Photography by Tina Sargeant
Whether by mandate or choice, the world spent the last year at home. For some, that understandably felt like captivity, but when you’ve poured as much heart and soul into a restoration and expansion as Will and Kate Marshall have, it’s a great comfort to spend more time in a place that manifests your vision and surrounds you with fond memories. Here’s how the Marshalls brought new life to a Mediterranean Revival home.
Kate Marshall grew up in South Lakeland, but she and Will spent the first few years of their marriage in Birmingham, Alabama.
“We developed our appreciation for old, historical homes there,” Will says. “We’d drive around the city’s neighborhoods and be inspired by its beautiful houses. So, we knew we wanted a house with lots of character.”
“We had a house in Birmingham that had [no character],” Kate says. “We spent a lot of time and energy trying to give it character. So, when we moved back to Lakeland, we knew Beacon Hill was the neighborhood where we’d most likely find a home we’d love.”
It’s no surprise that the historic character the Marshalls sought would take work to bring forth. “We bought it with no contingencies because we knew we’d have to touch everything,” Will says. The home didn’t even have an HVAC system until the late 1990s. Nearly everything else needed updating, and Will and Kate were determined to retain the home’s originality as they did it.
The stunning living room is the new part of the home, bridging the gap between two original structures. Says Kate, “We bought a main house and pool house, having worked through the requirements to connect them in the future. We knew it wouldn’t work for our family in the form we purchased it: a 2-1 in the main house with no bathtub. But the pool house had a bathtub, so we’d walk across the driveway to give our young son a bath.”
Now, “Most visitors remark on the beams,” Kate says, referring to the pecky cypress–wrapped members adorning the ceiling. “We looked at this style of home online a lot. Nearly all of them included beams like this, so we wanted to incorporate them in the expansion. We’ve considered adding them in the kitchen, too. We’re always trying to do things that tie everything together.”
Connecting the two original structures with the living room resulted in a U-shaped home, the vision of architect John Kirk. The functional utility of the shape works wonderfully. Will explains, “The beauty of a U-shaped house is that we have our side where we can cook, work, and sleep, and the kids have their side where they can play. The original pool house is now the kids’ play room, and if it gets a bit messy, you can’t see it from the common living area.”
Kate agrees. “It was helpful to live in the house for a while to get a feel for how we wanted to remodel. The touches we’ve added are about functionality. We want to live in the house — and we use every square foot of it. Of course, we were determined to keep the original style. Fortunately, there are so many resources now that helped guide us in keeping with the Mediterranean-style architecture.”
On the wall in the hallway, the Marshalls have hung two remarkable things. The first is a copy of John Kirk’s renderings of what’s now the Marshall Family home. “It was so cool when we saw what he drew come to life. Notice that each section of the house drops down about five inches. This is a historic preservation board requirement designed to highlight the original structures from the addition,” Will says. “There’s also a different stucco finish between the old and new for the same reason. These nuances make it very interesting.”
The second thing is a collage of black-and-white pictures of the original house. You might notice that you’d have to drive through the front porch to get to the garage, traveling over what is now a small, attractive courtyard formed by the new U-shape. “The seller handed this down to us when we moved in,” Kate says of the collage.
Built in 1923, the home has had just four owners. “I love the idea of an old house that hasn’t had 25 homeowners — there’s just a handful of history here. It feels more personal. Of course, looking at these photos and the ones we took when we bought it, we ask ourselves the cliched question, ‘What were we thinking?’ But I’m so grateful for our home and what it’s become.”
Though there are visually striking features everywhere you look, when I asked Will and Kate to show me their favorite ones, they directed me toward the dining room. As mystifying as it may sound at first, the pretty white oak of the dining room floor reveals that the Marshalls relocated the front door from this room to its now more central location in the next. “When the house was built, it was too expensive to put white oak throughout, so it was only used in the front room where guests were received,” Kate says. “Less expensive pine is used in the remainder of the original house.”
Kate then points out the beautiful, original archway between the dining room and combined entryway and kitchen space. “We love this arch on its own, but, because we reoriented the entrance, we wanted to keep this original entrance to the kitchen. In the renovation, we echoed this archway in the doorway that leads from the living room to the original pool house structure.”
Restoring and imitating the woodwork was a significant challenge. “The back of the trim is rounded off rather than being square,” Will says. “So, every piece of backbanding had to be milled. The piece couldn’t simply be cut and installed. We had one carpenter come in to sub for another one, and the work of the second had to be ripped out and redone to match the first carpenter’s work.” Of course, that’s just one example of a multitude of challenges the restoration has presented.
But the Marshalls’ work has quite clearly been worth it. “Restoring, expanding, and preserving our home gives us a sense of pride in the work, and it’s aesthetically interesting,” Kate says. “And it’s just more appealing and comfortable. We love to have people in our home. We are always asking ourselves, ‘What do we want this to look like in five years, ten years?’ — because we want to stay here. Our family has grown so much in so many ways in this house. We’ve hosted the dearest people in our lives, too. We can’t imagine not being here.”