A quirky-but-stately house with a history inspired realtors Kristin and Eddie Kidwell to trade a tiny cottage across the river for urban — but still slightly free-range — Highlands living.
Written by Christine Fellingham | Photographed by Kylene White
The story of how the Kidwell family of four came to live in the rambling, historic home of local philanthropist and activist Hal Warheim is a magical, full-circle plot fitting of the eccentric longtime owner and this gusty, free-spirited couple. Kristin and Eddie Kidwell have flipped several homes, created a block party tradition complete with food trucks and movie nights and started their own real estate partnership at Kentucky Select Properties since they first met in June 2019 on the sidewalk in front of Cumberland Brews. While dating, both lived on the other side of this Belknap neighborhood and once they were married, they bought their first home there and occasionally dreamed of moving nearer Hal Warheim Park and the schools that their then infant children could one day attend.
They could never have imagined that they would actually live catty-corner from the park they once strolled through and in the very home occupied for decades by Hal Warheim himself. “It’s kind of crazy,” says Kristin. “The park was a part of our lives before. We would walk with the strollers to the park. We’re coming full circle back to the neighborhood where our story started. It’s really weird to drive past your old house every day to your new life. We both feel it.”
They also both felt the pull of this character-drenched home which they bought off market when another couple got cold feet and decided they couldn’t go through with what was going to be a large and complex renovation. Kristin explains, “A realtor friend of ours had clients who were interested, made an offer and then decided it was too much work and said, ‘You should tell the Kidwells.’ They knew that Eddie was handy and that we loved the neighborhood.”
Eddie’s handiness would be put to the test. The house had been owned by Hal from 1970 to 2017 during which time it hadn’t been updated in any significant way except that each room had been uniquely appointed with highly-individualized decor flourishes. “Hal purchased it for $18,000 from the seminary,” says Kristin. “It was rented to students until he first rented it in 1968.” To say it was lived-in is an understatement.
“We like things that are different,” Kristin explains, “but people thought we were crazy when we bought it. Each room had a different theme based on a different country. Downstairs was Aztec. The kitchen was Germany. His bedroom Asian-inspired. It was so eclectic, but we thought, ‘We dig this. It’s really groovy.’ It felt like an adventure. It hadn’t been touched. It was just kind of standing still in time.”
Unfortunately, not all of the historic details were the kind that add value or intrinsic charm. “Hal had textured all the walls and ceilings,” she adds. “That was part of the largest undertaking. And the third floor. I wish we had pictures. He used to host lectures for seminary students and he created little step-up platforms covered with shag carpets for when he gave lectures. When we renovated, we kept three of the platforms and these little nooks so the boys have their own little spaces.”
Even with the daunting array of indoor and outdoor projects, the Kidwells planned to take a somewhat DIY approach. Eddie had a long history of renovating and flipping homes. He spent his childhood in charm-drenched Madison, IN, and always loved looking at houses and going to thrift and antique shops. “He grew up going to auctions with his mom and when he and I first met we bonded over our shared love of thrifting and antiquing,” Kristin says. So, he wasn’t intimidated by the challenge of becoming the next owner of Hal Warheim’s house; he embraced it. “We weren’t ever planning on hiring a contractor, so that saves us so much on our personal project,” Kristin explains.
The backyard was downright wild and was the most recently completed project. “Eddie did all the tech-pointing and put in a new pathway,” she says. “We got crazy quotes on rockwork, but he did it gradually and saved us a ton.” The big backyard was also a huge part of the appeal of the home. The Kidwells were leaving a big piece of property in Indiana where their two boys spent most of their time outside, so having an outdoor space where they could play and explore was huge. “We had raised the boys in Silver Hills in New Albany. We had five acres. It was a quiet and peaceful cottage … The yard gave us the feeling we weren’t giving up privacy,” says Kristin. “Out front it’s a little different, but we have built-in friends all around us and we can walk to Lakeside.”
They have also created a sense of instant community by becoming deeply involved with the Hal Warheim Park. We live in his house, so I almost felt a sense of obligation,” says Kristin who started as a board member when they first moved there in 2018 and is now board president. “How could you not help? Even if I didn’t serve as a board member, we go down to volunteer to clean up and maintain the park. It’s all volunteer run. It’s pretty neat the story of how this came to be.”
In the last four years, the board has added new events including family happy hours with music, breweries and crafts. “We keep it simple and early. Everyone is out of there by dark,” she says. “We also have movie nights with an inflatable screen. It’s all kid and family oriented.”
The proximity to the park and the only slightly tamed backyard with a big gazebo, two wood burning fireplaces, a gorgeous weeping willow and, yes, a trampoline, may be the favorite features of their new home for the boys (who are now 10 and 12). “It’s pretty magical,” says Kristin. Their bedroom, however, is Eddie’s favorite space. “He loves the boys’ room,” she adds. “He thinks it feels like a treehouse. It has an untamed spirit. And he just loves that there’s still an opportunity to add walls and transform it.”
As for Kristin’s favorite room? It’s the screened-in porch: “I’ll start my day with coffee out there and end with a book and music. I’ll bring a space heater when it’s cold. I’m out there three seasons!” It’s the connection to the outdoors and the community outside the walls that have truly made this house their home.
“Living here is a totally different lifestyle,” Kristin says. “Belknap has tons of great restaurants that are transforming The Loop; we can walk to Lakeside; there are always so many kids outside playing … We walk home from school every day. The neighborhood is one of my favorite things about our house. It’s like a little utopia.”
A Few of Their Favorite Things
Eddie’s mom had a philosophy that Kristin and Eddie decorate by: “If you love it, it will all come together.” Here’s where this stylish couple sourced some of the things they love:
- Kitchen blueprints: Katie Reece at Century Entertainment. “She was amazing with helping us with spacing. She handsketched the plans and gave us exactly what we wanted.”
- Mirrored cabinet and big artwork in the living room: Work the Metal.
- Desks and desk accessories: Red Tree
- Bamboo roller shades: Ikea