The Author's Overhaul
[Trever Hill Design + Benjamin Custom Homes]
Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography
Renderings provided by Adam LaPlante, Benjamin Custom Homes
When a New York Times Bestselling Author moves into the lake home next door, you can count on a little "drama". Falling in love with a 5,000 square-foot retreat on Otter Tail Lake, the popular fiction author known as Tijan, was ready to begin a new chapter. To redefine the existing space, she recruited Trever Hill Design to overhaul the home's outdated finishes. To complete the construction and help preserve its unique architectural character, Hill reached out to Ben Anderson of Benjamin Custom Homes. Instead of knocking down walls, the team built walls, defined spaces, and created a modern-industrial vibe bound to inspire Tijan's next literary masterpiece.
Beachfront Home & Office
Tijan is only in her 30s and lives here seasonally with her English Cocker, but the lake home's ample square footage would need to be divided into home and office, with plenty of room for entertaining friends and family. "I was just completing a redesign at her neighbor's home when I met Tijan, shortly after she purchased the property," said Hill. "We ended up meeting three times to discuss her design goals, then I introduced her to Ben Anderson whom I knew could take on this type of large-scale renovation. Once the planning process started in January, we also worked with Adam LaPlante and Tim Engelking of Benjamin Custom Homes. I selected all the lighting and finish materials, and Adam used Chief Architect renderings to recreate the elements like the stone, table and brick that were already in the home."
"With the exception of the entrance, every room and surface of the house needed updating; all new flooring, trim, sinks, tile, paint...everything," explained Hill. "Most of the home's doors are original, but have now been repainted. With our new layout and addition of walls, we needed to bring in a few new doors so we opted for modern pocket and frosted glass doors, sliding barn doors and black French doors."'
Drama at the Door
Greeting guests is an architectural endeavor of circular glass, brick, and cedar that all parties wanted to preserve. "Ooh! The entry way. The two doors, the brick entryway, and the line of sight immediately to the lake - it's just so gorgeous," said Tijan. "Love, love, love the brick. I didn't want that touched at all."
Just into the main living area off the foyer, Melanie Anderson of Benjamin Custom Homes, designed a beach towel drop zone with handcrafted bench and shelf features from Grain Designs.
"We drew the original house, then redrew it with the new design and a full blueprint set and renderings so she could see exactly what the renovation would look like," said Benjamin Anderson, of Benjamin Custom Homes. "We joked that we were actually adding walls, instead of taking down walls like what you'd see on a typical HGTV renovation," added Hill.
Transforming the Great Room
The prior homeowner had worked with an architect friend and built the home to accommodate his collection of big game plaques and exotic taxidermy. This meant keeping damaging sun rays and ultimately, windows, at a minimum in the great room. "The extra walls and lack of windows had completely obstructed the view, so we knew we needed to add in oversized patio doors that would allow access to the lake. For the renovation, Tijan's design goal was to update the dark space with cooler tones and a much more modern-industrial vibe," explained Hill.
"The exterior of the house is all brick, so we were really careful to not damage the majority of the home's original character and structure," said Hill. "We only removed one area of brick with the addition of the 8'x12' patio doors."
Working with the original fireplace stone, the team chose to paint over the ceiling redwood and repurpose the redwood walls, replacing it with a sleek, concrete-like panel created with sheetrock channels. "It would have been a shame to paint or drywall over the wood walls, so we removed the planks and those will be repurposed into cabinetry," said Anderson. "We did decide to paint the redwood ceiling, that's why it looks so beautiful; there are almost no knots in that type of wood. To create the concrete-like wall panels, we installed OSB, then drywall, then I put receivers on the beads and coated it with a Dryvit product called, Finesse. I just kept layering it and building it out until I got smooth finish."
"For the ceiling and walls, we brought in Weyer-for-Hire to paint the ceiling in Mega Greige and walls in Incredible White; this gave the great room a more modern and beach-inspired aesthetic," said Hill. "For the doors and trim, we chose a Tricorn Black, and the concrete panel wall is finished in Anew Grey. I found the zippered, convertible sectional at Unclaimed Freight in Fargo; it was a special order that had been returned - it was the perfect addition to this space."
When the main floor was redesigned, the load-bearing wall that was removed required the addition of a supporting beam. Using an unfinished H-beam was a perfect solution that played into the industrial vibe Tijan had requested. "It's a pretty old house, with a lot of elevation changes throughout, especially around the entrance to the sliding office door, so it took a lot of extra work to make this area work," said Anderson.
The home's formal dining room was inspired by a live-edge, acacia table for eight that Tijan had purchased prior to the renovation. This was paired with Eames chairs and capped with two cozy captain's chairs. Another Grain Designs custom bench was built into the brick detailing, drawing the eye to the lakeside view. "At her request, the table and new LED lighting was centered within the room," said Hill. "I thought the lighting was a fun option for a lake home, it really mimics the look of waves. Also, I loved that we were able to reuse that brick from the two walls that were recreated with patio doors."
