- Associated Press - Saturday, January 3, 2015

ARCOLA, Ill. (AP) - When Jeff and Lisa Edwards built a pole-barn 14 or so years ago for her two horses and a colt they boarded they never thought they would end up living there.

But after having so much fun spending weekends and a summer in their family living quarters at the barn 3 miles west of Arcola they decided to renovate and expand it into a home.

Now the birthing room is their main kitchen. The former stalls became a living room and guest bedroom. The master loft bedroom? The former hay loft.

The barn for Lisa’s two quarter horses - she loved them but eventually gave them away because they took so much time from family and other business - must have been nice in and of itself.

The Edwards kept the oak wainscoting from the barn, and re-used oak boards and slats from the stalls in the guest bedroom on the first floor, near the main entrance.

“It was a barn for only six years,” Lisa said.

More wood - pine - covers the ceilings of the living quarters except for the upstairs bedrooms. Those ceilings - some are slanted - are covered with drywall.

The floor throughout is concrete. Some of it’s covered with vinyl tile and some with carpet.

The space that was once the barn ends where there is a wall partially built of cultured stone, a building component made of cast concrete. Its facing resembles natural stone.

Jeff also used cultured stone to build a large fireplace in a second living room, just below the master bedroom. He did such a good job on his hearth that the Kaskaskia Country Club had him build a cultured-stone fireplace in its dining room.

The Edwards’ fireplace burns wood.

“We don’t have any gas out here. It’s all electric,” Lisa said. “We dug the pond and under it is our geo-thermal heating and cooling system. It’s more energy-efficient.”

The Edwards needed to move in that direction. Their home covers a total of 5,000 square feet - about 3,000 of it is taken up by a cavernous gymnasium that measures 72 by 56 feet.

One of the doors leading to the gym is in son Beau’s second-floor bedroom. It’s no wonder the 10-year-old fifth-grader enthusiastically accompanied his mother as she showed a visitor around this past week.

Does Beau love living there?

You bet.

“It’s fun because there’s a gym next door,” he said. “We play there. We sometimes play dodgeball on the balcony (a batting cage) and basketball in the gym.”

The family also allows the Arcola Grade School fifth-grade basketball team to practice in the gym when the school gym is being used by another team or for an event. School softball and baseball as well as travel teams also use the Edwards gym for practice.

On one side of it is a small “fitness center” - “Jeff and I have a membership to our gym,” Lisa joked - and a pizza kitchen. The oven in it comes in handy when the family entertains large groups, like the more than 30 relatives who came for Thanksgiving.

For the most part, Jeff drew up the plans for the house. His original concept did not include a gymnasium.

But he and Lisa added one four years ago because all five members of the family are into sports, big time.

Jeff and Lisa were athletes at Arcola High School. Their daughter, Taylor, a senior at Arcola High, has signed to play softball at the University of Illinois. Her older sister, Cara, attends Parkland College and plays on its softball team.

Another reason for the gym: “We want to know where the kids are,” Lisa said. “I want them to be at home and I want to know what they’re doing.”

Of the three Edwards children, Beau, who turns 11 on Wednesday, does the most entertaining at home. On Friday night he hosted his birthday party there; he and his 14 guests planned to play “Minute To Win It” games in the gym.

They likely watched TV or movies there too - a large projection screen is mounted above the backboard on one wall, with a couple of loudspeakers on each side.

Beau also enjoys playing with friends and neighborhood kids in the huge yard and patio outside his family’s home. The outdoor space also makes a nice playground for other family members: a golden retriever named Miley and a poodle-shih tzu mix called Silly. A cat named Buddy goes in and out as well.

Jeff designed the home himself - he acknowledged it has some flaws but they are not apparent to a visitor.

Acting as his own general contractor, Jeff and his wife hired someone to build the shell. Then Jeff and a carpenter did most of the finishing work, excluding heating, air-conditioning and plumbing.

“It makes it all doable when you do it yourself,” he said. “Without that it would be out of our reach.”

The unusual home stands on six acres of flat ground - an empty lot before the Edwards bought it and planted their barn and then home there, along with evergreens on one side.

Before moving there six years ago, they had lived at the Edwards Funeral Home, a beautiful, large old home at 221 E. Main St. in Arcola.

Jeff and Lisa - her maiden name is Wickersham - started the funeral home business from scratch in 1992, two years after marrying. They had begun dating when Lisa was a senior at Arcola High; Jeff was two years ahead of her, having graduated in 1984.

Again, acting as general contractor, Jeff renovated that home. (A self-taught artist, Jeff draws portraits of his deceased clients as keepsakes for their families.) They lived on the top floor of the funeral home.

That worked out - for a while.

“We kind of outgrew the funeral home, living upstairs,” Lisa said. “We were able to keep the girls quiet during visitations. But Beau still liked to run from one end to the other so we decided Beau would like to run here.”


Source: The (Champaign) News-Gazette, https://bit.ly/1yU8OL2


Information from: The News-Gazette, https://www.news-gazette.com

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