A Traditional Home Makes A Fresh & Modern Comeback

By+Carri Fras

The renovation of Nafe Alick’s riverfront residence in Elkhart, Indiana was more than just a remodel of a beloved family home. It also represented a continuation of a relationship that started 35 years ago, when Martin Brothers Contracting, Inc. first worked with the Alick family. Martin Brothers owner, Jeff Martin, recalls the unique quality of this association. “My uncle, Virgil Martin, worked with Nafe’s parents on their home and also helped Nafe when he purchased this home initially,” says Martin. “Being able to carry on the relationship Virgil proudly developed has been very special to us.”

Built on a long-standing reputation of providing the finest custom homes in Michiana, Martin Brothers prides itself on quality, service and recognizing the investment their clients make in their homes. For them, taking on the dramatic, large-scale renovation of this classic and traditional home was what they do best. In fact, the entire scope of the project involved nearly a complete remodel of the entire first and second floor as well as an addition. The purpose of the expansion was to allow for a larger garage, master suite with exercise room, kitchen and living room. 

The exterior was not to be overlooked in this massive reno project, either. A new pool, pool house and outdoor living space gave the homeowner the major changes he desired to accommodate his family’s lifestyle. In total, planning and architectural design for the riverfront home project took between four and six months and construction took a total of 12 months.


Aligning Style & Function

“Nafe is a natural host and wanted his home to accommodate large philanthropic, social and family functions,” Martin explains. “The overall style is modern Italianate, featuring a lot of classic architectural features while incorporating his own modern tastes.” Understanding the importance the role of design and attention to detail played in this project, Jeff Martin introduced Nafe to Jeff Helman with Helman-Sechrist Architecture to ensure his vision was properly implemented.

“The overall inspiration for the project was born out of a singular goal, which was to make sure the additions and renovations were absolutely seamless with the original architecture, removing the poorly executed modifications from the past and creating a new holistic expression,” says Helman. “Of primary importance was the total re-design of the primary living zones, such as the kitchen and great room spaces, as well as outdoor living spaces, which had become severely outdated and non-functional.”

To improve the functionality of the home, the team had to ensure it appropriately accommodated the family’s large-scale gatherings and entertaining. Because of that, previous additions that did not support the classic style or needed space within the home had to be removed. 


Inside & Out 

For external revisions, Helman kept the home’s original traditional architectural style in mind, as any modifications had to blend with and create continuity. 

When it came to the interior, the architect had much more freedom. Helman explains, “With the owner’s passion for all things modern, a new aesthetic was merged with the traditional aspects of the home to give it a fresh look, while still coordinating with the traditional features of the home.” 


Meeting Challenge with Expertise

Challenges typically exist in any home build or remodel. However, how you meet those challenges is what’s most important. For Helman, merging the substantial new additions with the basic shape of the existing home was the primary challenge. “Using advanced 3D modeling techniques and ‘virtual reality’ technology, we were able to create the spaces necessary to meet the program and at the same time make sure all the proposed new work was respectful of the existing historic architecture,” he says. “By capitalizing on the ‘imaging’ technology, we could literally walk the owner through the home with every revision.”

For the construction team, the main challenge was contending with the age of the home. Martin says, “As we began the demolition process, we uncovered many layers of previous remodels that required extra attention to ensure the end result wouldn’t be compromised. 


A Space Intended to Entertain

It’s certainly not hard to see how beautiful the new spaces are and the many great elements—new and old—that seamlessly blend together within and around the home. What’s even more beautiful, however, is satisfying another client and successfully meeting their needs. “While we are extraordinarily pleased with the entire project, we appreciate most the way that the new interior spaces flow to the exterior, creating an indoor/outdoor lifestyle experience that is generally not found in this era of home,” explains Helman. “Having been privileged to attend some large-scale gatherings here, we find the quality of the spaces truly function as they are intended, and this is very gratifying–to see the spaces really work.”


Project Highlights

From the sleek, marble countertops and modern light fixtures to the custom cabinetry and contemporary built-in, the new open concept kitchen and adjoining living space is a true showstopper in the design—and a space that is as warm as it is stylish. “My favorite aspect is the complete change from the previous kitchen and living room to the current design,” says Martin. ”I remember walking through the galley kitchen and into the breakfast/living area where the ceilings were about seven feet tall and you felt confined. Now, as I walk through the same area, I am in awe of the open space and how inviting it is.” 

Helman, too, echoes the same pride, saying, “Being able to take a home of such substantial historical significance, one that frankly does not have the customary modern conveniences and space, and make improvements that bring it completely up to date for the next generation—this is the most satisfying aspect of a project of this nature.”


Planning Is Key

When asked what advice they would give a homeowner looking to complete a similar renovation, Martin and Helman both offered up some great words of wisdom. “Put in the time and effort up front to plan as much as you can,” Martin says. “A well thought out design plan may cost more upfront, but will give you peace of mind and yield fewer unforeseen changes during construction. Oh, and you may want to consider moving out while this is going on.” Helman also agreed on the importance of planning, adding, “Working with an architect and builder can help to guarantee that all the design opportunities are seized while making sure costs are known and quality is assured.”


Results That Speak For Themselves

There are certainly many reasons behind a 35-year relationship. In this case, the glue binding that client partnership comes down to the level of quality and service delivered and working with homeowners side-by-side to achieve incredible results—two things Martin Brothers and Helman-Sechrist Architecture seemed to do exceedingly well. “Our work is most well-reflected in our customer interactions with our foreman leadership and their attention to detail,” says Martin. “We have our own employees, many of whom have been with us over 25 years, working directly with our project directors, subcontractors, the architect and the homeowner. They can come across an unforeseen issue, understand the problem and provide one or two recommendations without needing to be told what to do. On a project such as this, I know that is one of the biggest values Nafe received.”