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Labor of love

In the spacious kitchen, cherry cabinets and Brazilian granite countertops are just the beginning of the perks.1 / 9
A stained glass chandelier hangs in the entryway.2 / 9
In the lower-level family room, a ground concrete hearth on the fireplace is built to include woodboxes on both sides.3 / 9
One of the many landscaped gardens on the Solmon property which uses plenty of rocks and boulders.4 / 9
The "crow's nest" is a high point in the home, with windows on three walls and wicker furniture.5 / 9
In the master bedroom, what looks like a shelf below the dormer window is actually a ceiling-less walk-in closet designed to let natural light in.6 / 9
The main floor living room has a floor and ceiling made from the trees cleared on the land, and most of the fireplace is original to the house they gutted.7 / 9
A large corner tub has vanities on each side.8 / 9
A view of the Solmon home from the lakeside.9 / 9

Marty and Mary Solmon have been married for 30 years, and have owned Solmon Construction for just about as long.

So, when the couple started gutting and renovating an older home on a dream double-lot on Lake Melissa about three years ago, they knew exactly what they wanted: clean lines, plenty of wood accents, and a comfortable place for entertaining friends and family.

"I'm not about a lot of clutter. I want the house to speak for itself," Mary said. "What I like best about the house is that people come here and they are at ease, they can relax. My girlfriends say, 'We don't have to be careful or not touch anything.''

After working on it for a year, they moved in November 2008, even though it wasn't completely finished.

Mary said it's an "arts and crafts style home," which is interesting, because they did so much of the work themselves, and tried to use materials not only from the house they were renovating (like a fireplace), but also reclaimed cedar timbers from Chisholm, boulders from Marty's family farm near Callaway, and even trees they cleared on the lot (mostly ash, oak and some elm) were milled and used for the hardwood floors, and to line the ceiling, on the main level.

The cedar timbers mimic the pine timbers on the exterior corners of the house, but are more curvy -- appropriate for a more ornate front entrance.

The exterior is otherwise done in a "hearty" wood siding, with cedar shakes in the eaves, and a unique "cottage style" roof, where the shingles wrap around the front, instead of just the top, giving the illusion of a thicker roof.

Large slate tile flooring is in the entryway, which features a stunning stained glass chandelier. A half bathroom is on the way out to a side patio where Mary said they often eat dinner when the weather is nice.

It faces directly west over the lake, offering perfect sunset views -- possibly the reason the Solmons have dubbed their house "Sunset Ridge."

Down the hall past the stairway is an open floor plan to the heart of the home: a dining room in the center, which leads out to a deck, a spacious kitchen to the right (which further leads to the master suite), and the living room with one of the original fireplaces to the left.

"It was designed so that you could live on the main floor if you wanted to," Mary said.

The kitchen cabinetry, and all cabinets in the home, is cherry, and the Brazilian granite countertops match those in a few other built-ins on the main level.

A sizeable island in the center of the kitchen has a temperature-controlled wine cooler, a walk-in pantry has motion-detector lighting, and since Mary says she loves to cook and entertain, appliances are equipped as such: double ovens, a Jenn-Air gas stovetop with grill and griddle as well as warming racks, a "micro-drawer" (a microwave in drawer fashion), and a big window over the sink looking out to the driveway -- so she can see when guests arrive.

Although the living room's fireplace is mostly original, the previous house didn't have vaulted ceilings like the Solmon's, so they extended it to the top of their high ceilings, added a new mantle and converted it to gas.

They wanted to retain the two fireplaces in the old structure, so when they started building, Mary said they literally lifted the house up and rebuilt the basement before setting the house back down.

"We ended up scrapping and building from scratch anyway with one of them," Mary said. "It cost more to do that, but ... hindsight."

In the main floor living area, beams in the ceiling are highlighted by background lighting set into a shelved ridge, giving the room a glow. There are lighting details like this throughout the home.

The master suite on the main level is highlighted not only by a picture window out to the lake -- "every room has a great view, that was important" -- but also has an arched window up near the top of the vaulted ceiling, and another in a dormer on the other side.

And, while it might look like a shelf below that dormer window, it actually is a walk-in closet without a ceiling, to let the natural light from the window seep in.

In the master bath, a substantial tub is the centerpiece, flanked on each side by his-and-hers vanities with vessel sinks. A shower also doubles as a steam shower.

"(The tub) is a necessity for us, not a luxury," Mary said. "Marty is outside sometimes in thirty below temperatures, so we use this a lot in the winter when we come in from outside."

Up the stairs, done mostly in cherry with pine banister posts, the landing doubles as a small library, with a wall of built-in shelves, and a banister looking over into the entryway below.

Through the next hallway is the office and half bathroom where the Solmons operate their construction company. Clients can enter the office directly from a spiral staircase outside.

Since their office is attached, Mary said their home project also acts as something of a showpiece, where the Solmons can show off what they're capable of doing.