"Since the renovation, we've heard that guests who have visited, actually thought it was a brand new home," said Anderson. "There had not been any updates to the home since it was built in 1989, so I feel like the existing modern brick on the exterior really fits the interior now."
In the kitchen, Hill and Tijan chose a light gray, high-gloss cabinetry from Mill Creek with a custom-designed, double-stacked wine rack. A massive, 10'x8' island with quartz top feature a double, waterfall edge and woven basket pendant lighting.
"The white oak kitchen table is a brand new 'natural' finish that I asked Grain Designs to do; it's the first one of this kind that they've made," said Hill. "The table is custom-built to fit perfectly underneath the edge of the waterfall-edge island and pull out for alternate uses. The Whirlpool appliances are a newly-released color, Sunset Bronze, which has a little bit of warmth to it. I think it's a nice feature to balance the warmer tones of the appliances with some of the home's cooler tones in the cabinetry, stone and flooring."
At the site of the original office behind the new kitchen, the team was able to reinvent the large space, creating an unbelievable, walk-in pantry with original brick detailing, cleverly hidden behind the sleek gloss of faux cabinetry doors.
Master Suite: In the Works
What used to be the living room is now the main floor master suite. While the bath is fully finished and expanded, the bedroom is in the final phases of design and set to be completed within the month. The layout has been re-imagined by adding walls and making use of the old living room's best features; beautiful brick accents, a fireplace, and a stunning lakeside view. In the hallway, the old dining room and kitchen is set to become a library and small den.
To recreate the master bath's tight quarters, the original bath was bumped back to allow for a larger, double vanity and walk-in shower. The vanity is one of the first to feature a newly released, ombre-style Kohler faucet which Hill found at Ferguson. Modern 48"x24" floor tiles lead to a coordinating mosaic-tiled shower with a quartz waterfall bench. Finding a simple way to harvest natural light, the team avoided altering the exterior and instead worked with the original, vertical window placement, updating it with a frosted glass version for privacy.
In the back entry, the drop zone features a solid steel panel and custom-built walnut bench by Grain Designs. "The large piece of steel came from West Side Steel and our welder, Bob Stots did all of the custom steelwork," said Anderson. The outdated staircase also got an overhaul with black stain and a more modern cable railing.
Elevating the Guest Experience
To the right of the stairs, Hill and Anderson redesigned unfinished storage space and spare bedrooms to create a new theater room, side storage room and updated guest bedroom (not shown).
At the top of the steps, Hill was able to salvage one of the home's original, alabaster sconces, then mimic the look in the guest bath across the hall and down into the main level.
The opposite hall, which was once home to the original master suite, featured his and hers walk-ins, a shower, tub and a separate vanity room. Since Hill and Anderson had already designed a new master on the main floor, the team set out to transform the outdated space into the ultimate guest suite. Designing for amenities, they reworked the old vanity room, giving it new life as a coffee bar with a dual beverage fridge, Truffle painted cabinetry and a microwave.
Using an existing globe light as inspiration for the surrounding space, Hill chose a larger, architectural globe for the area near the soaking tub and shower. "The tile from Showcase Floors was a great option because it actually comes in two different textures; we chose the textured wave tile for the walls and the smoother tile for the tub surround," explained Hill. "Since she requested a bath that would be really comfortable for guests, we found this larger 72"x36" whirlpool bath at Ferguson."
Feedback from the Homeowner:
"My main goal was exactly what they delivered," said Tijan. "I wanted the house to be more open and I also enjoyed the looks from Trever's designs and previous homes that Benjamin Custom Homes had done. I wanted to work with people I could trust and be able to step back and deal with my own stuff knowing they had the house covered."
"My favorite feature of the renovation is being able to move the kitchen over to that big room. From how they lightened the entire big room, to the patio doors, to the brick on the wall, the benches, the kitchen island and the customized table. I love the whole thing!"
Find the Finishes:
Get to know the Author: Tijan
We know our readers are scouring this story looking for a photo or full name of the Bestselling Author and homeowner, but for the sake of privacy, we'll refer only to her as Tijan. She rarely grants interviews and has successfully managed to keep her local identity a mystery to the community and her readers.
Tijan is a New York Times Bestselling Author who has made a name for herself writing suspenseful and unpredictable novels spanning the genres. She began her writing career later in life and quickly gained popularity with multi-bestsellers including the Carter Reed Series, the Fallen Crest Series, and the Broken and Screwed Series, among others.
"I write under the single-name penname Tijan, but I've been writing for a long time. My career really took off when one of my young adult books became a hit with readers and since then, I've been able to write other books such as mafia, paranormal, new adult, and contemporary romance - somehow each book finds its readership. I'm currently gearing up for another young adult book to release soon! I am mostly a self-published author, but I've recently become hybrid with one novella published through St. Martin's Press and another project coming up with them," explained the author.
Looking for your next great read?
Check out her website to see a full list of her published works, follow Tijan's Books on social media, or purchase audio or digital versions on amazon kindle. Her collections can also be found at Barnes & Noble and book retailers around the world.
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