An Inside-Out Renovation in Granville
By Teresa Woodard
July 2010 Issue
Three grand — but distinctly different — homes reflect their
owners’ personal style.
Keith and Courtney McWalter, newlyweds from San Francisco, didn’t plan to buy an old house in Granville on their visit to Keith’s alma mater Denison University five years ago. “We took a walk one night and saw this house for sale,” says Courtney about their Federalist farmhouse in this captivating historic town. “I knew that this was it.”
She explains they were later introduced to horticulturalist and designer Kevin Reiner and were easily charmed by his hallmark style of integrating house and garden. Reiner has meticulously renovated many of the village’s notable homes, including several featured in Country Living
magazine. For the McWalter home, his plan for the two-year renovation began with a careful edit of the 173-year-old structure, which, like the area’s many older homes, was likely built in stages and updated by multiple owners, resulting in a disjointed central hallway, a dated addition and mismatched trims and flooring.
Reiner and the McWalters chose to keep the home’s strongest features — an oversized mirror and original fireplace in the front room, hardwood floors of hickory and oak, character-rich interior doors and their original hardware, the front staircase, a focal window’s Greek Revival mullion design and the wraparound front porch. After salvaging these items, the inside was gutted to the studs and structurally reinforced. Even the 1970s one-story rear addition was rebuilt from its original foundation. The new two-story addition now features a gathering room and master suite with substantial fireplaces intentionally flanked by large windows to capture views of the gardens.
In rebuilding the interior, they adopted a central hall floor plan true to the home’s Federalist styling, invested in authentically simple woodworking and chose earthy paint colors of charcoal and celery green. To create unity, they strategically repeated elements such as crystal and glass chandeliers, old-fashioned chrome faucets, Carrara marble counters and fireplace surrounds of Knox County sandstone throughout the home.
Outside, the couple removed a screened section of the front porch and installed period shutters, a new shingled upper roof and a standing-seam lower roof. They also added a large back porch and an arbored dining area and redesigned the gardens in geometric patterns to match the home’s exterior.
With the renovation completed, the McWalters are enjoying holiday celebrations with new friends and family. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas alone, the couple hosted 10 gatherings. And for July 4th, they’ll hang plenty of patriotic bunting to welcome guests. No doubt, the former Californians are in the Buckeye state for good.
Modernizing a Fairytale Estate
By Kristen Hampshire
Over the river, through the woods — this is the feeling one gets when crossing into Hunting Valley’s Daisy Hill, a bucolic enclave in the scenic Chagrin River Valley established in the early 1900s by the Van Sweringen brothers. The turn-of-the-century railroad barons built a 54-room mansion, Roundwood Manor, along with this property, referred to as the Daisy Hill Farm Group of buildings, which included blacksmith and machine shops, stables, a hunting lodge, apartments and garages.
“It’s a very striking composition,” remarks David Ellison of The D.H. Ellison Co., recording architect on the project to revive the Daisy Hill Farm Group so it could function for a modern family. “There was always this mystery about the stone complex — what it was then, and what it is today.”
It was never a home. In fact, the 20-acre property called “the farm group” was a working village with amenities to complement the mansion, Roundwood Manor. But today the estate serves as a family compound of sorts, with the addition of a new but historically reverent French-style home.
“The hard part was coordinating the new home with the existing buildings to make it look like everything was built in the early 1900s,” says the homeowner, who purchased the property in 2000 and enlisted Ellison as the local expert to manage detail work. Ferguson & Shamamian Architects of New York City served as design architects on the project, which was featured in Architectural Digest
Renovating the Daisy Hill Farm Group was as much an exploration of the property’s history as it was an effort to renew it for contemporary use. Despite discussions of its colonial flavor and Georgian elements — and even an initial design by Ferguson & Shamamian that depicted a Federal-style building for the new house — the homeowners firmly moved forward with their desire to create a French country escape.
This style was in perfect keeping with the villa feel of the property, with its dovetail, protected courtyard, hand-laid stone wall and moat — yes, you must cross a bridge over a moat to enter. The breezy interior of the home has the “hacienda feel” the homeowners desired — it’s a combination of relaxed Asian-inspired decor and borrowed features from the property’s hunting lodge, including a majestic fireplace.
Overall, the property’s footprint evolved as the two-story stucco-faced residence took the place of dilapidated, Van Sweringen-era garages that were razed. Meanwhile, remaining buildings that form a U-shape around a courtyard were completely refurbished to function as 21st-century spaces. For instance, a humble veterinarian’s cooking space in the hunting lodge located across the courtyard from the family home now serves as a well-equipped kitchen for upstairs guest suites and lodge living room/bar. Dog kennels that housed hunting hounds now serve as garage space for the homeowners’ vehicles.
