When it comes to home improvement, Lyle and Eileen Beck of Poulsbo know their way around this not-so-old house. Over the past 12 years, the couple have performed plenty of projects in and around their sunny country home. From installing flooring, ceilings and wainscoting, to constructing outbuildings and sewing curtains, the pair embodies the adage that home is what you make it.
Eileen paints, sews and has a good eye for color and the big picture. Lyle is a self-taught handyman who views home improvement as a hobby. He finds measuring and mixing a relaxing interlude from his career as a dentist at Clear Creek Dentistry. When you work in the dental field, it’s a nice change to drill something that doesn’t fidget.
“In dentistry you can’t dawdle,” he says. “Home improvements can be done at your own pace.”
The couple’s interest in do-it-yourself started slowly.
“When we were first married, we didn’t even own a hammer,” Eileen confesses.
With the purchase of their first home and the start of their family, Lyle determined to put to use his former summer job working construction. He started with a playhouse. Upon finishing every aspect of the job down to drywall and wiring, he was hooked.
Dozens of episodes of “This Old House” and a fully equipped workshop later, Lyle has built window seats, a bed, a barn, numerous arbors and a perfectly proportioned mantle that supports a flat-screen TV above the family room fireplace. He’s poured concrete walkways, garden walls and even a concrete countertop for the powder room sink. He tiled the walls and floor of the kid’s bath and routered delicate scallop detail for a daughter’s bedroom.
So when the time came for a major kitchen remodel, the Becks had a decision to make: do the work themselves or turn it over to a professional. The job involved not just updating the 17-year-old kitchen, but also moving a wall and relocating the laundry to the second floor. They decided to bring in an expert and hired Molly McCabe, owner of A Kitchen That Works of Bainbridge Island.
“The Becks are a great team. Each had their own pet elements they wanted,” McCabe says. “We identified the must-haves — such as the color and the open hutch — and helped them find the sweet spot between the non-negotiables and places where we could economize. It’s important to get what you want the most, even if you have to postpone or save up.”
Oddly, the kitchen remodel started with the master suite, prompted in part by a need to move the laundry room. In the home’s original design, the washer and dryer took up space behind one wall of the kitchen. Now that the kitchen was to be enlarged, the laundry was heading upstairs, outside the master.
With McCabe’s help, the master bath overflowed with good ideas. The shower is seamless, solid surface for easy cleaning. Outlets are located within cabinets. A full-length mirror covers the bathroom door, and the adjacent walk-in closet hosts a big built-in dresser, keeping the bedroom uncluttered of excess furniture.
With the master suite and the laundry room complete, it was time to cook up that new kitchen. Eileen knew what she wanted. She’d found her ideal kitchen in the pages of a magazine. An open-faced hutch would remove the need for opening and closing cupboards holding everyday items. With the added room from the relocated laundry, the storage space would more than double.
She was especially drawn to the color of the magazine kitchen: a deep, smoky gray. Lyle was skeptical about that choice at first.
“When it comes to color, I’m bolder,” he acknowledges. “Eileen is the voice of reason. It’s a good combination.”
McCabe made Eileen Beck’s dream a reality. A new, larger island is fitted with cherry cabinetry and pale-gray Pental quartz counters. She recommended specialty cabinets such as a spice drawer and a baking center with bins for flour and sugar. The crucial color was expertly applied to the outer cabinets: a labor-intensive process involving painting, baking, repeating and lacquering.
McCabe converted one end of the kitchen into a banquette, adding Feiss Urban Renewal lighting above the banquette as well as the kitchen island. She also suggested undercabinet lighting, a feature the Becks hadn’t previously considered, and one they appreciate. Another item the Becks enjoy is the steam oven, an appliance that prepares food quickly without drying.
“Molly knows her appliances,” Eileen says. “She’s very good with what’s up to date. And she’s very organized; nothing slipped through the cracks.”
The new kitchen is just what the Becks wanted. Between the family’s five children — who like to cook — and Lyle, an amateur chef who hosts culinary classes for members of their church, the kitchen gets put to the test every day. Elegantly casual and welcoming, the new heart of the Beck home is never found wanting.
There are even bigger reasons for the new cooking center. Recently, the Becks hosted a family reunion attended by more than 50 of Lyle’s kin. The three-story house was filled to the rafters and the 5-acre property held a contingent of tents. The plethora of space and the open, sunny setting with a view of the Olympic Mountains were main attractions when the couple bought the house in 2004.
“It looked different from most houses in this area,” Eileen recalls. “It has a colonial farmhouse style that’s more East Coast than West Coast.”
The family puts the acreage to good use. They fenced the pasture for llamas, goats and a flock of chickens that keep fresh eggs on the breakfast table. In 2005, Lyle built a barn complete with a chicken coop and a supply shed. He poured concrete, raised beds for a big vegetable garden and the family planted fruit trees and berries. Most years, the Becks grow much of their own produce.
There’s room for recreation too. A pickle-ball court and an outdoor pizza oven (the latter built by Lyle, of course) are the hub of Lyle’s Boy Scout troop.
Twelve years ago, the Becks bought a good house. Over the years, they made it a great home. They know that when you put your heart into home and family, you build a future. All it takes is the right tools.