The short of it:
Favorite item in home: Maranda: I have a lot of favorites, but my top would have to be the confessional door to enter the slide. I love that we were able to retain a piece of history from our beloved church and then use it in such an unexpected way! Bill: It’s a tie between the slide and bookcase
What I am reading: I am currently reading Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to be Noticed. Bill hasn’t started anything since finishing the Devil in the White City over the summer, but we are both so excited for the release of Dan Brown’s new book Origin on October 3.
What I am listening to: Our tastes are pretty diverse and anything from bluegrass to hip hop with a lot of top 40 pop hits and 90’s-00’s country music can be heard at our house. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Billy Joel and Ed Sheeran and Bill has been playing a lot of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats and Sturgill Simpson.
Best food in town: Maranda: Gosh, there are so many great choices… For a formal meal, I love the fresh seasonal combos that they serve in the Firefly. For a casual meal and drinks with friends, The Gabby Goat is my favorite. For a guaranteed quality/comfort meal where you can comfortably eat out with young children, you can’t beat Niemerg’s Steak House. Am I the only one whose mouth waters at the thought of a perfectly assembled salad from their salad bar? I’m pretty sure my combo has been unchanged for at least 15 years!! Bill: Witt’s Bar-B-Que
Favorite thing about Effingham: Maranda: I love the strong sense of community of this area. Being T-town kids, that’s all we knew growing up, but now that we’re adults, it’s evident that this spirit is strong throughout all of the Effingham area. Bill: I do a lot of travel throughout the state, and upon comparison, it’s amazing how much of a thriving community we live in.
If you could change one thing about your home what would it be? Not much. Since it’s new construction and we waited such a long time to build, we were able to design things pretty much exactly how we wanted. However, as we got close to the end, we chose to save some money and bought the kid’s bathroom cabinet and fixtures from a big box store. We would change this decision and go with Lustig’s in a heartbeat for that room if we could do-over. The amount of money we saved at the time will not makeup the difference of having to replace that unit in 5 years (and we’re crossing our fingers it lasts that long).
Wild card question... What do you want people to know about you? What else can we say?? We love our children (Sophia 9, Gus 7, Grace 7, Charlie 21 mos), we love our jobs (Maranda-speech-language pathologist for HSHS Home Care, Bill-Director of Sales for J&J Ventures Gaming), and we love our community (Go Wooden Shoes!!!!). I love that there are so many thriving small businesses like Fresh Digs in our area. I can’t think of another downtown area that is as vibrant as Effingham’s, and it is SO nice to have options without having to drive to larger towns for cute clothes and nice home furnishings.
The long of it:
It’s a familiar story in these parts. A married couple grow up in Effingham, or in this case Teutopolis, move away and eventually come back to settle with their family. That’s how it went down with the Bill and Maranda Martin family.
Back in 2012 they had three kids and were living in an 869 sq. foot home (did you catch that – five people in a tiny home) in St. Louis Hills in St. Louis, MO. Maranda loved her home and her job working at Barnes Jewish Hospital, but the family home was bursting at the seams.
They had always wanted their kids to grow up near their families and in the T-Town school district and when they looked down the road at running four kids to sports, etc., doing so in the city seemed more of a hectic lifestyle than they wanted.
So when Bill got offered a job at J & J Ventures in Effingham they jumped at the chance to move home. When they started talking about having a fourth child they called their private health insurance to see what the cost increase would be and were shocked at the out-of-pocket expense. Undeterred and hoping for a miracle, Maranda decided to just see if St. Anthony’s Hospital in Effingham was hiring. That very day they had posted a job that she qualified for and eventually got. “It couldn’t have worked out better”, said Maranda.
They moved home and into an 1100 square foot ranch in their beloved T-Town. This is when they started designing their dream home. While most families design their dream home and then scale back to what they can afford, the Martin’s designed their dream home and then squirreled away every penny until they could afford it. She says it was all very intentional.
Since Maranda grew up in the country she wanted her kids to have a neighborhood to play in. Bill grew up in town and always wanted acreage in the country with woods and a pond. They both wanted T-town school district. What to do, what to do. Luckily, the neighborhood they found was the perfect compromise. It has large lots, some woods in the back and a large pond in the middle and it’s in the T-town school district. Maranda says it took Bill awhile to agree but he finally did and is making the most of the “acreage” they have. He’s got his sights set on turning big rocks on a hill in his backyard into a waterfall and making a two-story playhouse.
