Yalecrest Home Tours: Jon and Courtney Lee Home Renovation

Feb 17, 2016 | Local Home Tours

This is the first in a series featuring renovated homes in the Yalecrest neighborhood. Join us as we meet and tour local homes throughout the year.

In 1927 Joseph and Elizabeth Robinson moved from the farm town of Fielding, Utah and purchased an understated English tudor. Their dream: to raise six daughters in Salt Lake City and send them to the nearby University of Utah. It was a progressive aspiration for their time; one they saw joyfully actualized when their last daughter graduated from college.

Eventually, the beloved Robinson home was gifted to their daughter Beverly and her three daughters in 1964. Under Beverly’s occupancy, the home’s levels were split and converted into an apartment with two separate kitchens on the main. As with many inter-generational residents in our Yalecrest neighborhood, Beverly’s daughters bought the homes to the East and West of their mother’s and live their to this day.

Fast forward to 2013, and enter Jon and Courtney Lee. Jon, a creative director at McCann Erickson, and Courtney, a title-one school teacher, had always wished for a home in the Yalecrest area to raise their yet-to-be family. They appreciated the neighborhood history and wanted a home where they could make modern updates with a conscientious approach to preservation.

When the Patterson daughter’s met and learned of Jon and Courtney’s renovation plans, they were immediately appreciative of the thoughtful changes they wanted to make to their family home. And the Lee’s were appreciative of the good news they received shortly after purchasing their new home as well: they would be parents to twins! It would be almost 12 months, with Courtney on bed rest for 5 of those, before they moved into their new home with newborn son and daughter in arms.

Now I need to pause and say that Jon had a bit of a cheat on this home renovation. As an advertising creative director he makes his living designing and producing artful, impactful client work. Jon brought his knowledge of the creative process and experience with budget- and time-conscious planning to his own home’s design. Jon researched and designed the home’s layout himself, which included removing a kitchen and moving stairs. (He did outsource architectural drawings and engineering work.) He created concept boards for each room; as he and Courtney chose appliances, fixtures, hardware, cabinetry, paint colors, tile, etc., they had specific guidelines to follow.

Jon’s meticulous planning kept costs down and things moving during the 4 months of waiting for city permits and the required seismic upgrade that took a large chunk out of their budget. To manage these costs, he learned about the Historic Home tax write-off which allows residents in historic districts to refund 20% of their renovation costs. (For more information on the Historic Home tax refund click here.)

He also instated a production-manager approach to overseeing construction (something familiar to his line of work in advertising). He negotiated with the contractor a cost-plus contract where compensation was tied to budget and timeline. The Lee home was move-in ready four months after their preliminary deadline. With city-planning holdups, a full seismic upgrade, and new babies to boot, this minimal timing lapse is a credit to Jon’s thorough planning. And like any good planner, Jon left a little something for the future as well: an unfinished attic remodel project that includes a master suite.

If you ever get the chance to walk through the Lee home, the first thing you should do is look down. Notice the original 1920s earthen-tone basketweave tile anchoring the entrance. After that, raise your head and look around. From this vantage point you’ll detect the subtle union of the historic and modern: original windows and casings, refinished original built-in cabinetry, newly whitewashed walls, a custom bench seat with cubbies for the little ones and visitors. To the right of the entrance is the home’s living room.

Here you’ll find the heart of the home’s historic value. An original Batchelder tile fireplace graces the center of the living room. Jon and Courtney had no idea the value of the fireplace when the bought the home; Jon’s intention was to paint the tile work white. Good thing Jon and Courtney did their research and preserved this 20th century western arts and crafts masterpiece. If you are interested in learning more about the Bathcelder tiles found in our neighborhood’s home click here.

Amid the well-preserved historical details of the interior, it’s hard to catch the trompe l’oil of the home’s altered layout.  The front entryway now merges into an open layout: living room to the right, formal dining space straight ahead flowing into a well-disguised mudroom, kitchen and a modestly-sized family room with French doors leading to the outside. The reconstructed layout  has a real townhome feel to it with living quarters located west of the relocated stairs. And while the interior walls were taken down to the studs, and several walls moved, none of the exterior walls were touched. Everything on the outside is exactly the way it was when the Lee’s first bought the home.

One of my favorite things about the Lee home is the sensibility of space and scale along with a slight feeling of deja vu you just can’t kick; it feels new and functional, but true to the home’s original bones and purpose. Underneath the basement stairs is a little playhouse and reading nook. Courtney jokes this is the one space Jon let her have complete control over (no, readers, the immaculate basement craft room is Jon’s, not Courtney’s). You can clearly sense Courtney’s love for teaching and learning in this space and imagine her little one’s cuddling up with a good book for years to come. It all seems so perfectly fitting when you consider the original intent of the home almost a hundred year ago: a home in the city where one could raise six college-educated girls.

Thank you Lee’s for sharing your splendid home, good taste and beautiful family with us. You have set the bar high for future home tours!