Light Touches

Amberley Village traditional reinvents itself with a fresh, contemporary feel

Amberley traditional reinvents itself
with a fresh, contemporary feel


By Amy Howell Hirt | Photos by Robin Victor Goetz/RVGP Inc.
 

When newly empty-nested couple Bruce and Jenny decided to remodel their Amberley Village home, there were certain elements that simply had to go—like the purplish-pink toilet, countertop and flooring that filled an out-of-the-way half-bath, giving away the home’s 1989 construction. What they weren’t so sure about was what style should replace the dated look and define this new chapter of their lives and their home.

The answer came a few years ago, when Jenny freshened the foyer by replacing two traditional table lamps with sleek shell-tiled wall sconces. Something about the modern simplicity spoke to her, and sparked an empty-nest makeover that, by the time it was done, included a powder room inspired by fortune cookies, a master bathroom that seems illuminated by drops of mercury, and a fresh, transitional design that celebrates the couple’s past, present and future.

“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve felt like I just wanted a cleaner look,” Jenny says.

Breaking from tradition

Over the 13 or so years that Bruce and Jenny have lived in the Tudor-style home, they gradually edited pieces that didn’t reflect their personality. They un-screened a screened porch off the kitchen, redecorated the master bedroom and introduced hardwood flooring and a slab of smooth granite to replace carpeting and yet another, pink Corian countertop covering a wet bar in the living room.

While they selected styles that appealed to them, Jenny says they always kept a cautious eye on what would sell, given the traditional style that has long dominated the local area and established communities like Amberley.

“I was always drawn to contemporary but was being logical about resale,” Jenny says.

But with those simple sconces serving as a muse, the couple began following their personal sensibilities instead. Working with interior designer Renan Menninger, owner of RM interiors, they created welcoming yet personal spaces where industrial, contemporary lines feel at home alongside traditional furnishings and keepsake art projects.

A refreshing revamp

With the exception of the ceiling in the master bathroom—where a classic barrel vault was removed in favor of a dropped tray—the home didn’t need a structural overhaul, so the couple and the designers simply upgraded the home’s aesthetics, introducing a carefully curated combination of contemporary simplicity and organic warmth.

Menninger remade the family room fireplace by covering the red brick with stacked quartz, and Drew Dearwester, co-owner of Switch Lighting and Design, updated the traditional stairwell with a cascading light fixture that he typically recommends for clients with downtown lofts or city views, not two-story Tudors in the suburbs.

In the kitchen, bright modern finishes such as a clear-glass backsplash, stainless-steel cabinetry and a glossy white quartz countertop replaced the existing ho-hum brown cabinetry and checkerboard tile backsplash. Menninger added a natural stone finish above the cabinets to focus attention on the soaring window and wood-beamed ceiling, and brought in dark-stained oak cabinets, travertine flooring and linen blinds to keep the space from feeling overly modern.

Unexpected elements

Of course a home is only as interesting as the stories it can tell, and there are plenty of conversation-starting features that inject personality into this home’s remodeled spaces.

An interplay of clean lines and soft curves draws you into the master bath, where you then notice the crowning glory of this space—and arguably, the house. A light fixture resembling smooth metallic pebbles or drops of mercury provides general illumination in the space and serves to unite the industrial and natural elements. While the silver coating coordinates with the concrete countertops, modern drawer pulls and geometric tub, the organic shape also relates to the river rocks inlaid in the shower floor and the circular design on the resin window panels.

“It’s like a piece of art on the ceiling,” Menninger says. “It pulls it all together.”

Not to be outdone, a powder room just down the hall is another small space packed with character. The couple decided on a black vinyl wallpaper with charcoal-gray circles meant to resemble a bird’s-eye view of a traditional Asian rice hat. Because the wallpaper style was named “Fortune Cookie,” Menninger encouraged the couple to run with the theme, complete with a “fortune” printed across the bottom of the mirror. Bruce and Jenny chose a phrase—“What we see depends mainly on what we look for”—that could be interpreted as a tongue-in-cheek nod to its own reflective surface.

Art from the heart

Original artwork imbues a home with personality in a way that can’t be reproduced, and Jenny and Bruce are lucky enough to have pieces by their now-grown son and daughter—both grads of the School for Creative and Performing Arts—that exhibit talent and appeal beyond the merely sentimental.

While their daughter’s influence can be seen in smaller pieces that dot the bookshelves, their son is responsible for large-scale, attention-grabbing artwork. An oversized cornucopia-shaped sculpture—which he made with carefully fanned slices of wood—keeps the beige-colored living room from feeling too traditional. In the dining room, a lighthearted self-portrait that’s paired with an asymmetrical light fixture adds intrigue to the classic dining room setting.

Welcoming entertainment

While the kitchen, which opens to the family room, often becomes the hub during parties, it was important to Jenny for the finished basement to feel just as welcoming. “I wanted to make it a little more appealing to come down here and have drinks,” she says.

While some basement lounge areas can feel like a dark pub, carefully placed lighting and natural, textured materials bring a boost of vitamin D to this space. The focal point is a kitchenette area that has a cheerful, Tuscan-like glow. Internally lit cabinets serve as bookends for a wall that’s finished with stacked quartz—left over from the upstairs fireplace—and randomly spaced reclaimed walnut shelves decorated with bottles of oil.

Given the entertaining appeal of this lower-level space, which is complete with a pool table, refrigerator and freezer drawers and wine cooler, the couple finds their nest isn’t quite as empty as it used to be.

“Our kids are now in their 20s, but they say, ‘You can never sell this house.’ They like coming over to hang out or swim in the pool,” Jenny says.


Resources:
Designer: Renan Menninger, RM Interiors; Lighting: Drew Dearwester, Switch Lighting and Design; Contractor: J Michael Companies; Flooring: Louisville Tile; Kitchen cabinetry and countertops: Sims-Lohman; Kitchen backsplash: Dickey’s Glass; Kitchen sink: Norwood Hardware; Bathroom cabinetry: Sims-Lohman; Master bath sinks: Engineered concrete, Ohio CemTech; Master bath ceiling details: Drawing Dept; Powder room sink: Norwood Hardware; Bathroom faucets: Norwood Hardware; Bathroom mirrors: Designed by RM Interiors, produced by Dickey’s Glass; Powder room wallcovering: Donghia; Master bedroom design: Sandy Datillo, Ethan Allen


 

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