AMHERST — With a rolling green pasture stretching to the horizon over the white, front-yard fence, there’s a lot of thinking and relaxing that’s bound to happen on the front porch of the Bronwyn and Cody Gillespie house southwest of Amherst.
The porch is a good perch for Bronwyn as the Gillespies’ children, Emmeline, 3, and Brooks, 1½, play as a gentle southerly breeze creates grassy waves across the pasture.
It’s not always been so relaxing at the Gillespie place.
When Bronwyn and Cody took over the well-built and well-maintained home from his grandparents, Bud and Beulah Gillespie, the young couple set out to update the house and make it their own. It was a task they launched four years ago and that’s commanded a lot of their energy and attention.
As they talk about their remodeled home, the Gillespies recall all the help they received from family members and friends. At times there was heavy lifting involved. At other times, the Gillespies tapped the experience and expertise of others as they attacked work that required muscles and finesse.
Sometimes the remodeling was just dirty and tedious. Removing the popcorn texture on the living room ceiling wasn’t much fun, Bronwyn said. She said she dreamed up various decorating ideas that looked great but required far more time and patience than she anticipated, such as stenciling walls in her son’s room and the master bedroom.
Why remodel rather than build new?
The grandparents’ house has “good bones,” Bronwyn said. Built in the 1970s, its kitchen, dining room and living room layout is open concept — a feature that’s popular today.
The other major incentive is location. Bronwyn and Cody live just a mile from his parents, Lynne and Scott Gillespie and the family’s business, Gillespie Cattle Co. Living close to the ranching business makes all the difference, especially in February’s calving season when it’s necessary to watch closely for cows having difficulty giving birth to their calves.
“We really enjoy living right by the ranch. It allows me to be more efficient with my time and also to see my family more often because I can stop in and see them throughout the day,” Cody said.
Remodeling also afforded Bronwyn and Cody to own a good, attractive home at a lower cost than building new.
The Gillespies removed flooring and lots of dated furniture, but the floor plan was solid and so no walls were removed or moved. They also reused some of the original light fixtures.
They salvaged some wood-look vinyl flooring from another house and used the material throughout the great room. The rest of the flooring — ceramic tile in the laundry room and bathrooms and thick pile carpet in the bedrooms and basement — were selected new. Bronwyn said a friend helped Cody install the tile.
The couple splurged on the kitchen by removing all cupboards, drafting a new floor plan and adding a center island with a granite counter top. The rest of the counter tops in the kitchen are Formica, Bronwyn said.
“My favorite room in the house would be the kitchen,” Cody said. “I love to eat and I like the layout and open concept.”
Cupboards have a flat off-white finish and were purchased new. The kitchen originally was equipped with a counter-top range and oven built into a wall. The couple kept the in-wall oven and bought a new stove. Having two ovens comes in handy, Bronwyn said, when friends come over for holiday pie-baking parties.
Bronwyn and Cody also kept the living room’s fireplace and wood-burning stove. They make a handsome focal point in the great room and the stove really makes the living room cozy on frigid winter days.
“My favorite decor are my deer mounts,” Cody said. “It never gets old looking at them and remembering each hunt.”
The laundry room/mud room is accessible from the back door. Next to the mud room is a small bathroom so Cody can get out of his dirty ranching clothes and shower. The bathroom and shower were in the original floor plan and lead to the master bedroom in the northwest corner of the house.
“The mudroom-bathroom combo is an excellent setup, for any home,” Cody said. “It is very convenient to not have to take your shoes off every time we come inside to use the restroom or wash up.”
A visual highlight of Bronwyn and Cody’s private space is the stenciled wall. Bronwyn said she was excited when she started the project, but it was more difficult and time-consuming than she anticipated. “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.”
She also stenciled the wall in Brooks’ nursery.
In the basement the family can relax on movie night on a large sectional sofa. The kids keep occupied in their own little space built under the stairway, complete with a little bed and kitchen fixtures.
Emmeline’s basement bedroom features pink walls and other girly features.
“I tell people this is my little girl dream room,” Bronwyn said.
The Gillespies have a small fenced side lawn with play set and trampoline for the children. Cody installed a sprinkler system to irrigate the grass.
Next, he’ll be filling some of the space in the landscape with low-maintenance decorative plants. The couple also is considering putting new siding on the house.
“I really love our living space,” Bronwyn said. Also, there is plenty of storage. Splurging on the kitchen was a good move, she said.
As for do-overs, she said they should have gone for higher quality faucets. Trying to save money there was a mistake, she said.
Bronwyn also advised would-be redecorators to think twice before jumping into long, involved upgrades, like she did with the stencil-painted walls. “So many jobs I got ambitious, and I discovered it was going to take longer than I thought.”
If it were possible, Cody said he would move the home farther away from the road. He thinks the house is a bit too close to the gravel road that passes their home. “The biggest drawback of where we live is our proximity to the road. We wish we were farther away for our children’s safety and also for the dust factor.”
Among the good decisions they made was accepting help from friends and family. Enlisting muscle power when it was needed and tapping into expertise and know-how allowed them to tackle projects they might not have been able to do.
Another good choice: Living in a rental during the remodel.
Having the house unoccupied, Bronwyn said, was a good idea because the place became a war zone. Rather than shifting things around to maintain an operational house, having the rental allowed them to focus on remodeling,
“Also, we were lucky because we had a place to sleep at the rental,” Bronwyn said.
How much did the Gillespies save?
She estimates they shaved 40 percent to 50 percent off what they might have spent if they had invested in a new house.
“I am really proud how Bronwyn turned my grandparents’ house into our home. She has an amazing talent for interior decorating,” Cody said.