As far as style, Maranda “wanted to create a space that was modern without being too trendy, stylish without being stuffy and classy without being too formal”. If you’ve had the pleasure of meeting Maranda her personality is very similar to how she describes her house. However, every once in awhile, she says something unexpected leaving you taken aback and laughing at her quirky comment. She even managed to translate that quirk to her house in the form of an old confessional door which leads to the slide.
Let’s unpack both of these things. Yep, slide. It starts on the second floor and deposits you all the way down into the unfinished basement. And it was built not for kids, but for adults. Like, it’s adult size. Tytia tried it and came out smiling at the end.
Now let’s talk about the confessional door that leads to the slide. The Catholic church she and Bill both attended growing up in T-Town had an auction of old items. That’s where she found the entire old confessional booth, kneelers and all. She had it stripped and stained and brought back to life and now it serves a whole new purpose - an entryway to fun.
As you walk into the Martin home you enter the living room where Maranda says, “we’re still trying to figure it out”. Determining room layout for a long narrow room that needs to accommodate six people and large pieces of furniture is not an easy task. She’s been moving furniture around trying to determine the most functional layout for her family through trial and error.
She did know that she wanted an area rug with color and pattern to add pop and personality to the otherwise neutral room. And she was not afraid to go bold. In staying with their desire to shop locally, she found a rug from Fresh Digs which features a large floral pattern and it injects a new bolder color to the room – dark salmon. Plus, it’s soft and plush enough for the kids to lounge on the floor.
Before they ever moved into this house and started thinking about rugs, a memory was created. It was in the space while they were determining light that Maranda went into labor with Charlie.
The kitchen. Maranda’s dream-like kitchen was made a reality by Kim Stanfield at Lustig Custom Cabinets in Effingham. Pretty much all of the cabinetry (wait until you see the custom jewelry pull-out in the bedroom) in the home came from them. Maranda said, “Lustig’s was a dream to work with”. With storage and seating a-plenty, the kitchen serves as grand central station in the home.
The adjacent dining room has possibly the most striking feature in the home and that’s the vaulted shiplap-covered ceiling stained a rich, dark brown. Yes, that is shiplap. They weren’t sure how to approach the ceiling until their builder suggested using it. A local wood company, Heartland Hardwood, supplied the shiplap as well as all of the other wood trim and interior doors in the home.
Up on the second floor are the kids’ rooms, but before you get to them you land at the foot of another custom bookcase with many meaningful decor items from their travels. Every year on New Year’s Day the family sit down and make the Martin Family Goals. This is where they mindfully approach the year ahead by setting goals for the family, be they financial, spiritual or simply vacation goals. Maranda said some goals, like visiting a minor league baseball park, don’t always happen so they’ll carry over to next year. Travel plans always feature into their annual goals.
Maranda chose to highlight and turn their meaningful travel experiences into one-of-a-kind décor on the second floor. She had a map made, framed currency from their travels and dotted the bookcases with mementos from their trips.
Three of Bill and Maranda’s four kids have their own room designed with their own distinct style. Let’s start in the middle with twins Grace and Gus, age 7.
Because I think his room must have posed quite the design challenge, I’ll start with Gus. Gus wanted a Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Cardinals and super hero room. All mixed up in one. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right? Well, sure. Maranda chose bold primary colors and mixed in all the ingredients. Now all he wants is a disco ball and his room will be complete. I really love the frisbee “imbedded” in the wall. Read the next caption to get an idea of what his next design request might be.
Maranda describes twin sister Grace’s room as “girly and frilly with a little extra sparkle”. She’s more of a free spirit (note the unicorn). She’s not particular at all whereas sister Sophia is. She’s your typical eldest child who knows where everything is, is always rearranging and loves to collect things.
The little chandeliers in the girls’ rooms are the result of a combined effort. The girls fell in love with the chandeliers but they just weren’t in the budget. Taking a page from their parent’s savings style they created a savings fund for it.
You may not have noticed but none of the rooms contain dressers. Bill and Maranda intentionally designed the house so that the bedrooms would have closets large enough to keep the rooms nice and open and free from large pieces of furniture. Kim from Lustig’s said this is the trend - less furniture in the bedroom and more storage in the closet.
Check out this closet.
Although Maranda and Bill wanted a brand-new home, they still wanted it to feel lived in and welcoming. And even though they continue to put on the finishing touches, like window treatments and small pieces of furniture here and there, thanks to their purposeful approach to saving, building and decorating, Maranda and Bill have a new house with an old soul.
//Next issue: The Anthea Zumbahlen home; rural Newton, IL
About the photographer: Tytia Habing is an award-winning and highly regarded fine art, family and commercial photographer based in the Effingham, IL area.