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Duluth Woman's Club hosts annual home tour

Bob and Mary Ellen Owens' home features a large living room with a flagstone fireplace, dining table and art all around. It will be featured in Wednesday's Duluth Woman's Club Tour of Homes and Gardens. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com1 / 13
An Aaron Kloss painting of the home of Kate and Peter Kebbekus hangs in their Chinook Drive home. --- Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com2 / 13
The master bedroom at the home of Bob and Mary Ellen Owens. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com3 / 13
A snooker table rests in the Kebbekus basement. Peter Kebbekus learned how to play Snooker in high school, and he wanted his Duluth home to house a table. Finding a large enough space was a challenge, but the couple and their children landed on a home five years ago on Chinook Drive. Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com4 / 13
Mary Ellen and Bob Owens stand on the patio of their home that will be featured in the Duluth Woman's Club Tour of Homes and Gardens. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.colm5 / 13
Kate Kebbekus calls her style a modern Cape Cod mixed with craftsman. She purchased the dining room table "for a song" on Craigslist, she said. The Duluth Heights home will be featured Wednesday on the Duluth Woman's Club Tour of Homes and Gardens. Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com6 / 13
The basement bar touts a fridge, an assortment of liquors and a convection oven in the Duluth Heights home of Peter and Kate Kebbekus. Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com7 / 13
The kitchen in the home of Kate and Peter Kebbekus features a soapstone island top. Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com8 / 13
Bob and Mary Ellen's home at 3924 E. Skyline Parkway overlooks an aerated pond in their expansive backyard. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com9 / 13
Bob Owens checks on flowers in the garden he tends at his home, which will be featured Wednesday on the Duluth Woman's Club Tour of Homes and Gardens. Bob King / 10 / 13
This eagle carved from wood overlooks a garden with daylilies in bloom at the home of Mary Ellen and Bob Owens. The eagle is a symbol of their granddaughter who left it there after a move. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com11 / 13
This screen porch was an add-on to the Kebbekus home. Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com12 / 13
Kate Kebbekus stands in the living room of her home on Chinook Drive in Duluth. The Duluth Heights home is on the Duluth Woman's Club Tour of Homes and Gardens. Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com13 / 13

Many features beg for attention in the living room of Bob and Mary Ellen Owens.

A view to the backyard pond, a flagstone fireplace, a white wolf statue. But the belle of the ball is a colorful rug with a circular design that resembles an abstract painting.

Even though an Italian-designed Missoni piece worth $9,000 lies nearby, everyone notices this bold $300 rug, Mary Ellen said.

The rug, along with the rest of the Owens' Lester Park home, will be among the many spaces on display Wednesday during the 51st Annual Duluth Woman's Club Tour of Homes and Gardens.

Hundreds turn out for the self-guided tour that runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a lunch provided at their 2400 E. Superior St. location. The clubhouse is more than 100 years old, and the event is a big fundraiser for the social club that's been around since 1923.

Tickets are $35, and past lineups have ranged from modern spaces to historic mansions. Gardens are also on the agenda. Tour participants are often selected by word of mouth, and it was a church member who approached the Owens about this year's event, Bob said.

Their home has recently seen a lot of foot traffic. The couple hosted their grandson's June wedding, for which 170 people attended, Mary Ellen said on Tuesday. Their "guard dog" Chico scurried across the wood and stone floors on the main floor.

Duluth architect Robert Berquist designed the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home on 4.5 acres. When the Owens first moved in many years ago, the backyard looked like a zen garden. There was nothing but rocks, Mary Ellen said. Now, there's a variety of exotic grasses, daylilies, hydrangeas, Japanese lilacs, daisies — all on display during the tour.

In the pond, there are small and medium sized fish, and some aerators for maintenance. There's a nearby dog kennel, where Bob breeds and trains labrador retrievers. And: "The pond is basically for the dogs," she added.

Bob's favorite spot in their home is watching the pond and the bird feeders from the kitchen. Mary Ellen's No. 1 place is in a sleek, built-in desk nearby. She designed this little niche for herself when they rebuilt their home.

In the living room are two sitting areas, including Mary Ellen's favorite couch to nap on, and a long, shiny, deep brown dining table. Off of this space is a master bedroom. In it, is a large closet with a winding staircase that bends down to the ground-level first floor.

"There's something wonderful about back stairs, it gives you an escape," she said.

In preparation for Wednesday's tour, a Duluth Woman's Club rep had a meeting at the Owens' home, where they decided the flow of traffic and where they'd need to place docents, Mary Ellen said.

During the event, Bob will be biking to Ely, and Mary Ellen: "I'll probably find somebody's house to hide at. I'll bring Chico with me."

Duluth Heights

Kate Kebbekus and her son, Joseph, lounged in their basement on Chinook Drive. Joseph made his way around a very large Snooker table, explaining the background of the game that's like pool, but on a much-larger stage.

Having enough space for Snooker was an amenity Kate and her husband, Peter, aimed for when looking at Duluth real estate. After measuring the basement of the Duluth Heights home, they were confident in their choice. They moved into their home in 2013, and the Snooker table followed closely behind.

"Dad found it on eBay," said Joseph. The table is made up of 200-pound slates, and it took six months for the father-son duo to set up the frame. Today, it's Joseph's favorite space, he said.

Added Kate: "God help us if we need to replace the carpet."

She was approached about participating in February, and while she has attended many home tours in the past, this is the first time her house will be featured.

Kate described her style as modern, Cape-Cod mixed with craftsman, and you can see that in the bright and sleek living/dining area on the main level.

There are clean and white walls, with no blinds on the windows to keep it open, she said. There are delicate, white vases and snuggly-looking window benches that were designed in Duluth. In the kitchen is a long island with a black soapstone top and black and gray rectangular tiles behind the stove.

Kate is an art teacher at South Ridge School in Culver, and she's an artist herself, specializing in paint, colored pencil and glass. On the walls on all floors are pieces by her and area artists Carolyn Olson, Mary Boman, Aaron Kloss. Some are personalized, commissioned works of the house and the children.

Hanging above a guest room headboard is a gallery wall of black and white photos of long-gone family members. And it's appropriate, she said. "This is where they would stay if they were coming to visit."

Kate is a big fan of Finnish designer Marimekko, whose works are on the kitchen seat covers, the bathroom shower curtain, even on a shawl she was wearing.

The day of the tour, she will be touring spaces herself. But before that, she has plans to wallpaper the downstairs TV area.

"I know it's pushing it, but ... I have confidence. Two walls, there are no windows, and there are no light switches," she said.

If you go

What: Duluth Woman's Club 51st Annual Homes and Gardens Tour

Where: Self-guided tour. Lunch is provided at 2400 E. Superior St.

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cost: $35

Register: Visit or call (218) 724-3168. Print tickets and tour map at home; or ticket pickup is available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.

More info:

Melinda Lavine

Lavine is a features and health reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. 

(218) 723-5346