I first met Diana Matkin when our children started Kindergarten together almost seven years ago. My first impression was she must be from the South: she was gracious, complimentary, kind and had this subdued aura of confidence and thoughtful sincerity. I’d call it gentility. Later I learned she was from Southern California and that she and her husband Justin met on a blind date when they were both working as litigators for different law firms in the Salt Lake valley.
As the years have passed, I’ve had the chance to glimpse the many understated accomplishments, talents and hobbies of the Matkin family. It is fitting that their new home embodies the same characteristics they value and espouse. The craftsmanship and design of the home is impeccable. The high-end materials and open spaces are a reflection of gentility and authenticity. The house is understated while being elegant, grand without being pretentious, new with a heavy nod to the past, and most importantly, constructed with their family’s interests at heart.
When Justin and Diana moved into their home in 2003 the original 1939 home had many of its original features but had also been through several remodels. The end product was a functional, if not ideal, space for their family. While it didn’t have everything they wanted, they were in love with each other, their growing family, the towering Sycamores lining upper Michigan and the neighborhood.
Thirteen years later, the Matkins were still enjoying their home but it was apparent the house wasn’t suiting the needs of the family. Diana and Justin both had out-of-town family and friends that often came to visit. The existing layout of the home wasn’t suited for house guests nor the parties they enjoyed hosting for their large extended families. Diana longed for an updated kitchen and master suite, and both of them wished for some extra room in the main living areas. There was also a growing list of structural concerns: the main sewage line was backing up, the roof was due for replacement, the plumbing and general construction of the home was not up to standard.
Justin and Diane went into the process of remodeling the home with an open mind. Justin was in favor of renovating. But it became clear after consulting several experts that the needs of the family and the structural safety of the home would be best served by tearing the existing home down and starting anew.
After the 2-month planning period, Justin and Diana had 6 weeks to wait for demolition, freon-removal and excavation permit approval. Justin, in true form, went to work. He posted just about everything in the house on KSL from blinds to toilets to carpet. By the end of the six weeks the entire home was stripped. After the excavator tipped over the house with one nudge (which, by the way, assuaged their fear they had done the wrong thing), the brick from the home was used on another home’s remodel up the street. Nothing was wasted, which helped Justin sleep a little better at night.
All in all, the construction of the Matkin home took about one year. The Fox Group, headed by Tom Fox, designed and contracted the home. Diana and Justin were pragmatic about how they used their money. When they first sat down with Tom they asked him where they should spend their money. Tom’s reply: cedar shingle roof, copper gutters, wood windows, finish woodwork. They signed right on to that philosophy and then put aside an “extra” budget; a slush fund to draw from when something extra came up.
To save money they decided not to use an architect or interior designer. The Matkin’s had seen enough of Tom’s work to know he had a good eye for interior flow and space. Tom had led many successful projects using an in-house draftsman, so they went with that option. His wife Cara’s interior services were generously part of the Fox package. Diana and Cara started sharing Pinterest boards for each room and used these as concept boards throughout the decision-making process.
When you walk into the house the first thing that you’ll notice is the gorgeous finish carpentry. Three-quarter wainscotting fits the main floor walls and ascends the front-hall staircase. It weights the home and sets the tone for the home’s traditional refinement.
The kitchen continues with this traditional vibe but with modern conveniences and fixtures: there’s the herringbone back splash, the milk glass mid century pendant lights, and the more modern pendant over the kitchen dining table. The solid black granite kitchen countertops have been sandblasted and sealed to look like traditional soapstone. Ask Diana and Justin what there favorite room of the house is, and this is it.
A family space opens up next to the kitchen area; the perfect spot for informal family gatherings. For more decorous occasions, the formal dining and living room extend south of the kitchen with clear access, but no clear line of sight. The main floor also has a guest room. Intended for Diana and Justin’s parents, it is equipped with a handicap accessible restroom and shower. It was a conscientious decision to place the guest room on the main floor so that their parents wouldn’t need to climb stairs.
On the second floor are the family’s living quarters and laundry room. The two children’s rooms are nicely set to their ages and interests. They are open, spacious and the perfect place to play and grow. The boy’s room captures his and his father’s interests; a huge european-mounted stag (courtesy of Justin) and antler chandelier stage the room, and fossilized fish tiles surround his personal shower.
The laundry room, set between the master and children’s room, is a peaceful enclave for otherwise arduous tasks. Linen-textured tiles set in a diagonal checkerboard, white cabinetry, undermounted utility sink and large windows facing the backyard’s willow make it a cheery place to do the dirty work. But the true centerpiece of the second-floor is the master suite, particularly the master bath. It is blissful! From the glittering chandeliers to the exquisite claw foot tub, it dazzles in marble and light.
Along with a spectacular main and second floor, the Matkin’s added a finished basement with an entertainment room, extra guest bedroom, workout room, and guest bath. The sea-blue and -green tilework and quartstone in the basement bathroom brighten up the space and make it a lovely home away from home.
If you tell Diana how beautiful her new house is, she will immediately defer the credit to the Fox Group and Tom and Cara Fox. You can no doubt see their signature style in the home’s quality construction and timeless design. But you can see Diana’s thoughtful touches everywhere in the home: nothing is overdone or precocious. Everything is quality, functional and simple.The finishing decisions and home she and Justin have built together are classic, absolutely classic.
Thank you Justin and Diana for graciously welcoming us into your home and allowing us to admire this beautiful new addition to the neighborhood.