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Coming Home

Story by Elizabeth Neelley Photography by Mark McCoy

Many who are raised in Paducah find themselves settling elsewhere as an adult. Perhaps it's the lure of nearby metropolitan cities like Nashville or Louisville, but for many others, leaving Paducah is only temporary, and returning to the community that shaped their childhoods brings new meaning and fresh, new opportunities. For these people, there truly is no place like home.

For Eric and Heather (Studzinski) Butterbaugh, coming home to Paducah - after four years away - wasn't always a certainty. Having grown up together, Eric and Heather met during their sixth grade year at St. Mary and became high school sweethearts many years later. Then came time to leave Paducah for a new chapter in life, college: Eric to the University of Kentucky and Heather to the University of Louisville.

Despite the two different universities (not to mention rooting for different teams during basketball season!), Eric and Heather's relationship remained steady and strong. For a while, Heather thought she might move to Nashville after graduation, but that changed when she followed Eric back home to Paducah when he accepted a job at CSI in product management. Soon afterward, Heather started to work in drafting and design for A&K Construction, and a September 2015 wedding followed.

All along Eric and Heather knew they both wanted to buy a fixer-upper, an older home in Paducah they could make their own. They settled on a mid-20th century brick ranch in an older established neighborhood, on Court Avenue, in Paducah. When they found the house, they knew they wanted it be theirs.

"We looked at a lot of homes before we looked at this one," said Eric and Heather. "We saw this home on a Friday, and made an offer on a Sunday."

With Heather's experience in design and spatial planning, she had already drafted the layout and design of their new kitchen on her computer before the demo ever started.

As soon as the home was officially theirs the remodeling began almost immediately.

Among the many changes Eric and Heather made was knocking down the wall between the kitchen and the original wood-paneled family room and filling in a small doorway between the front living room and kitchen. In exchange, they opened up a much larger pass-through that leads from the front living room into what is now the family room and dining area, or as Heather has coined it, "the navy room," due to the dark blue painted walls (Naval, by Sherwin Williams.) The new opening brings in a lot of natural light and creates an open floor plan and easy flow from the front foyer and living room to the kitchen and family room area.

All the old, original kitchen cabinets were removed, including soffits, and they did it all themselves, with the help and knowledge of family and friends.

The new kitchen blends a palette of grays and dark blues, with crisp white and rustic wood accents and trim work. Custom designed by Design Etc. in Benton, the light gray, contemporary styled cabinets extend to the ceiling and are topped with distinct finish molding. Eric and Heather chose light gray granite countertops with darker, charcoal-colored veining throughout.

A clean, white porcelain apron front sink contrasts and blends nicely with the brushed nickel hardware and new stainless steel appliances.

With the wall between the kitchen and family room opened up, Eric and Heather like the ease in having guests over and being able to entertain and talk to those gathered in the family room while still cooking in the kitchen.

"Our breakfast counter really is the heart of our home! Anytime we have guests over, we always congregate there. It just feels so open because we pretty much have a view of the whole house. We're away from the distraction of the TV, and we're still close to all of the food. It's a great area for conversation, and we love spending time there with our friends," says Heather.

The contemporary, clean styling of the kitchen carries over in to the family room. New hardwood flooring was laid in a medium brown colored stain, and original hardwood flooring in other parts of the home was refinished and stained to match. The brown wood floors in the family room pair well with the navy walls and dark wood ceiling beams (original to the house, although refinished as well).

The rustic finishes are the perfect backdrop for the couple's penchant for mid-century modern furniture and repurposed furniture pieces found at estate sales, auctions or bargain stores.

"Being young we have to be resourceful. We're still collecting. We love shopping sales and bargains," says Heather.

Eric and Heather are both particularly proud of their kitchen table and matching chairs, which they found at a yard sale for $140 total. Inspired by a more expensive dining set they found for nearly four times what they paid for theirs, they stripped and sanded the top, painted the frames and reupholstered the chair cushions to give their budget friendly dining set a brand new life and more expensive look.

Another favorite find is a pair of mid-century modern styled arm chairs with a tan colored tweed fabric. These were purchased locally at Bargain Hunt, for "a deal," says Heather. Flanked on either side of a natural, driftwood accent table, the chairs blend well with the other furniture in the room, a large comfortable brown leather sofa with nail-head accents.

This sofa, along with two others that match, came with the house, another deal that added to the value of this home find.

While Heather has been responsible for finding most of the home's furniture pieces and accessories, Eric is quick to say he loves the style. "Her style has influenced what my style is. I like the hardwood, the beams, the cleaner and more minimal design, and the rustic feel."

Other accessories found in the family room were inspired by trips taken by the couple. For example, a hand-made blanket is draped over the leather couch, which is a memento from the couple's honeymoon trip to Mexico. Another special piece of decor is a nautical, sea-theme painting, hung above the fireplace. It was a wedding gift painted by a close friend, inspired by a study abroad trip that Eric and Heather made to Australia while in college. The blues, whites and grays of the painting mix together well with the navy colored walls and gray, white-washed brick hearth of the den fireplace.

A quick look around the home yields many more items that represent Eric & Heather's life together and trips they've taken. As Heather says, "We love to travel," and that's evident from many of the accessories they've chosen to make their house in to a home.

While the Butterbaughs have put a lot of work into their home, they're not done. A hall bathroom is being updated, and they'd love to remodel their full basement eventually.

"We plan to be here for quite a while," says Eric.

Their hard work, accomplishments, and plans to settle in and stay are summed up perfectly by a quote hanging on a wooden plaque in their front living room: "Take pride in how far you have come and have faith in how far you can go."

Eric and Heather Butterbaugh are one young couple whom Paducah is lucky to welcome back home, and their refurbished home is no doubt a stylish haven for them, and others, for years to come. n

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