Back into the library, a few more steps up leads to what the Solmons call "the crow's nest."

It's likely the highest point in the house, and once again, has giant windows offering a birds-eye view of Lake Melissa.

Mary said the room was perfect on the Fourth of July because they could see all the fireworks being set off by people on the lake and didn't have to be outside at the mercy of the mosquitoes.

In the basement, which walks out to the backyard, another fireplace to the top of the 11-foot ceiling, this time wood-burning, is done in rock, and has a ground concrete hearth that extends over the sides to form two woodboxes.

Mary said the lower level is where the family often congregates for movies and foosball, a gaming station that Marty's had since before the pair was married.

Around the corner from the family room is a half-kitchen, with a fridge and microwave, perfect for preparing popcorn before a flick.

Down the hall is another half bathroom -- but this time, the vanity is actually an old sewing table with a new quartz top and vessel sink.

Built-in drawers in the wall make for storage, and Mary recalled how many built-ins exist in the home.

"It's because Marty hates to waste space," she said. "It's like a capitol mortal sin."

Down another hall is a bright bedroom specifically built for their 7-year-old granddaughter, Olivia.

Painted in pale yellow and lavender, the room features a small loft above the walk-in closet, with a ladder to climb up.

Right now, the room has a small twin bed, but Mary said they'll likely equip it with a larger bed since Olivia always sleeps in her loft.

Another lake-facing bedroom is next to Olivia's room, and Mary said a friend of hers regularly stays the night -- so much so, that the room was labeled as "Steph's" on the building plan.

"Yeah, it's funny, none of our (three grown) kids have rooms in this house, but we have one for our granddaughter and for one of my friends," Mary joked.

Another full bath is next to the guest bedrooms.

Outside, landscaping abounds -- and it's no surprise, since Mary is part of the Bergen family of gardeners. Large steps from the back patio down to the lake are even lined with vegetables rather than flowers: tomatoes, swiss chard, cucumbers and squash, just to name a few.

She said the steps down to the beach used to be a straight staircase down a steep hill.

"It had tiny steps, so you really had to pay attention to where you were walking, and after a couple beers ..." she joke, "we had to rethink that."

Close to the 300 feet of beachfront is a small boathouse, left from before -- they just updated it to match the house.

Boulders are copiously used in retaining walls throughout the landscaping, and Mary said it was quite entertaining to watch the landscapers put some of the sizeable ones in.

"I literally pulled up a chair and sat and watched them," she said. "You really have to have an artistic eye for that."

On the front side of the house, up the hill close to County Road 17 and HMarty and Mary Solmon have been married for 30 years, and have owned Solmon Construction for just about as long.

So, when the couple started gutting and renovating an older home on a dream double-lot on Lake Melissa about three years ago, they knew exactly what they wanted: clean lines, plenty of wood accents, and a comfortable place for entertaining friends and family.

"I'm not about a lot of clutter. I want the house to speak for itself," Mary said. "What I like best about the house is that people come here and they are at ease, they can relax. My girlfriends say, 'We don't have to be careful or not touch anything.''

After working on it for a year, they moved in November 2008, even though it wasn't completely finished.

Mary said it's an "arts and crafts style home," which is interesting, because they did so much of the work themselves, and tried to use materials not only from the house they were renovating (like a fireplace), but also reclaimed cedar timbers from Chisholm, boulders from Marty's family farm near Callaway, and even trees they cleared on the lot (mostly ash, oak and some elm) were milled and used for the hardwood floors, and to line the ceiling, on the main level.

The cedar timbers mimic the pine timbers on the exterior corners of the house, but are more curvy -- appropriate for a more ornate front entrance.

The exterior is otherwise done in a "hearty" wood siding, with cedar shakes in the eaves, and a unique "cottage style" roof, where the shingles wrap around the front, instead of just the top, giving the illusion of a thicker roof.

Large slate tile flooring is in the entryway, which features a stunning stained glass chandelier. A half bathroom is on the way out to a side patio where Mary said they often eat dinner when the weather is nice.

It faces directly west over the lake, offering perfect sunset views -- possibly the reason the Solmons have dubbed their house "Sunset Ridge."

Down the hall past the stairway is an open floor plan to the heart of the home: a dining room in the center, which leads out to a deck, a spacious kitchen to the right (which further leads to the master suite), and the living room with one of the original fireplaces to the left.

"It was designed so that you could live on the main floor if you wanted to," Mary said.

The kitchen cabinetry, and all cabinets in the home, is cherry, and the Brazilian granite countertops match those in a few other built-ins on the main level.

A sizeable island in the center of the kitchen has a temperature-controlled wine cooler, a walk-in pantry has motion-detector lighting, and since Mary says she loves to cook and entertain, appliances are equipped as such: double ovens, a Jenn-Air gas stovetop with grill and griddle as well as warming racks, a "micro-drawer" (a microwave in drawer fashion), and a big window over the sink looking out to the driveway -- so she can see when guests arrive.

