Diane Hatfield realized she'd made a big mistake even before her family moved into their new home.

That was in 1994. The Plymouth resident and her husband, Scott, looked around inside the house they'd just built and disliked its dark finishes so much that they were sure the wrong ones had been applied.


"We were to blame for all of the selections when we built the house. We literally walked in the day they were staining the woodwork and said, 'That's not what we picked out.' But it was," said Diane with a chuckle she can afford now that it's been remodeled. "We hated it from the get-go. We kept trying to ignore it and decorate around it, until I finally said, 'This is it. I'm done looking at this woodwork.' "

Comparing the "before" and "after" pictures almost feels like time travel, so different are nearly all the details of the home, which went from dark to bright, dated to contemporary, formal to fresh and livable. It all started with a master bathroom that used to have — wait for it — carpet on the floor and a space-hogging corner bathtub straight out of a Demi Moore movie.

"It was kind of the style at the time," said Diane, whose family's satisfaction with her lighter, brighter bathroom soon extended to updating the rest of the house. "It's like anything — you pull on one thread, and pretty soon you've touched every surface in the house."

That's not an uncommon process, said Carly Loobeek, lead designer on the project for Studio M Interiors. Her main charge was to let the sunshine in.

"One of the first things we picked out for the house was their floor, and the engineered white oak kind of set the tone. It was this really beautiful base to start with, and then it was: How do we add more color? How do we add more lightness?" said Loobeek.

The answer to that last question was: every way possible. Soffits that weren't structural were removed. The connection between the dining room and kitchen was opened up. All of the woodwork on the main level was painted white. Wooden window treatments and plantation shutters were replaced by woven blinds that resemble Roman shades. A transom window was added to the bathroom.

The finishes the Hatfields chose will make their house easy to market in the future but they love it so much that they plan to enjoy it, along with their three golden retrievers, for many years (their two children are both adults). Since the remodel was completed just a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the couple have been able to enjoy the home even more than they thought they would.

Sheltering in place

"I retired early in November," Diane said. "If I had been stuck at home, during COVID, the way it was? I'd have gone crazy."

The Hatfields love to entertain, not that they've been able to do that lately, but they've found that their refreshed space works great for a crowd, with flow between the living, cooking and dining spaces and an enormous island with seating that has become the focal point of the home.

It's Loobeek's favorite detail.

"I've really gotten to know the Hatfields, and after we completed the project, she had a gathering with friends and invited me," said Loobeek. "She had a bunch of appetizers set out on the island, and everyone gathered around. Diane loves to cook, and seeing her in her element was awesome."

Diane is a big fan of that island and the kitchen cabinets that make it much easier to access her supplies. But her favorite aspect of the remodel is how it has made two areas that weren't used much — the formal dining room and the stuffy living room — into functional spaces. That's one of her two pieces of advice for folks who are considering remodeling: Look at areas that don't work, and think about how they could function better. (The other advice: Even if you're confident about the finishes you like, a professional can help them all mesh together.)

"Once a year, we used that dining room. On Thanksgiving. And the living room we never used, either. For probably at least two or three years we didn't even have furniture there," Diane said. "Now that's also one of my favorite parts of the house. When everyone is home and the TV is on in the TV room, I have a nice little spot there in the living room — I love to read — and it's very quiet. Just a comfy nook."

The Hatfields no longer need four bedrooms so they anticipate downsizing at some point but, for now, they're too busy digging their "new" digs to make specific plans.

"Yes, I would say that we probably spent more money than we should have but with the way it ended up, we don't feel like we compromised on anything, and it's so comfortable for us," said Diane. "We love our house, and we spend a lot of time here so we don't have any regrets at all."