Deciding where to live is challenging for an adult—let alone a little girl. But when two kids vacationed with their families along the Lake Michigan shore for years, they both loved it. Now Vytas Kasniunas says with a chuckle that the little girl named Julie "made a promise to herself that she would only marry someone who would take her back to live in Beverly Shores, Indiana. So, we met, we got married—and we moved to Beverly Shores a year later."
While the location was ideal, the next home they bought in 2004 was not, though "It's a really interesting home," and there's history here, Julie says. In 1927 Chicago developer Frederick Bartlett bought 3,600 acres for a resort community. The Great Depression intervened, but his brother, Robert, bought the acreage in 1933 and named it for his daughter, Beverly. The Kasniunas' home is one of the original Bartlett homes.
"We love remodeling," Julie says—a lucky thing: It took two years to eliminate six rooms and provide structure for the more modern, open concept that would provide the light the couple craved. Originally there was a very small vestibule with little natural light, a small living room, and no windows in the dining room.
The most daunting detail? A lot of walls in the 2,000-square-foot home were load-bearing, so taking them out meant adding steel beams. "We brought in the massive beams with rollers and got them up with hydraulic lifts," Vytas explains. "Then three steel beams and three steel posts were put in to hold the whole network in place." The T-beam in the dining room spans 30 feet.
Friends with architectural and interior design expertise offered suggestions, and Vytas credits builder Kevin Flemington of Long Beach, Indiana, with great ideas. The couple's trips to the Greek islands influenced the Mediterranean décor, while the Spanish tile roof "is a style that reminds us of warmth and comfort," Julie says.
A closet at an angle was placed in the vestibule area, now an airy space opening upon the living room. Elements are simple, lines are clean, and artwork is carefully chosen. A simple bar area in a living room corner is in black granite, matching a breakfast bar and kitchen countertops. Cozy Turkish afghans here and there in the living room lend warmth, along with the fireplace, once surrounded with shelves but now framed in Julie's design of blue and yellow tiles.
The dining area is part of the open design, and a Mediterranean-style dining table coordinates with the granite bars and countertops.
The three-bedroom, three-bath home has tile flooring in terra-cotta tones to look like Mexican tile, but in porcelain it's more durable and easy to maintain, what with trips to the beach and Julie's dashes in and out as she's gardening. A striking architectural element just off the living room: The four-seasons room ceiling was raised to 16 feet at its peak; combined with three sets of sliding glass doors, the whole is a refreshing, airy space.
Walls were faux painted by Julie's dad, who also carved a unique wooden piece, an abstract representation of artwork often seen outside Lithuanian chapels. Another wood-carved design piece is a favorite Mayan-crafted find from the Yucatan.
Lack of natural light in both the guest and master baths was resolved with sections of frosted-glass block walls. "The master bath has a skylight but no outside window, but with plenty of light from the master bedroom, it's amazing—with the glass block walls, there's no need to even turn on a light in the daytime," Vytas says, "so we did the same thing with the guest bedroom and bath."
Outdoors, family and friends enjoy the patio hot tub and fire pit. Charming pathways follow the sloping terrain to Julie's nine gardens and her free-standing art studio. A sitting area with 10-foot cardinal flowers, old-fashioned hollyhocks and more is a favorite place for Julie to have coffee and ponder the area's ecosystem. She is concerned that controlled burns to stem invasive Oriental bittersweet—a smothering plant, unlike American bittersweet—will also decimate lupines. Wild lupine is the only food of the rare Karner blue butterfly, an endangered species found in the Dunes National Lakeshore.
Flowers are a frequent theme in the artwork of this gentle-spirited and thoughtful woman. She teaches art classes in her studio, and here, "I'm surrounded by woods, wetlands, birds—what I love most.
"Our choices are based on what makes us feel good, comfortable and cheerful." That includes her great love for gardening and the couple’s frequent forays into the local byways, hiking or bicycling. “We just love all the things this area has to offer.”