Although the living room's fireplace is mostly original, the previous house didn't have vaulted ceilings like the Solmon's, so they extended it to the top of their high ceilings, added a new mantle and converted it to gas.

They wanted to retain the two fireplaces in the old structure, so when they started building, Mary said they literally lifted the house up and rebuilt the basement before setting the house back down.

"We ended up scrapping and building from scratch anyway with one of them," Mary said. "It cost more to do that, but ... hindsight."

In the main floor living area, beams in the ceiling are highlighted by background lighting set into a shelved ridge, giving the room a glow. There are lighting details like this throughout the home.

The master suite on the main level is highlighted not only by a picture window out to the lake -- "every room has a great view, that was important" -- but also has an arched window up near the top of the vaulted ceiling, and another in a dormer on the other side.

And, while it might look like a shelf below that dormer window, it actually is a walk-in closet without a ceiling, to let the natural light from the window seep in.

In the master bath, a substantial tub is the centerpiece, flanked on each side by his-and-hers vanities with vessel sinks. A shower also doubles as a steam shower.

"(The tub) is a necessity for us, not a luxury," Mary said. "Marty is outside sometimes in thirty below temperatures, so we use this a lot in the winter when we come in from outside."

Up the stairs, done mostly in cherry with pine banister posts, the landing doubles as a small library, with a wall of built-in shelves, and a banister looking over into the entryway below.

Through the next hallway is the office and half bathroom where the Solmons operate their construction company. Clients can enter the office directly from a spiral staircase outside.

Since their office is attached, Mary said their home project also acts as something of a showpiece, where the Solmons can show off what they're capable of doing.

Back into the library, a few more steps up leads to what the Solmons call "the crow's nest."

It's likely the highest point in the house, and once again, has giant windows offering a birds-eye view of Lake Melissa.

Mary said the room was perfect on the Fourth of July because they could see all the fireworks being set off by people on the lake and didn't have to be outside at the mercy of the mosquitoes.

In the basement, which walks out to the backyard, another fireplace to the top of the 11-foot ceiling, this time wood-burning, is done in rock, and has a ground concrete hearth that extends over the sides to form two woodboxes.

Mary said the lower level is where the family often congregates for movies and foosball, a gaming station that Marty's had since before the pair was married.

Around the corner from the family room is a half-kitchen, with a fridge and microwave, perfect for preparing popcorn before a flick.

Down the hall is another half bathroom -- but this time, the vanity is actually an old sewing table with a new quartz top and vessel sink.

Built-in drawers in the wall make for storage, and Mary recalled how many built-ins exist in the home.

"It's because Marty hates to waste space," she said. "It's like a capitol mortal sin."

Down another hall is a bright bedroom specifically built for their 7-year-old granddaughter, Olivia.

Painted in pale yellow and lavender, the room features a small loft above the walk-in closet, with a ladder to climb up.

Right now, the room has a small twin bed, but Mary said they'll likely equip it with a larger bed since Olivia always sleeps in her loft.

Another lake-facing bedroom is next to Olivia's room, and Mary said a friend of hers regularly stays the night -- so much so, that the room was labeled as "Steph's" on the building plan.

"Yeah, it's funny, none of our (three grown) kids have rooms in this house, but we have one for our granddaughter and for one of my friends," Mary joked.

Another full bath is next to the guest bedrooms.

Outside, landscaping abounds -- and it's no surprise, since Mary is part of the Bergen family of gardeners. Large steps from the back patio down to the lake are even lined with vegetables rather than flowers: tomatoes, swiss chard, cucumbers and squash, just to name a few.

She said the steps down to the beach used to be a straight staircase down a steep hill.

"It had tiny steps, so you really had to pay attention to where you were walking, and after a couple beers ..." she joke, "we had to rethink that."

Close to the 300 feet of beachfront is a small boathouse, left from before -- they just updated it to match the house.

Boulders are copiously used in retaining walls throughout the landscaping, and Mary said it was quite entertaining to watch the landscapers put some of the sizeable ones in.

"I literally pulled up a chair and sat and watched them," she said. "You really have to have an artistic eye for that."

On the front side of the house, up the hill close to County Road 17 and Highway 59, is a clearing of trees where Mary said they'd originally planned to build a guesthouse.

They eventually decided against it -- for the time being. The lines for geothermal heat and air conditioning are there, just in case they change their minds down the road.

For now, though, the spot is perfect for camping, or just to get a fantastic view of nearly the entire lake.

Marty put it best:

"It's quite a spot," he said. "It's like our own little kingdom."ighway 59, is a clearing of trees where Mary said they'd originally planned to build a guesthouse.

They eventually decided against it -- for the time being. The lines for geothermal heat and air conditioning are there, just in case they change their minds down the road.

For now, though, the spot is perfect for camping, or just to get a fantastic view of nearly the entire lake.

Marty put it best:

"It's quite a spot," he said. "It's like our own little kingdom."

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