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Clean and Simple

Indian Hill soft contemporary speaks to minimalistic design

Edgar Allan Poe described poetry as “the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.” Replace “words” with “space” and you could be describing the creative process for one Indian Hill family when building their 6,000-square-foot contemporary home. The striking stucco and stone structure has a beautiful rhythmic movement about it and the homeowners are quick to describe their architect as the master behind the creation.

“Everything in this house has a rhyme and a reason,” says the husband.

Architect John Isch, of RWA Architects, says his clients’ interest in good quality design played an important role in the process. “Their directive was simplicity in terms of form,” he says. “They wanted a contemporary flavor without a cutting edge aesthetic.”

Family affair

All four family members, including two teenage sons, were involved in the design and building process.

“It was the family decision to move and build a house,” says the wife, adding that they could have purchased an existing home and “just picked up and moved from this house to the next with the boys only needing to pack up their dressers.” But the family took a decidedly different route when they selected a foreclosed 3½-acre piece of land that was in a bit of a wild, overgrown state.

“The first time we came here, my family thought I was crazy,” says the husband. But he knew just what a diamond in the rough this property, sitting on the edge of Indian Hill, could be. Eventually he was able to convince them that the lot would be a perfect setting once a bit of the brush had been cleared.

Second act

The four had been living in a Loveland transitional ranch home that the couple designed and built shortly after they married over two decades earlier. They were ready for their second house to be their last house.

“We wanted this house to fit our active family lifestyle today, yet be sized right and very low maintenance for our empty nester years ahead,” says the wife.

The couple and their sons all agreed that they were drawn to the clean, simple lines of what some call a “soft” or “warm” contemporary. Once Isch gathered the rest of the family’s wants and needs he began to put their vision onto paper. During the process, the homeowners remember the architect showing them a feature which they credit for inspiring the look of the exterior.

When asked to describe this significant feature, the architect says, “It’s an exaggerated eyebrow dormer with a curving wall containing a central circular window flanked by vertically proportioned rectangular windows that accentuate the curvature of the wall.”

“The rhythm of that window made it all come together,” says the husband.

Building the vision

Once design plans were finalized, Crapsey and Gilles Contractors moved the team into the construction phase. Groundbreaking took place in November of 2009. Isch says the process went smoothly, thanks to a good deal of interaction between the design and construction teams. “Everyone was on board to make the process as economical and efficient as possible,” he says.

The family moved in during July of 2010 and final touches were completed by that October. Naturally, throughout the 11-month process there was a constant parade of decisions set before the homeowners. Fortunately, husband and wife were able to agree on most of their choices.

“We’re like two peas in a pod,” he says. “There’s no ‘opposites attract’ here.”

Hometown getaway

“The house needed to make us feel like we are on vacation,” says the wife. “We wanted clean lines, calm surroundings, and minimal clutter.”

The couple also knew the important role color would play in creating their home-base retreat. Together they chose a color palette inspired by the oceanside getaways, with blues pulled from the water, beiges and tans from the sand, and oranges, reds and yellows from the sunsets. All these hues flow seamlessly from room to room creating a warm and relaxed rhythm.

When choosing the exterior color for the home, however, the process was a bit more trial and error. “How many thousands of colors did we look at?” the husband asks.

Eventually, with both homeowners, the architect and the older son involved, the team managed to narrow the choices down to eight finalists that they felt would be complementary to the roof, windows, gutters and stone that were already in place. Finally, after testing all eight samples on the home they were able to agree on one color.

As the painter began applying the chosen color to the façade, father and son pulled into the drive and it was immediately apparent that the color was something much brighter and louder than any of them anticipated.

“It was more intense than we planned,” the husband says.

So father and son went back to the drawing board and eventually mixed two colors together and got what they wanted. They sent the batch of bright paint off to the factory to have it retinted to their custom blend which they call a “muddy, mustardy yellow color.”

Thinking green

A considerable amount of work was spent to ensure that the home was built in accordance with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards. Features such as the orientation of the house, geothermal heating and cooling, insulation methods, bamboo cabinetry, motion activated energy-efficient lighting, ultra-high efficient water heating, and low/dual flush toilets, all contribute to this home’s environmental sensitivity. Overhangs on the south facing exposure provide shading. Plus, Architectural Landscape Design enhanced the setting with plants native to Ohio which are known to be drought resistant.

“It’s the attention to detail like this that make this house successful,” says the husband.

Enhancing the work ethic

Having always lived in new neighborhoods as he was growing up, the husband remembers playing at construction sites and using scrap piles of lumber to build forts and treehouses. He wanted his sons to be hands-on in the building of their new home, driving nails and cutting boards. While naturally the carpentry crew did the bulk of the work, the boys were certainly there and involved—usually on Saturday and sometimes on Sundays.

“Our older son was a willing participant who was involved with every decision,” says mom.

The son, who says he is “interested in how things flow” gained knowledge during this experience which helped him realize his interest and talents. Now a high school senior, this student plans to major in interior design in college and hopes to one day design upscale resort properties.

His younger brother who needed a bit of coercion to get involved, didn’t fare so well. “We wanted them both to be part of the process and planning, but one got fired,” says the mother.

“One survived the experience, the other one didn’t,” dad chimes in.

From across the room the younger son says, “I liked the experience. I just didn’t like the work.”

It looks like his new home began to make him feel like he was on vacation a few months earlier than the rest of his family. Now that’s someone who knows how to find his rhythm.


Architect: RWA Architects, Inc.; General contractor: Crapsey and Gilles Contractors, Inc.; Landscape designer: Architectural Landscape Design, Inc.; Landscaping: Evans Landscaping; Pool: Kramer Pools; Flooring: Cali Bamboo, installed by Schumacher; Carpeting: Carpetland; Kitchen cabinetry: A. Flottemesch and Son; Granite: NK Stone; Kitchen backsplash: Ann Sacks tile; Appliances: Wolf and Sub-Zero from John Tisdel; Barstools: Sticks Studio, Des Moines; Lighting: Fixtures from Switch; Halo recessed cans from Becker; Electrical: Advanced Electric; Lighting control: Lutron; Audio/video home automation: M. Alan and Associates; Plumbing fixtures: Keidel; Bathroom cabinetry: Crystal Cabinetry from Nisbet Brower; Living room accent walls: Modular Arts; Windows: Marvin Windows/Marsh Window and Door Classics; Garage doors: Overhead Door Co.; Concrete: Sardinia Concrete; Ceramic tile and stone: Schoenberger Tile and Marble; Geothermal heat pump: Climate Master/Osterwich Co.; Spray foam insulation: Mooney and Moses; Fireplace: Fireside Hearth and Home/IPS; Painting: Elmer Jones Painting; Lumber and interior trim: Nisbet Brower; Exterior finish: Stockelman Plastering

To see this article as it appeared in the magazine, please visit our Digital Edition, pages 20-27.


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