An unassuming slice of West Coast glamour — airy and refined — sits propped on the Rocky River cliffs, surrounded by panoramic views of Lake Erie.
Roger and Sharon Vail borrowed ideas from their previous Laguna Beach, California, home when directing the design for this residence, which incorporates terraces with cozy outdoor fireplaces; a bubbling water feature where a sheet-like stream provides a perfect place to dip a toe; an observation deck with unobstructed lake views; and a posh interior that is subtle enough to play second fiddle to the landscape, but dynamic enough to be the sculptural centerpiece.
It’s a lot to take in.
“This is what warms my heart,” says Sharon, peering from a band of windows in the master bedroom suite. A sailboat motors down the Rocky River toward Lake Erie. “We wanted to let in as much light as possible during the day, and I think we achieved that nicely at the expense of closet space,” she relates. A quick glimpse of her fairy-tale walk-in closet, the envy of her young granddaughter, tells a different story.
Enlisting Jorge Castillo of Jorge Castillo & Associates in Cleveland to design the space, the Vails offered virtual carte blanche to create their vision: a home that’s contemporary but warm, dramatic but understated.
In many ways, the design reflects its owners. Sharon, petite and dressed in a sophisticated pencil skirt and fitted cardigan, particularly enjoys the home’s striking contemporary art. Some of the canvases on its walls were picked up at street fairs.
“Guess how much this one cost?” Sharon asks, suggesting an untouchable price tag. “One-hundred and fifty dollars!” She laughs, pleased, and stops to admire the work of a former Bowling Green State University student named Craig Kleine, an artist she and her husband discovered when they lived in the area 20 years ago. They own several of Kleine’s pieces — the artist’s abstract style suited their taste, which Sharon says “has never been traditional.”
The backdrop for these originals, and for the natural “artwork” outside, is subtle by design. Castillo began with a palette of varied creams and warm peaches to supply a seaside wash. Textured wall coverings provide dimension; ribbed-cut oak floors throughout add interest. Castillo introduced an organic feature in the mother-of-pearl foyer wall, which serves as a canvas for the floating staircase.
A fish tank doubles as a transparent “wall” that divides the foyer and dining room. Visitors stop and take in the architectural features in the foyer: the stainless-steel and terrazzo floor medallion and a dramatic chandelier with a silver-leaf application inside its tray. Pausing in the lakeside home reveals many subtle details like these — architectural surprises that raise an eyebrow, then evoke a smile.
Take, for instance, the authentic leopard skin rug in a bathroom, which was professionally stretched this spring to regain its pelt shape. Also, a touch of animal-print upholstery on stools in the lower-level family room punches up the neutral palette, but the effect is rich and whimsical — not frivolous or at all flashy.
Of the home, its interior and the surroundings, Sharon and Roger agree, “It works.”Mid-century Modification
A Bauhaus original gets a "retreat" addition that doesn't compromise its important architectural history.
Tucked away on a wooded lot in Blue Ash — a Cincinnati neighborhood punctuated with modest Cape Cods and properties where McMansions have sprouted — is an architectural anomaly: an authentic Richard Neutra home, the work of a signature Bauhaus architect whose work is usually found in California.
The late Neutra and other Bauhaus-era thinkers favored objective architecture — designs that, in keeping with post-World War I sentiment, were devoid of national alliances (unlike the French Rococo or English Georgian movements). Structures were simple and linear, featuring elements that caused designs to virtually disappear into nature.
Perhaps that is why Diane Travis was so surprised to happen upon the home while house hunting in the area 11 years ago.
She was intrigued by its privacy —evergreen screening, an intimate lake out back and wildlife like deer and fox within earshot of I-71.
Travis happened upon the 1961 Neutra original and learned that the famed architect designed the home for Michael Bizzarri, a local businessman who had seen the designer’s work while living in California. Neutra, who worked briefly for Frank Lloyd Wright, was in town for a presentation at the University of Cincinnati when he agreed to design the home.
Travis is the third homeowner, and the place required her full attention. “Everything needed to be done,” she says simply.
“When you have a house that is architecturally significant, if you make too many changes it is no longer a ‘Neutra’ home,” Travis continues. For this reason, in pursuit of a master suite and bath, Travis did not change the original footprint of the home. Instead, an addition complements the original architecture and maintains the mid-century modern style. Walls of windows invite the wooded outdoor space into Travis’ private retreat, which was designed with low maintenance in mind. Travis opted for a soaker tub without jets so she wouldn’t have to clean them, and the roman shower with no shower door means no glass to wipe.