All the details that give this property its sense of place remain intact. “Before us, no one had touched or changed anything on the property, which was great,” the homeowner says, noting how he sorted through the treasures and recovered important pieces. One is a chandelier in the hunting lodge that was made by the blacksmith who once lived there. It depicts “the hunt,” with a carousel of stirrups, saddles, horses and fences. Other period accessories to restore the stable and lodge were sourced from Elegant Extras, an antiques store in Cleveland’s Larchmere neighborhood.
Surrounding the property are a series of intimate garden spaces — rose, fern and peony gardens, a Linden tree allée and borders of Copper Birch — designed by the renowned Maggie Williams of Brighton, England. The homeowner dotes over a koi pond and he and his wife can unwind on an expansive back porch that overlooks the pastoral, cottage setting.
“In the afternoons, we like to come out here, read, sit on our patio,” he says. The horse stalls, for now, are empty. But one day, he may choose to keep his animals on the property, bringing back yet another Daisy Hill tradition.
By Ron Rollins
You don’t need to have a master’s degree in architecture to know whom Rob and Judy Kearns had in mind when they were building their Springfield home.
Frank Lloyd Wright championed the idea that a building should feel like a part of the landscape around it, and that structure and terrain should complement and enhance one another. From the first glance one gets of Terra Vista, the Kearns’ gorgeous Wright-inspired house nestled into a low knoll on six acres north of the city, a visitor immediately gets that sense.
“Wright said not to build on top of a hill, but into a hill,” says Rob, 59, the principle of RK2D, his Springfield-based design firm that specializes in marketing, branding and other creative business solutions. “When you see this home from the street, it looks like it gently comes out of the hill — not like it was just dropped down on it,” agrees Judy, a kindergarten teacher at a local elementary school. “It’s part of the nature.”
The Kearns imagined, designed and constructed their 4,700-square-foot home as closely in sync with Wright’s principles of Usonian design as they possibly could.
“We really challenged ourselves,” Rob says. “It wasn’t enough to just be inspired by Wright.” The result is a home in which inside blends seamlessly with outside through the use of open spaces and clerestory windows to bring in plenty of extra light and natural building materials that start on the exterior and continue into the house. The deep, cantilevered overhangs that extend the roofline on the outside are made with the same clear-coated redwood that becomes the ceiling material inside; the same reddish-brown exterior brick is also used indoors, drawing one from the outdoors and into the heart of the house. The home is laid out on a grid pattern that provides a crisp, tight geometry to the floor plan and provides plenty of opportunities for interesting views throughout.
“We’re always learning something new. Wherever we’ve been able to create an experience, we’ve tried to do it,” Rob says. That might mean the bits of stained-art glass Rob designed himself. Or the upstairs sitting room that seems to float magically over the kitchen. Or the living room furniture and dining room table he also designed and custom built to look at home in this particular home. Even the iron fire grate is perfect.
The Kearns spent two years building the home on what was “an overgrown, weedy lot” in 1990. The idea to follow Wright grew out of a family trip with their daughters to some of his homes, including the famous Fallingwater. The couple fell in love with his work.
And truly, they got it right. From the built-in bookshelves to the hidden lighting to the specially designed kitchen towel racks, the details in the home are spot-on and always done with Wright’s vision in mind. Some nods were made to modern living: There’s a three-car garage, rather than the carports that Wright favored, and the house has contemporary HVAC rather than the radiant-heat system Wright used in his dwellings. The house is also built on a commercial steel-girder framework, which turned out to be the best way to overcome some of the structural difficulties original Wright buildings are known for.
But the great man himself surely would have appreciated, as the Kearns do, the pleasure of sitting in their airy living room, enjoying the open natural view they have created. “We just love to sit with a glass of wine, the windows open, and watch the weather move in,” Judy says of their west-facing room.
Of course, living in a house that Frank Lloyd Wright might have built has both advantages and challenges. The upsides, other than aesthetics, are that the place is easy to cool, given its open, breezy design, and “it’s very efficient and easy to clean,” Judy says. But they’ve had to get used to living in a house that has to stick to a particular and consistent decorating style and doesn’t accommodate window screens (“the breeze blows the bugs right through,” she laughs). And some exterior materials have needed more continuous maintenance than the Kearns might have liked, such as a molding that refuses to hold paint.
But they love the place. And as fairly recent empty-nesters, the Kearns are starting to think it might be fun to move from Terra Vista and apply everything they’ve learned from creating it onto another Wright-style home, albeit one a bit smaller.
“It’s been a fascinating journey,” Rob says.