Marin Home / BACKSTORY
front lawns.” The couple put together an offer
and beat the competition.
They stayed with Gary’s family and
started drawing up plans for an extensive
kitchen remodel. Their budget wouldn’t cover
a professional designer, so Kelly channeled
HGTV’s Joanna Gaines — “she was definitely
my inspiration” — and found that design on a
dime is possible even without the backing of a
network production crew. White Shaker cabinets from Home Depot, brass fixtures found
on Amazon, and kitchen island light pendants
from Cost Plus were some of her thrifty finds.
Then, right around the time the city
approved permits, Gary and Kelly learned they
were expecting. And, well, the nesting instincts
went into overdrive. “ We were still on a very
tight budget, so our parents agreed to help out
with the remodel,” Kelly adds. Her dad did
some demo work in the main bathroom and in
the converted garage, which needed updating
as it had zero in the way of insulation, and her
mom got on board to help design.
There was, however, a challenge: Following
a bitter divorce, her parents weren’t exactly
speaking. “I had to juggle to keep them from
showing up at the same time,” Kelly says.
Fortunately, the shared excitement over the
impending arrival of a first grandchild became
a salve. Kelly’s parents found a way to put dif-
ferences aside, eventually even collaborating.
The sweat equity from her parents, with
manual assists from Gary’s side of the family,
kept costs in check, as did Kelly’s dedication
to bargain-hunting. The Fireclay tile in the
bathroom is from Craigslist, and the chic
bathroom vanity? That’s Ikea.
The take-home from most renovation
stories is that the process is stressful but the
results make it all worthwhile. This one has an
even happier ending. By the time everything
was complete, Kelly’s parents had reconciled.
“I guess you could say our house brought them
back together,” she says. And three months
after move-in, this mended extended family
welcomed baby Gus. m
KELLY AND GARY Champagne married in June of 2016 and soon thereafter got thrown a curve- ball. Their landlord called to say he was terminating their lease.
Rather than scramble to find a new rental, they
decided to move in with Gary’s parents and
start looking for a home of their own.
First, they boxed up all their belongings
and left on a delayed autumn honeymoon.
They returned and started hunting in ear-
nest; unfortunately, the inventory of available
housing was low that fall and even worse as
winter came around.
But in the spring of 2017, a 1951 bungalow
in East Corte Madera went up for sale. “It was
in near-original condition,” Kelly says. “It had
linoleum and floral wallpaper every where.”
The only update — a garage conversion — was
from around the Kennedy era. Still, something
about the place clicked: “It was the neighborhood as much as the house,” she says. “We
loved seeing all the families playing on their