East Boise home gets a contemporary makeover

Stacey and Ronald Guill were living in a very nice home in East Boise near the river. There was nothing wrong with the house, but it just wasn’t quite “them.”

They had always liked the modern European look, and when they saw an Italian-designed kitchen in a Paris showroom, they knew what they wanted.

“We were always drawn to this type of design,” Stacey said.

They liked the strong, clean lines, and it was very functional without a lot of fluff. Everything had a place, and the design hit everything they wanted. It opened up a design process that had an obvious Frank Lloyd Wright influence. Later, they would even add a locally designed stained-glass window wall that helps separate the dining room from the den.

Finding Cornerstone Design and owner Suzie Hall was exactly the right fit.

“Frank Lloyd Wright has definitely been an influence in my work,” Hall said. “Getting to know Stacey and Ronald as well as we did on a more personal level helped us interpret what contemporary design meant to them. It was a collaborative effort.”

Everything was great except for one thing. That beautiful European kitchen didn’t match the rest of the house.

“We had all beautiful hardwood floors,” Stacey said. And the whole living area had white, bulky crown molding. “It was very Sun Valleyish, and it didn’t work with the rest of it.”

“It had all the pieces,” Ronald said.

“But it just didn’t fit us,” Stacey added.

“The kitchen was the only solid idea they had, and he wanted the rock off the fireplace,” Hall said.

“The kitchen was the inspiration,” Stacey said. “It was the heart of the home.”

“It spawned all of the other materials,” Ronald said.

They started to “deconstruct” the design of their home — pulling it apart in their minds and rethinking why they didn’t want to be in certain spaces of their home.

With a kitchen that suggested Frank Lloyd Wright, it made the perfect starting place for Hall.

“The neurons start firing; the adrenaline starts flowing,” she said. “They were so open and receptive to what we would design and create.”

Once they took the molding off the living room walls, “it was just a beautiful wall of windows, and it was just the outdoors and the trees,” Ronald said.

Since the windows faced the north, the outdoor patio awning was removed, and more windows were added to that side in the kitchen. Meanwhile, all the windows in the living space were redesigned. It suddenly opened up the whole house.

“They wanted to bring the outside in,” he said. “And then the fireplace really opened it up.”

That fireplace. It’s a showstopper, and photos don’t really communicate the weight and aesthetics of how much it surprises, and how well it works. No matter how receptive a person is to new ideas, it’s hard to imagine someone describing a fire-place that is just one huge piece of burnished metal, side by side with slabs of imported Sequoia quartzite from Italy. And for the fire pit, we’ll just tear a hole in the metal wall that will go all the way through so the flames can be enjoyed from the den, as well.

In reality, the fireplace was inspired by a cave-like fire pit Ronald saw on a fishing trip to Hells Canyon.

While it may be a bit “startling” at first, the fireplace works startlingly well in person.

“We’ve been accused of creating a hotel lobby — by some. But a very nice hotel lobby,” Ronald said. “It doesn’t need anything on the wall because it’s a work of art itself.”

But wait — where are you going to hang the Christmas stockings for the grandkids?

“We actually thought of that,” Ronald said. And a couple of potential solutions were tossed around.

They had gotten good at finding solutions. You have to if you’re going to set a modern European kitchen in an Idaho-flavored home. They all admit that the hardest part of the house was not remodeling the kitchen, changing the living room or designing the fireplace. The challenge was how to transition the kitchen to the fireplace. Several ideas were pondered, but finally it was the small wine bar area that tied it together.

“It had to flow, and it did flow,” Ronald said.

“It was Cornerstone that blended it and made it all a work of art,” Stacey said.

Without the award-winning expertise of Cornerstone’s design team and subcontractors, Ronald said all the elements might have been there, “but it wouldn’t have gone together. Suzie wove it and brought it back to the kitchen.”

“In the end of the day, it was simple, but it was very collaborative and challenging, because we really didn’t know how it was going to fit,” Ronald said. “But it created exactly what we wanted.”

Hall, of course, praises the subcontractors for what they brought to the project.

“I was very particular about everyone I wanted to bring onto the project,” she said. “The contractor, the metal fabricator, stained glass artists and tile installer were all phenomenal.”

For instance, the six-panel stained-glass window was directly inspired by similar Frank Lloyd Wright designs. Doug and Cheri Lindley of Lindley Glass put in more than 500 hours on that artwork.

The kitchen pantry was transformed into a wine room, and the outside of the home also got a makeover. The lower half of the home had been large river rock; now it is stacked rock to harmonize with the rest of the Frank Lloyd Wright design elements.

Because of the clean, spartan look of the living space and kitchen, it also required the same from their personal objects. The wall between the bedroom and the living area was brought toward the living space to create inset shelves for just a few select objects — the ones that “tell our story the best,” Stacey said. “We got rid of boatloads and boatloads of stuff.”

They admit it wasn’t easy.

“But it was really freeing,” Stacey said.

“We just cleaned it back to what we really, really wanted,” Ronald said.

Finished this past November, the project took a little over a year from start to finish, from design through construction. When it was done, they wound up with at least four separate and distinct sitting areas — areas they had previously ignored or had found uninteresting in their own home.

“What we like the most is the livability,” Ronald said. “All of a sudden we wanted to be out here in this space.”

The way all the ideas and elements came together from a mere kitchen remodel did a number on their expectations.

“It far exceeded it,” he said.

“Genius,” Stacey said. “ — to make it feel like one whole space.”

Dusty Parnell is a freelance print, radio and video journalist who has worked in the Treasure Valley for more than 25 years.