I have a special admiration for today’s tour, not only because it’s a local-to-me abode in Newburyport, MA—but it’s the home of my dear friend, Janis Snell. She’s a thoughtful host, has a heart of gold, knows how to spot a good vintage find and her aesthetic is one that’s full of character. I had the pleasure of following along with Janis’ kitchen and living room renovation and the greater joy of experiencing her home in-person. Don’t you love when IG friendships turn into real-life ones?
I can easily say her home, captured by our friend Kate of Freebird Photography, is even lovelier when you step inside. The Snell Family worked with designer, Holly Gagne, to realize their dream kitchen, top to bottom. Beyond the kitchen’s open floor plan, you’ll step into the living room with envious built-ins styled by Piper & Chloe. We sat down with Janis to glean the details, from layout and selections to timeline and budget, it’s all revealed below.
How would you describe your design style?
I would describe my style as modern traditional. I love clean lines but with warmth and comfort mixed in.
We loved watching your kitchen remodel journey. What was the process like? How long did it take?
Our kitchen remodel was a long one, the actual renovation took five months but the process of working with our designer started two years before. We worked with Holly Gagne, a local designer to help us come up with a floor plan design. We were removing walls, repositioning a washer and dryer to free up more space in the kitchen, and replacing a window and a sliding door. I love design but I knew I would be out of my element with the construction. Holly and her team presented us with several options and we went from there.
I was amazed by how they were able to reconfigure a tight and nonsensical floor plan and turn it into an open, flowing, and well thought out kitchen and mudroom. The spatial planning was everything from creating a large island and appliance garage/open shelving down to adding USB ports underneath the island so we’d have a place to plug in our laptop. It’s amazing the detail and range that Holly and her team covered and it shows in the ease and function in everyday life. I swear clean up is ten times faster because everything has a place and has been well thought out.
Tell us a bit about your experience working with your designer?
Holly and I had a unique relationship working together. I had a strong interest in the design process and wanted to be very involved in picking the materials and fixtures. Luckily Holly was super flexible, so while her team worked on the floor plan and design, I was able to go out and visit her suggested vendors. She was also a very reliable sounding board when I got too overwhelmed by options! It was a total collaboration all around it couldn’t have turned out any better.
What challenges did you experience during the renovation process?
One of the biggest challenges for me during this experience was patience and trusting the process. Our cabinets were a month delayed which held up everything else, so basically there was a month of nothing happening. It was frustrating at the time but now it just seems like a blip. My designer says that you experience amnesia after the reno and it’s true! Patience is a virtue when renovating.
When our island was delivered I had a moment of panic thinking that it was too big for our space. In my head, I thought there would be about a foot more space between the pass-throughs. But it’s hard to visualize everything in a half-finished kitchen and an island with no counter. Turns out everything was fine, exactly to measurement and I just needed to trust the process. Holly talked me off a ledge with that one and I’m so grateful.
What’s your favorite design element in the kitchen?
My favorite design element of the kitchen is that the window above the sink sits flush to the countertop; there is no windowsill. This allows for 8” of extra counter space behind the faucet. This was 100% Holly’s idea and yet another reason to hire a designer because they think of things that just wouldn’t ever come to mind. It’s luxurious to have that extra space, as well as functional- clean up is a breeze. It took a lot of forethought and planning and that is why I think it’s one of my favorite features.
Would you mind sharing your kitchen renovation budget range?
Our kitchen renovation budget was around $150,000. Not inexpensive but it drastically changed the way we live in this house. We removed walls and added a mudroom to create a much better flow. It truly feels like a new home.
As a mom of three, what’s your approach when it comes to a balance of form and function? What does a well-lived home mean to you?
For me, form wins over function every time. I would rather have a stained couch that I love than a stained couch I hate. I just acknowledge that everything I bring into the house will get stained or scratched but it’s all part of the patina of the home. (However, professional upholstery cleaners work wonders. We get our couch cleaned every year and it’s like a brand new couch!) That being said, I know silk pillows will not stand up to being jumped on or as building blocks to a fort so I stick with materials that are durable and can withstand my children. Nothing is too precious, or if it is, it’s on a high shelf! A well-lived home is visually beautiful, surrounded by things you love but it is friendly and comfortable to everyone. It is a sanctuary from the rest of the world, the place where you most want to be.
Your living room built-ins and fireplace are stunning! Tell us about this process and how you decided on the shiplap and beautiful wood-tone combo.
Thank you so much! This was one of the first projects we took on in our home. When we first saw the house I knew I wanted to take advantage of the 16′ cathedral ceilings and visually draw the eye upwards. There were huge empty spaces flanking the fireplace and I knew that they would be perfect for built-ins. I stumbled across a picture of massive wood built-ins by Atelier AM architects and that was my inspiration starting point. I wanted clean, modern lines but with rift-cut oak to warm up the white space.
Luckily my cousin, Doug Rogala, is an incredible craftsman and he and I collaborated to make the built-ins and mantel of my dreams. It was such a fun process—he sketched everything by hand and we went back and forth on the height of the shelves, the thickness of them (you’ll notice that the top shelf if a bit thicker than the rest. That is meant to hold a rail for a library ladder which we will add after the children get a bit older and it won’t be a hazard!), and the light placement. Doug was the one that convinced me to do the shiplap on the mantel, insisting that they needed some visual interest to draw the eye up. He is meticulous and the level of detail and craftsmanship is outstanding. Our walls weren’t perfectly plumb so he scribed the entire 11′ built-in to our walls! I am so grateful to have had his work in my home, these built-ins are by far one of my favorite features of our house.
We happen to know you love vintage finds. Can you share your advice for success at flea markets?
Yes! I stayed at an incredible vacation home on Bailey Island in Maine this summer and it totally transformed my design perspective. The home was filled with vintage finds but done in such a beautifully curated way that it gave off such a soulful feeling. I immediately got home and knew I had to inject that feeling into my own house. I had been thrifting for years prior but I came at it with a newfound passion and point of view. Literally, the day after we got home I went to our local flea market—Todd’s Farm in Rowley, MA, and I found the incredible vintage rug that we have in our family room. It was serendipitous!
My advice for searching for finds at flea markets is that you have to train your eye. The more you shop, the better your eye becomes. Years ago I would purchase things that looked old but wtere new or were a little chintzy. Now I pay close attention to the quality of materials. Weight is usually a good indicator, the heavier it is, the better. There is a lot of clutter that you have to visually sort through to find the gems but now I can spot marble or brass from a mile away. I also follow a lot of well-curated vintage shops on Instagram so I know what to look for and what is in style.
Flea Market: Todd’s Farm, Rowley, MA · Antiques: Salt Marsh Antiques, Rowley, MA · Canal Street Antique Mall, Lawrence, MA · The Mills Antiques, Peabody, MA
Love what you see? Take a peek at the talent behind the story… Home: Janis Snell · Interior Design: Holly Gagne · Photography: Freebird Photography · Builder: Ken Menesale · Shelf Styling: Tiffany Lasson of Piper & Chloe Shop