An 1800s parsonage in Traverse City liberates its spirit with a fresh and open re-design guided by cooking and entertaining. Take a look inside this beautiful home!

This home is featured in the December 2017 issue of Northern Home & Cottage, a bimonthly publication included in all subscriptions to Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine. Subscribe. 

Katie and Pat Gibson love modern/contemporary style. But they also love their 19th-century home on Washington Street for its proximity to schools, downtown and the beach. Although the home had been updated over the years, at its core it was still as stiff and closed up as the parsonage that it was built to be in 1887 (for the church next door that is now a home).

The parlor was still a cramped room at the front that Katie had begun referring to as the Christmas tree room because that was all it was big enough for. The kitchen was nothing but an afterthought galley stuck on to the back of the house. And that, in and of itself, was the biggest problem, because Pat is a passionate cook. The family lived in the home for several years before deciding how they wanted to change it. In the end, the guiding principle behind the renovation, says Pat, was to keep the home feeling like Washington Street on the outside but not on the inside. On the inside, the family wanted the home to feel relaxed, open and tailored to entertaining.

The Gibsons brought in two of Northern Michigan’s strongest design talents for the top-to-bottom renovation: kitchen designer Liz Firebaugh of Signature Kitchens in Petoskey and their close friend, architect Michael Fitzhugh. Knowing the Gibsons well, Michael says, really helped in understanding their style and sensibilities. Michael’s design changes began with opening up the Christmas tree room to the adjacent dining/living space, thus creating one fluid great room. Next, he designed a handsome new walnut and stainless steel stair system to replace an original spiral staircase that was the only way to the second floor.

The kitchen was a bigger issue. “I wanted to provide a unique experience for the resident chef to enjoy a connection to the family room and the backyard while cooking and entertaining,” Michael says. To gain much-needed space he extended the back of the house by 10 feet (footage that also enlarged the upstairs master bedroom). He then reconfigured the kitchen area so that it looks into the dining and living areas, as well as out to the backyard through a large sliding patio door. Perhaps most thoughtfully, he added a deep overhang over the patio door that gives Pat the ability to grill outdoors in bad weather.

Liz Firebaugh stepped in with some truly striking surface decisions, including a poured dark concrete dining bar that T’s at a cooking island topped with a black walnut counter. Sage glass backsplash tiles, durable and handsome quartz perimeter countertops and high-end laminate cabinetry all combine to create a kitchen that is as organically modern as it is efficient. Proof was daughter Sarah’s high school graduation open house last June when Pat made authentic Yucatán food for 200 guests, who flowed easily from the great room, through the kitchen and out to the backyard. No doubt, the old parsonage rocked like it never had before with laughter, fun and exotic, mouthwatering aromas.

Make Pat Gibson’s recipes! 

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Photo(s) by Dave Speckman