July 2007 Issue
Unique Ohio Homes
These contemporary retreats reflect the imaginations and dreams of their owners.
Ohio, situated in the heart of the Midwest, is blessed with four distinct seasons that offer Ohioans countless opportunities to experience the diversity of our topography and weather in all its extremes. Humans are products of their environments, so it follows that homes, too, are designed, built and decorated to complement and interact with the physical environment. The following four Ohio homes are unique for their contemporary architecture and design, as well as for their purposeful intertwining of the elements of shelter and nature.
Open to the Light
Two things strike the eye upon entering Dorothy Ceruti's contemporary dream home in the Ambler Heights Historic District of Cleveland Heights. First, there's the sunlight, which floods in through unadorned windows of all sizes. Second is the lack of material possessions. There is no clutter to detract from the sleek lines, striking angles, simplicity and openness of the space.
After living for 40 years in a 5,500-square-foot home with her late architect husband Joseph, Ceruti, an artist, decided to build the home of her dreams, literally in her back yard. She hired Kent-based architect Thom Stauffer of Thom Stauffer Architects and Tim Yoder Construction for the job.
Ceruti wanted a smaller house (2,400 square feet) that was easier, physically and economically, to maintain. Therefore, the house is nearly trimless, making it simpler to dust and clean.
The use of natural light was also important to Ceruti. "I had seen enough Tudor houses in Cleveland Heights where the artificial light was used all day long, 24 hours a day," she says. "People feel better with natural light."
It was important to Ceruti and Stauffer that the home's exterior be "formally relational" to other homes on the street. "Almost all the houses here have pitched roofs and attics, and if they're Tudor, they're very tall," Stauffer explains. "We didn't want this house, which was very compact and somewhat modest in square footage, to not have as much presence as the neighbors."
The house may be compact, but it certainly stands out, thanks to its block-like, geometric appearance and stark, contrasting materials and colors - white stucco, gray stained cedar siding and lead-coated copper. Inside are maple hardwood floors, maple plywood storage cabinets, soapstone countertops, and stainless steel appliances in the kitchen.
The upstairs, accessible through a fabricated steel staircase in the kitchen, is one large, open space consisting of the loft-style master bedroom, bathroom and a ramp that leads to Ceruti's private study, which overlooks the entire downstairs.
Though visitors will not find any extraneous objects lying around the Ceruti household, they will find a beloved collection of modern furniture and signature pieces, including Frank Gehry's "Wiggle" chair, made of corrugated cardboard, in the living area, where there is also a priceless view of Ceruti's former residence.
After living in a traditional colonial home in Huber Heights, a suburb of Dayton, for 40 years, Peter and Joan Bracher decided to make a dramatic change. Unlike many retirees, who retreat from city life to the suburbs, the Brachers sold their home and built a modern marvel - a stark white, geometric structure - in 2004, on a lot in the urban Fairgrounds neighborhood about a mile south of downtown.
"We needed to downsize… We had three or four rooms we didn't use and a yard that was much larger than we needed," says Peter Bracher, an architecture enthusiast who wrote a column on the subject for the Dayton City Paper. "The logical thing is to go into a condo, but those are all in the suburbs and aren't very interesting places to live, and you're auto-dependent. We didn't like that idea any more than we liked the idea of our view out the window being our neighbors' garage doors."
The long and lean lot, at 28 by 133 feet, posed challenges for the Brachers and their architects, Mary Rogero and Barry Buckman of Rogero + Buckman Architects.
When coming up with a design scheme, several factors were key for the Brachers.
"We like to garden, we like to have flowers, we wanted to be able to grow roses, and we wanted to be able to grow tomatoes," Bracher says. "We had to have space where we could plant things, and to us it's important to have visual access to those things, to the plants, to the flowers."
Also, they were interested in a contemporary home. "Our tastes run to a kind of minimalist approach to design," he explains.
To maximize space, the structure of the home was divided into three sections - a two-story unit at the front, facing the street, with two bedrooms on the second floor; a middle component that includes a kitchen and dining room, and then a garage in the back. Each section of the house is flanked by greenery, with three outdoor garden rooms (one containing rose bushes) and a courtyard in the middle of the house.
"You can turn the corner on that street, you see this house - I think it fits in really beautifully with its surrounding neighbors, but yet, it's not like them at all," Buckman says. "I think it's important to know that these urban sites can be reclaimed and fit your needs as an individual."
Walt Dennis always wanted to live right on the water, which can be difficult when you live in Columbus. Finally, in 1998, he broke ground on a 9,400-square-foot home on a wooded lot within 30 feet of the Scioto River, near the suburb of Upper Arlington.
"We wanted a ranch home," Dennis says. "We wanted a rather modest cabin feeling - wood and stone. We had always lived in traditional homes."
He commissioned architect Phillip Markwood of Phillip Markwood Architects to build the home, which was completed in November 2000. Markwood and Dennis used the surrounding woods and water as their inspiration, constructing the home from earthy materials such as wood timbers, stone, limestone, slate and glass.
"The most unique aspect of the house is the commitment to exploit the natural conditions of the site, the fact that it really felt like it was woodsy and remote, even though it was in the middle of a lot of development," Markwood says.
"Depending on the day, and what's going on outside, I have different favorite rooms," Dennis says. These include a complete home theater with a dozen chairs and a big-screen television; an upstairs game room with poker tables and game tables and a complete kitchen; and a master bedroom that is framed by a negative-edge swimming pool.
On the second level, the floor is made of blue, wavy sculptured texture glass that mirrors the river.
Dennis says he is particularly fond of a trellised bridge that leads to a tree house structure overlooking the river, and a manmade, freshwater waterfall he built in the river.
There is something romantic about sleeping under the stars. When a Cincinnati attorney decided to add on to the Indian Hill home he’s lived in for 12 years, he told John Senhauser and Jane Keller, of John Senhauser Architects, that he wanted it to have an unusual feature: an open-air bedroom.
"I had this idea that…we could just roll the bed out onto the deck and literally sleep outside, sort of like houses that were built in the 19th century had sleeping porches," the homeowner says.
The result is an innovative, award-winning master bedroom, completed in 2005, featuring a bed that rolls outside (on a track built into the oak-stained flooring), through a collapsible glass and wood-framed wall that opens in accordion fashion.
The room is a continuation of the modern, edgy feel that the owner has strived to achieve throughout the home, with white walls, slate and wood floors, handmade metal handrails and about 25 pieces of contemporary art.
"The intent was to be a very modernist house in the classic modernist philosophy," says the owner. "The space in the house should be filled with the human spirit and the spirit of the people who inhabit it and come visit."
French doors throughout the home open it up to the surrounding landscape, so "there becomes very little barrier between the house and the land," he adds.