Tranquil Transitions

By Jon Shoulders // Photography by Angela Jackson
Jonella and Mitch Salyers refresh their Franklin home from the inside out

It wasn’t the aesthetics. It wasn’t the yard space. It wasn’t the square footage or the number of bedrooms and bathrooms that attracted Mitch and Jonella Salyers to their Franklin residence back in 2014. Ultimately, it was the home’s sheer potential for improvement and customization.

With five children ranging in ages from 9 to 17 — Jonah, Jaynie, Jobey and twins Judah and Josee — the couple knew they were in for a long, laborious road of remodeling and restoring, but looked forward to the challenge knowing they could customize the home to meet family needs without sacrificing its inherent charms.

“When we first looked at it, we almost immediately passed on it,” Mitch recalls. “It had been neglected over the years. But we came back later with our contractor, and after we all talked we knew we could make it into something special. And since we were living in Center Grove and working in Franklin, we liked the idea of not having to do that drive every day.”

The home’s original 1968 construction — by Indianapolis builder John Kleinops —combines Tudor, Gothic revival and transitional elements, all of which Jonella and Mitch endeavored to retain while modernizing a few spaces. For the interior, that meant relocating the kitchen and converting the original family room into a den on the main level.

“With five kids, we knew we had to have a different arrangement for the kitchen with more room and a big island,” Jonella says. “The kitchen used to be tucked away in the corner of the house with a narrow hallway, so we shifted it over a little and opened it up. We did some other additions like cubbies for each of our kids and little touches like that.”

Keeping the character
The Salyers got busy with renovations on the second floor as well, including conversion of a balcony off the master bedroom into a bay window area, a 6-foot extension of the central staircase landing area that now includes a washer-dryer set and folding station, and bathroom remodels.

In true DIY fashion, Jonella and Mitch undertook all the renovation designs for the four-bedroom, three-and-one-half bathroom home themselves and brought on Phil Standley, of Indianapolis-based Standley Built Custom Homes, to make their vision a reality.

“Mitch didn’t want to change the character of the home; he just wanted to update it to fit with his family,” Standley says. “Leaving the staircase and the built-ins on the second floor helped with that. The hardest part was probably the kitchen area, where we had to take out weight-bearing walls and compensate with some beams. The house was on the precipice of a real decline, and (the Salyers) took the responsibility of working on it so it would live on for many more years.”

An updated metal roof, cedar trim and new front doors help to reinvigorate the exterior, while uniform hardwood flooring throughout the main and upper levels ties together the modern and transitional wood finishes and furnishings indoors.

An office room, converted from attic storage space in 1976 by the previous owner, Dr. John Records, sits tucked away on the home’s second level as a haven for quiet pursuits.

“The material on the office walls was apparently the stuff the designer had picked for the flooring, and John didn’t want it for the flooring but wanted it on the walls,” Mitch says. “I think it looks like the bottom of a ship’s belly, so we created kind of a nautical theme in there.”

Outside, too
Guests strolling through the spacious backyard might temporarily think they’ve wandered into a decorative park. The backyard now features an abundance of colorful trees, wisteria and shrubbery, all navigable via a stone pathway installed last year.

“I’m kind of a tree freak, and I wanted to get creative with it,” Mitch says. Inspired by a trip to Universal Studios theme park’s Dr. Seuss section, the Salyers opted for pompon trees and other whimsical fantasy features.

During the landscaping process Mitch spotted a single grapevine sticking out of the ground. It was an unexpected remnant from vines grown by Records, who made wine in the home’s basement and kept a stocked wine cellar for parties and family gatherings. Mitch worked quickly to prolong the vine’s life, constructing a small arbor along the yard’s stone pathway.

“Mitch had a really good vision for the home, and with things like the deck out back and the new bay window area in the upstairs master, you would think it was always like that,” Standley says.
A tiered fountain provides a bold yet understated focal point in the center of the yard’s dynamic landscaping.

“Jonella’s always wanted a fountain, so I said let’s do it,” Mitch says. “She has ovarian cancer — which is in remission thankfully — and the fountain provides a little tranquility and calmness back there for her. She’s always loved listening to water.”

Staying power
Originally from North Vernon, Jonella and Mitch met during their freshman year of high school in German class, eventually becoming a couple four years later. This April marked the 10-year anniversary of Kid City Academy, the preschool they opened in Franklin, which currently has more than 180 children enrolled.

After studying at Purdue and working in industrial engineering for several years, Mitch made a career switch into education at age 30, and Jonella, a Hanover College grad, worked at Lilly prior to becoming the full-time director of Kid City Academy seven years ago.

Looking back on their five-year renovation journey, and the joy that Franklin has brought to the couple and their kids, one thing is clear: They aren’t going anywhere.

“Our kids have access to ride their bikes to downtown Franklin, and there’s the college and stores here so we can do things without traveling,” Jonella says. “We can walk downtown to the Artcraft [Theatre] or the candy store easily. The accessibility that Johnson County provides is perfect for our family of seven. You can be in a small town, but you don’t have to go very far to do things as a family.”