Walk through the home of Colleen Barker and Adam Mrotek
The white brick house on 7th Avenue in Land Park is not the largest property in the neighborhood, but its charming curb appeal has passersby literally stopping to compliment the owners.
“Your house is so cute! I drive by it every day and just love it,” says one neighbor driving through the tree-canopied street.
With colorful impatiens encircling sycamore shade trees and a stone pathway cutting through the grass and leading to a cafe style courtyard, the landscape design is not only eye-catching, but completely new for the home, built in 1940.
In 2014, Adam Mrotek and Colleen Barker purchased the home to remodel in what they describe as the “old-fashioned, Mayberry-like” neighborhood. Then, it was a red and brown two bedroom, one bath, 1,459 square foot house with some very outdated features, including linoleum kitchen floors, turquoise bathroom fixtures and dark, rustic wood paneling in one of the bedrooms. The front yard was green, but it lacked the winding pathway and cozy courtyard that beckons friendly neighbors in for a chat.
Just two years after keys exchanged hands, the home is completely transformed. Now it’s a three bedroom, two bath home with an additional 860 square feet and a brighter, more luxurious aesthetic.
“Everything is new. Everything!” says Mrotek, a mail carrier with the United States postal service. And its revamp is primarily thanks to the detail-oriented vision of Barker, who works as a real estate agent with Lyon and runs her own her home design company, Colleen Barker Design.
Together, the couple who have dated for five years, saw the home for what it could be. “It’s a big lot for the area, so we knew we could increase the size of the home and still have good-sized yards,” Barker explains.
But the remodel was about far more than adding space. Mrotek and Barker invested a sizable sum to upgrade wall to wall and room to room in order to create their “traditional, charming and calming Carmel-inspired” abode.
Upon entering the bronze accented front door, guests step onto dark oak floors in the spacious, formal living room. The newly installed white, half-wall paneling, as well as crown molding at the ceiling and fireplace catch the eye in the home’s sunny front room.
The half-wall paneling leads into the elegant dining room, which connects to the kitchen and built-in breakfast nook. “We love to entertain in here. The chandelier and the coffered ceiling are two of my favorite features,” Barker says.
The kitchen is the perfect marriage of function and fashion. White, custom built cabinets from Castaneda Remodeling & Construction resemble bedroom furniture. With decorative feet at the base and crystal-like drawer pulls from Anthropology, the lower cabinets look more likely to hold shirts and pants than pots and pans. Mrotek and Barker chose Castaneda because it was the only company that could execute the couple’s dream design – specifically the curved molding over the gas stovetop, which also features a wall-mounted pot filler faucet.
“I’m a true believer in having more than one sink in the kitchen,” Barker says. “It allows multiple people to work in the kitchen without it being too crowded.” Her kitchen boasts three.
Barker, a former home stager, also believes kitchens and bathrooms should be white. “White looks light, bright, fresh and clean.”
For Barker, the white cabinets and Carrara marble counter tops found in the kitchen and both baths are a timeless, seamless look. “I like classic materials that don’t go out of style,” she says. “Anything trendy will date itself when you want to sell.”
The chandelier-lit kitchen and dining rooms flow into the added-on family room, which also features a custom entertainment center from Castaneda and high, vaulted ceilings with recessed lighting and stereo speakers.
French doors open to Mrotek’s favorite spot, the backyard sanctuary. When they bought the home, the yard had a dog run and lot of overgrowth. Now it resembles an ad for a picturesque bed and breakfast, complete with tea service under the pergola. In addition to English and Japanese box hedges, azaleas, begonias, petunias and ferns, it’s the ornamental accents that make a difference. At the monthly 21st Street Antique Fair, the couple found a birdhouse to mount near the fence and a cupola to help ventilate the detached garage.
“Out here, it’s like I’m on vacation every day,” Mrotek says.
Another addition, the master bedroom, also opens to the backyard through french doors. An abundance of large, paned windows and doors throughout the home let in natural light and views of the greenery and antique decor outside.
For Barker, it’s these little touches that make a house a home. “I like to do special things throughout the house. Every single detail, from the shutter style to the front gate, matters to me.”
To help her plan these artistic elements, Barker relied on a vision board. She pulled pictures from magazines and mapped the design for each room before moving forward with construction.
For the execution, Mrotek and Barker did some of the work themselves, like planting the plentiful flowers in the backyard, and relied on friends and private contractors for the rest. With the exception of Castaneda for the cabinets, the couple opted for skilled individuals over larger companies. They also made sure to stay up-to-date on codes and regulations to prevent problems and delays.
“You have to do your homework. References are critical. You need somebody who knows the process and can be on site daily to implement your vision,” Barker says. For example, the interior paint chosen in the store may look different under the home’s combination of natural and artificial lighting.“You need that person who knows what you want and will get it done right because it will cost more money to redo it,” she adds.
For Mrotek and Barker, the finished product, which took about one year and nine months, is exactly what they pictured. Mrotek sums up their remolded house in one word: heavenly.