Go with the Flow

A Mid-Century Monolith Morphs into Ultra-Modern

Text by Heather Bode | Photography by Jim Wells

The house’s exterior is covered in Dryvit- a product also known as outsulation. The steel accents provide visual contrast and a more modern look while doses of wood accents balance it with warmth.

What do you get when you cross a house built during Leave it to Beaver’s heyday and a doctor who’s a self-proclaimed HGTV addict? You get four young boys asking their mother, “Mom, what have you DONE? Why would we leave a perfectly functioning house to move HERE?” Then you hear her response: “There was just something about this house that called to me. It was a wreck, but I loved it. It was our house,” says Julie Kuykendall, the homeowner.

An experienced remodeler, Kuykendall worked on her previous home which was also an original 1950s era house. “That house was really all new construction, even though technically, it was a remodel. This was the first time I stayed within the constraints of what was already here. I found it was much harder to do that!” she says. Kuykendall continues, “I liked that this house was smaller and cozier than our previous home. It’s about half the size so it’s much more manageable.” With a location close to a park, a school, a golf course, and grandparents just doors away, what’s NOT to love? Hmmm…a lot.

The dining area is large enough for homework marathons and family dinners. Chris Crocker, who made the live edge tabletop, fabricated the table legs to match the chairs Kuykendall ordered online.

Upon moving into the house in November of 2015, the family soon learned that insulation- or the lack of it- was a major concern and unless they wanted to spend many a Montana winter night huddled under blankets, something had to be done. So, in January of 2016, the remodeling began.

Kuykendall teamed up with general contractor Beau Renfro of Great Falls and architect Keith Ballantyne of Fort Benton to reimagine the floor plan of the main level. It just didn’t flow- and for this mom juggling work as an OB/GYN and raising the boys, as a print hanging in the living area boldly proclaims, it’s important to “Go with the Flow.”

Originally, when you entered the house, you were faced with a wall. There was a long galley kitchen, no main floor powder room, and the office was on the upper level amidst the bedrooms. Ballantyne drew up several options for reconfiguration before a decision was made. Now, when you enter the house, you are greeted with a huge open area anchored by the dining room table. This table is a live edge table adding texture and grounding the room. Meant as a gathering spot for meals and homework, it was built by local artisan Chris Crocker of the Good Wood Guys. Part of the original kitchen became Julie’s office and a closet off the main entry became a powder room. The kitchen now stands where the dining area was, but the living area remained the same. Almost.

This bathroom, affectionately dubbed “the golden toilet” due to the original proliferation of yellow, has now been transformed into a sea of tranquil blues. Wall mounted faucets and a soaker tub make this an efficient use of space.

One of the biggest changes Kuykendall made was raising the roofline in the main living area. “Someone like me has no idea what I’m asking for. I don’t think about where drainage is going to be or how snow is going to accumulate or how the gutters will hang. So we had to bring in an engineer too. It probably may have been cheaper to build a new house! But Beau and Keith made a great team,” Julie says. Plus, there is now ample room for the 12 foot Christmas tree she purchased before moving in! A true win-win situation. There were some elements Kuykendall kept. The living area, with its huge windows overlooking the golf course, allows for ample light and gives the airy feel she enjoys. The railing leading to the upper level is a keeper and can even be seen in the original architectural drawings. Kuykendall had all the layers of paint removed to reveal the existing wrought iron. In fact, the layout of the entire upper level remains intact. The main projects on that level consisted of remodeling the main and master bath. Her boys’ bedrooms are lined up like soldiers-ending with the master at the end of the hallway. Then there’s the feature you can’t miss: the inground swimming pool. Growing up in California, Kuykendall was used to such a backyard attribute…but in Montana? Now, she’s grateful she kept it. “The boys get tons of use out of it,” Kuykendall says.

Acting as her own interior designer, Kuykendall combined her love of online shopping with local suppliers to add the color scheme and finishes that blend to create an open and lofty feel. She concludes, “Life is so crazy all the time that I need a place for all of us to just BE and be calm and enjoy each other.” It looks like after surviving this 9-month remodel, this mom has mastered the concept of “going with the flow.”