on either side of the living room fireplace are an Italian Millefiori piece and a statute of a Catholic saint from the Philippines. And resting on an easel in the corner is a painting by an Iranian artist that the couple purchased in Italy.
The dining room, painted in red with warm-gray wainscoting, features rustic furniture from Kuwait, including the table and an armoire that the couple modified to hold dishes and barware.
Around the corner, the living room’s ochre stucco walls and a small, primitive cafe table set off a series of African dancers painted by a protégé of Bill Cosby.
“I like the feel and color of African art,” says Marge, who frames the couples’ paintings and prints herself.
Down the hall, a bathroom that retains the home’s original ‘50s tile, tub and vanity was given a new look with a Middle Eastern flair by adding Mediterranean accent tiles and a large silk painting of an elephant that Marge found in India. Deep wine-colored shower and window curtains printed with small elephants complete the look.
With the remodel work largely complete, and the Kerwins’ lengthy trips abroad becoming less frequent, Marge says the couple has no regrets about the time and effort they put into their dream home.
“I am going to die in this house — I don’t care if we’re putting too much money into it,” Marge quips. “We did everything we wanted. It’s a fun house, a great house to entertain in —I love it.”
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