To draw more attention to the rich cherry, a stone fireplace in the living room got special treatment with an iron screen whose design is based on Georgia O’Keeffe’s lilies, says Erin Lombardi, designer at Closson’s in Cincinnati (www.clossons.com
), who guided Travis through the interior renovation of the home. The pattern is carried out in bases of dining and side tables.
Lombardi’s goal for the new addition was to create a space that, “related to the original but didn’t pretend to be the original.” She chose Neutra-brand, 16-by-16-inch tiles for the bathroom walls, embedding the backsplash with mosaic glass bands to add interest.
“We focused on using materials that are inherently beautiful and sophisticated in a beautiful way rather than throwing in lots of ornaments for the detail,” Lombardi says. A floating wall separates the master bedroom from the spa bath, providing a “screen” — rather than a complete block — that keeps the open feeling throughout this new addition. Cabinets in the bathroom are made of wenge, a distinctive, dark, African wood.
Travertine floors in the master suite continue on the sun porch and balcony. A Lutron roller shade descends for privacy, but Travis says she doesn’t mind living in a fish bowl.
She did, however, demand color and warmth in the living spaces. “Modern can be so cold, and that is not my lifestyle,” Travis says. “I have pets. And if they get up on the chair, they get up on the chair.” Her two dogs have run of the house, and priority seating if they wish, since fabrics are commercial quality.
“There is no place that is off-limits,” she says.
Columbus news anchor Andrea Cambern’s German Village home was built from scratch to emulate its
carefully preserved neighbors.New-Old Village Style
Columbus news anchor Andrea Cambern's German Village home was built from scratch to emulate its carefully preserved neighbors.
At dusk, the tower of warehouse windows forming the entryway to Columbus 10TV News anchor Andrea Cambern’s home resembles a glowing lantern. The industrial-inspired façade makes a refined statement, a muted “wow” in keeping with the staunch preservation requirements in her German Village neighborhood.
The initial vision was a wall of glass. But that would be too much — or as Cambern politely describes, “very different for this streetscape.”
Instead, the conservative and modern entrance blends with the blocks of brick homes in this preservation district; it suggests surprise without giving away the home’s modern, 5,000-square-foot plan.
The Cambern home on East Beck Street is an example of how a new-old house can honor history and supply modern conveniences. “The property provided a wonderful opportunity for us to live in a neighborhood with so much history, age — patina, I like to call it — but have the luxury of new plumbing and roofing and those things you don’t necessarily get in a vintage home,” Cambern says.
The chance to build to suit is rare in German Village. But when the double lot next door to Cambern’s previous house became available, she imagined the land with an architectural gem rather than the 1970s “funky” garage that stood there.
“It was a process — a slow process,” Cambern notes, revealing moments of give-and-take during the two-year design/build timeline. But it’s a process Cambern adores. “I love color and texture and the architectural process. I think in a former life, this is what I did. There is something about creating and renovating and giving new life to an old space.”
This is the sixth German Village “project” for Cambern and her husband, Brett. Their romance with The Village began 18 years ago with the renovation of a 1,400-square-foot carriage house. But this time, they had an opportunity to carve an interior that suited their lifestyle and aesthetic preferences. Open spaces were allotted; Brett, at 6 foot 5 inches, has plenty of headroom with the 11-foot ceilings in the dining room and kitchen, and a two-story loft living room.
“We wanted it to be very comfortable, but it was important to have lots of light and open spaces,” Cambern says.
A catwalk bridge in the living room along a wall of windows is constructed from reclaimed wood beams and steel, a nod to German Village’s industrial roots and nearby glass and stone factories.
Fun-loving Cambern says the home is frequently open to guests — just don’t look in the stove for dinner. “I keep my sweaters there,” she admits. “Functionality in the kitchen wasn’t that important to me.”
But looks were. Cambern insisted on finding a spot for an antique piece from an old shipping dock — a fossil stone surface she named the “island.” Designers thought she was nuts, but it works. “If everything in a home is new, it feels contrived,” she says.
Views of the brick cityscape and slate rooftops of German Village are part of the artwork in the Cambern home, thanks to windows that let the outdoors in. She also collects pieces from Ohio artists. On top of it all is a rooftop garden and outdoor private dining room. “It’s very urban up here,” Cambern says. “We have a glorious view of downtown Columbus.”