Homeowners Donnie and Kyong Millar transform a timeworn 1920s English Tudor home into a chic, charming abode in Salt Lake’s Harvard/Yale neighborhood.
By Natalie Taylor | Photos by Scot Zimmerman
The gumdrop window is the only window that wasn’t replaced or moved during the project. The extensive remodel included salvaging original bricks and reusing them to make the changes appear original.
When my husband Donnie and I got married, we wanted to fix up an old home,” says Kyong Millar, owner of the high-end clothing boutique Koo De Ker in Salt Lake City. “So we spent countless nights driving around the charming Harvard/Yale area.” After nine months, the couple gave up looking. That is, until Donnie found something online. They drove by it that night, and Donnie put an offer on it the next day.
In the living room, a gold starburst adds a bit of bling to the antique credenza left by the previous owners.
With daylight came misgivings. “After the first walk-through, I cried for a week because I thought we’d made a huge mistake,” Kyong recalls. The house had been a rental for several years and was in terrible condition. “We didn’t even have overhead lights on the main floor, so we bought a lot of lamps and plugged them in.” But initial bids on the work seemed affordable so the couple forged ahead.
The gallery wall showcases the couples’ art collection over an antique credenza. Travis Tanner of Tanner Frames repaired, framed and hung every piece in the house. Domed archways and a beautiful barrel ceiling serve as charming historical footnotes.
Although Donnie and Kyong initially wanted to do the remodel themselves, they quickly changed their minds after attempting to demolish the basement. They sought bids for the home’s redo. “We discovered that the bids we got before we signed papers were about half of what the real price would be,” she says. “They were astronomical. It’s like we bought a house and then built a house inside of it.”
A stack of old love letters was found hidden in the home’s rafters during the renovation—a true treasure.
It took the couple four years to save enough money. “I’m glad I lived in the house so long before we changed it,” Kyong says. “What we thought we wanted to do and what we actually did were very different. I got used to the street, the noises, the light—and those elements informed what we did.” Once they were ready to start, they hired interior designer Marianne Brown, principal of White + Gold Design. “Kyong has great taste and had definite ideas about what she wanted,” says Brown.
“Kyong travels to New York frequently and likes its historic-meets-modern style. We blended high-end fabrics with rich herringbone floors and casual details to create a fresh, creative and eclectic home,” says interior designer Marianne Brown.
Stripes, checks and texture define the cozy yet decadent living room. Antique chairs purchased at a garage sale inspired the home’s décor.
The team began by reconfiguring the main level. Because the home had been a rental, it had two entrances for the top floor and the bottom floor—in both the front and the back. “Some previous owners had slapped things together so we had to take it all down and start over,” says Kyong. They ripped out the wall that closed off the front entry to create an inviting entry vestibule. Then, they tore out the back staircase for the basement apartment and the adjoining kitchen nook and used the space to extend the kitchen.
The striking kitchen features a modern black and white color scheme with brass hardware. Penny hex tile and the ceiling’s beadboard paneling fill the space with vintage charm. The cabinets’ ebony stain accentuates the Carrera marble countertops.
Next, the couple eliminated the wall separating the kitchen and living room to create one large, open area. The main floor originally had two bedrooms and one bathroom, but it was an awkward layout. “People had to go through the bedroom to get to the bathroom and the only access to the bedroom was through the dining room,” Kyong explains. She and Donnie tore out one of the bedrooms to make room for a more user-friendly hallway and a small powder room for guests.
Kyong Millar, owner of the clothing boutique Koo De Ker, loves to entertain in her chic kitchen. The big island on the perimeter is a great place for guests to enjoy appetizers while she cooks. The backyard entrance features benches and lockers for coats and storage.
Then they tackled the basement. “The ceiling was low and uneven,” says Kyong. “In some places, we dug out four inches of cement and in others, ten.” They gutted the entire lower level and added two bedrooms, one bathroom, an office and laundry room. Large window wells provide natural light to the spaces.
All the doors in the house are painted black and adorned with brass hardware. This door opens to the master bedroom which features plush fur rugs and a tufted linen headboard. The couple designed this small master bedroom and bathroom with large his-and-hers walk-in closets.
In the powder room, subway tile extends five feet from the floor to protect the bold wallpaper from splashes. Gold faucetry adds a modern flair.
The couple tore down a bedroom and added a powder room and this hallway.
The master bathroom features a marble basket weave floor and modern color palette that echoes the kitchen for continuity. The shower boasts marble penny hex tile and the stand-alone vanity resembles a piece of furniture.
Because most of the home’s windows had to be torn down or covered up and the back door was moved and elevated, the Millars salvaged the original bricks, replaced them, and then re-mortared them to create a cohesive appearance on the exterior.
After a complete overhaul, the backyard now features lush roses, peonies and shade trees.
Even the yard had to be completely re-done. “The day we moved in, Donnie tore out the front yard,” Kyong says. “Over time we’ve planted 23 trees, roses and peony bushes in the garden.” They also poured a new driveway and added a garage.
Handmade encaustic cement tile, a vintage chair reupholstered in Brunschwig & Fils fabric and a chandelier from Restoration Hardware adorn the front entry.
The wait and the work paid off in spades. “I wanted something livable, modern and comfortable,” she says. “And I wanted to pay homage to the elegant architecture. Every house has its own voice and I wanted to bring it back to its former glory.”
In just five months, they transformed a rundown rental into a charming, modern 2,200-square-foot home with three bedrooms and three bathrooms—and a dash of shimmering drama. “I prefer smaller homes,” says Kyong. “This is like a little jewel box.”
Interior Designer:Marianne Brown of White + Gold
Architect: Sugarhouse Architects
General Contractor: Greg Ross of Northstar Builders
Landscape Designer: Jean Evans of The English Garden
Tile Installation: Lone Peak Tile & Stone Creations