Mabel couple expanding, updating classic home

Carl and Stephanie Westby stand outside their new home in Mabel, which is currently under renovation. SUBMITTED PHOTO

The Westby family has made several changes to their new home, including new siding and adding a garage, but they kept the original bay window in the front of the house. In front, are Oscar the Shitzu, Kaylin, 6, and James, 4. In back are Stephanie and Carl Westby. LISSA BLAKE/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP
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Bluff Country Newspaper Group

When Carl and Stephanie (Erickson) Westby of Mabel were looking for their next home, purchasing something one-fourth the size of the one they were living in was not necessarily part of their plan.

"We weren't looking for a fixer-upper. We were looking for a place to build," said Carl.

But in two years of looking, the couple hadn't found the perfect opportunity.

Then, one day, previous homeowner Arlene Soltow was getting her hair done by Carl's mom, Brenda Westby.

"Arlene mentioned she and Neil wanted to sell. My mom knew they had an acre and a half and told her to give us a call," said Carl.

From there, the couple said things moved pretty quickly.

"It all happened really fast. We said we'd take it, and then found someone to buy our house within about four days," said Stephanie.

A little crazy?

The couple said a few of their family and friends have raised their eyebrows since they sold their newer, 3,500-square-foot house, to buy a 970-square-foot house built in 1947. 

But then as they began the work, completely renovating and almost doubling the size of the home, people seemed intrigued.

"We've had so many people stop by who are interested in what we're doing here," said Stephanie.

The renovation

The Westbys began by consulting with Carl's uncle, John Westby, a union masonry.

"He's the one who helped us design the whole thing," said Carl.

"He actually hand drew and measured everything and helped us redo so many plans," added Stephanie.

The house, which started out with a small one-car garage, now has a spacious two-car version. The kitchen, previously only five feet wide, has been tripled in size.

The home's three small bedrooms have been moved and enlarged, and one small bathroom has been replaced by two new full baths and one half bath.

"We took out several load-bearing walls and added a huge support beam to open up the floor plan of the main room," said Carl, adding they left the historic bay window, which allows for a beautiful view of the Steam Engine grounds, golf course and beyond.

Wherever possible, they tried to utilize local contractors and buy American-made appliances.


In addition, Carl, who works as a union organizer for Local 669 Sprinkler Fitters, added a sprinkler system throughout the home.

"People have this misconception that it's like in the movies, where if a fire breaks out, all of the sprinklers go off. In reality, just the sprinkler that is near the heat goes off," he said.

Another misconception, according to Carl, is about the price of installing sprinklers.

"People will easily pay $5 a square foot for flooring, but they won't pay $1 a square foot for a sprinkler system that will save their lives," said Carl.

"It's just really nice to have that sense of security that your children are safe," he added.

Other technological upgrades included WiFi throughout, including the garage doors, thermostat and front doorbell.

"We'll also have a security system. If someone rings our doorbell and we're not at home, we'll be able to talk with them from anywhere," said Carl.

Something old

And although the Westbys are changing a lot about the house, there are a few things they know will stay the same.

"The Soltows and this house have always been known for their rose bushes. We've already sought advice from them on the rose bushes and we definitely plan to keep that tradition going," said Stephanie.

Great support

Since they sold their home, the Westbys have been living in the basement of Stephanie's sister's (Tonya Tollefsrud) home near Burr Oak.

They said they appreciate the hospitality, and plan to be in their own home by the middle of next month.

"Adam and Tonya have four kids of their own, so it's been a full house," said Stephanie, who commutes to Gundersen in La Crosse each day, where she works as a medical assistant.

Mixed emotions

And although the Westbys are thrilled with the location of their new home, they said in some ways it was difficult to leave their old neighborhood.

"We will really miss our neighbors, Jeff and Ashley Rein and Jake and Leah Austin. It was just nice to be so close and for the kids to be able to play together," said Stephanie.

But the Westbys are optimistic the move will give them the best of both worlds.

"We just wanted to get out of town a little bit, and this was just perfect," said Carl.

The Westbys have two children: Kaylin, 6, and James, 4, and a Shitzu named Oscar.