When you hear Keith and Renee Williams’ unconventional love story, you know that any house they build together also will be one-of-a-kind.
“We dated all through high school, went to proms, everything,” said Renee, who attended Madison Central; Keith went to Richmond Model. Soon after graduation in 1982, the couple who had been inseparable drifted apart and lost touch.
“I went to UK, and he went to EKU,” Renee explained. At age 20, Keith moved to Phoenix to do construction work and eventually started his own business. Renee finished college and law school and went to work in Louisville.
Two years after her divorce, Renee called and left a message for Keith. “When he called me back, he said he was bringing his son to Kentucky to visit his grandmother and maybe we could meet for lunch at an airport,” Renee recalls. “I said, ‘I don’t think so. It’s been 20 years since I’ve seen you, and I’m not going to just meet you in some airport for 30 minutes.’”
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“I was scared,” admits Keith, who had been a single dad almost 10 years. “I knew what would happen if I talked to her. I knew I’d be in trouble.” He called her anyway, and they began talking every day for hours at a time. “We wore our phones out,” Keith said.
Renee responded enthusiastically to Keith’s marriage proposal, which came less than eight weeks after first calling him. “I said yes, yes! You’re the love of my life!” she remembers. Married within a few months, Keith stayed in Arizona and Renee in Louisville to keep from uprooting their children, Perry and Kayla.
Over the next seven years, they logged hundreds of hours in airports as they traveled between Phoenix and Louisville. His son grown, Keith moved to Louisville two years ago, and the couple began planning the house he would design and build for them back home in Madison County.
Keith incorporated aspects of Southwestern contemporary design that he grew to love during 30 years of residential and commercial construction work in Arizona.
Beginning with an open concept floor plan, he placed Andersen windows and skylights strategically throughout the house to cast indoor spaces in the best possible light and to provide panoramic vistas of the home’s 25-acre setting. Almost every room on the main floor offers views of the property as it slopes gently to a creek then climbs up the other side toward thick woods and rolling hills.
On the 3,500-square-foot main floor,18-foot ceilings and large rooms lend an airy feel. Clean lines and geometric forms entertain the eye without adding visual clutter.
Keith and Renee agree that their favorite room — the 1,119-square-foot covered pavilion — is outside. Spanning most of the length of the house, the pavilion floor has more concrete than a lot of driveways and can comfortably accommodate a sit-down dinner for 20 guests.
More often, it’s where Keith and Renee relax and unwind in the evening. “We’re out here as much as we’re in there,” Keith said.
When it’s time to entertain, they like to throw open floor-to-ceiling doors in the adjoining dining room. The 12-foot opening blurs the line between outside and inside. “The flow from the kitchen, dining room, and family room to the pavilion is perfect,” said Renee, whose new career is professional photography. “We’ve had as many as 40-plus people in this space, and it isn’t crowded.”
Designed around a multi-level central island, the kitchen features dark espresso-stained oak cabinetry, creamy white quartz countertops, maple wood floors and stainless steel appliances.
Keith, who designed and built $200,000-300,000 kitchens in Arizona, describes the island as “more like a piece of furniture.” A gas cooktop and a second sink are located on the “working side.” On the opposite side, a trapezoid-shaped countertop that is an ideal spot for a quick meal converts to a buffet for casual dinners.
Perpendicular to it and a few inches higher, a rectangular countertop lifts off to reveal a beautiful wood finish. With the top on, it’s a landing pad for dishes coming off the cooktop and out of the oven. “We use it as a big trivet,” Renee said.
Keith worked hard to include other custom touches his wife wanted. “I hate spice racks, so he put this in for me,” said Renee, opening a drawer beside the cooktop to reveal dozens of jars of spices, arranged in neat rows. Keith didn’t stop with the spice drawer. “Every (floor) cabinet in this kitchen has pull-out drawers,” Renee said.
Even the microwave is on a roll-out shelf. Building it into a floor cabinet instead of at or above eye level in a wall cabinet makes the appliance safer and easier to use for most cooks. “You can actually see what you’re warming up and stir it or whatever,” Keith explained.
With a huge refrigerator, three built-in dishwashing drawers and a wine cooler, the kitchen is well equipped for large gatherings. Having a kitchen that is as functional as it is beautiful motivated Renee to get serious about cooking and to join a cooking club, which she hosts from time to time. “This kitchen inspired me,” she said.
A few steps from the kitchen is Renee’s two-story, light filled photography studio. “It’s beautiful to shoot in. It also has a good view of the back yard and patio,” she said.
Two en suite bedrooms and Keith’s office, which has a separate entrance for clients and subcontractors of his construction business, Ninepoint LLC, also are located near the kitchen.
Along with his-and-hers closets, a luxurious porcelain tile bathroom and a fireplace, the owners’ suite has big windows and its own covered porch that face due east.
“Watching the sunrise from back here is something else,” Keith said. “You’re a part of nature when you’re out here.”
The couple also love being close to family again.
“It’s a new beginning, but it’s where we started, too,” Renee said. “We’re back home.”