Historic home is backdrop for eclectic collection
Each spring the Bexley Home and Garden Tour offers an insider’s view of some of the city’s historic gems. One stop on this year’s tour is the 1921-built Cotswold-style home of Jim Elliott and John Behal. The staid Shakespearean exterior belies a whimsical charm within. Chinese temple guard dogs, an antique French crystal chandelier, African fertility figures, and exotic Guatemalan masks are unexpected treasures waiting inside its doors.
The Merchant of Venice
“I guess you could call our style traditional eclectic,” says Jim Elliott, an educational publishing consultant. “We have a number of American, English, and Asian antiques mixed with traditional furniture, but we also have some contemporary art. We’ve traveled in many parts of Europe, especially Italy, where John has family. We have a fairly large collection of Italian pottery,” he says.
Their globetrotting also includes China, Japan, India, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and South Africa. Collecting during their travels is a pastime. “Our house cleaners probably hope we’ll stop traveling, or at least stop buying things when we do,” Jim lightheartedly observes.
The sheer number of items in their various collections is impressive, yet the result never is overwhelming. With John’s eye as a professional architect and Jim’s natural design flair, they are seamlessly incorporated throughout—an art in and of itself.
As You Like It
The Elliott/Behal home has significant ties to Bexley history. Their home was designed by Robert “Roy” Reeves, the architect of Sessions Village, a European-style housing development in the Bexley area that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Reeves was also one of the architects, along with O.C. Miller, who designed the Bexley Public Library.
“We were attracted to the size, location, and style of this house,” Jim explains. “There are many features and details that make it unique. We also liked the possibilities that we saw for the yard and garden.”
The living room has details very typical of Reeves, says Jim: an offset fireplace with a small window to one side, a built-in bookcase, plaster walls, and Delft tile accents. The living room opens onto a sunroom, which was originally covered by an arbor in the days before air conditioning.
The focal point of the dining room is an imported, turn-of-the-century crystal chandelier. Gold crackle paper by Gramercy covers the ceiling and is complemented by red trellis paper by Nina Campbell on the walls.
All’s Well That Ends Well
A previous owner had built an addition, and Jim and John worked within the existing footprint to renovate the kitchen, family room, and master bedroom and bath. John designed the renovation, and his firm, Behal Sampson Dietz, managed the construction. Sally McDonald of InteriorWorks helped with interior design.
“We wanted a European-looking kitchen,” Jim notes. They selected D.L. Atkinson cabinets with a waxed-pine finish, ceramic tile backsplash, and Santa Cecilia granite countertops. The focal point is a red cupboard custom-made by Emily and Michael Kincaid of Mt. Vernon, Ohio. In addition, John designed an inset bookcase, trimmed in wrought iron, to hold their large collection of cookbooks. On another wall is a matching wine rack, which, according to Jim, “holds a quickly rotating collection of wine.”
The mix of old and new is carried through to the bedrooms upstairs as well. Family pieces, such as a German bench belonging to Jim’s great-grandparents, and his father’s boyhood brass bed, are featured in rooms finished with Brunschwig & Fils fabrics, Ralph Lauren wallcoverings and accented with treasures collected on their travels.
John and Jim have worked hard to preserve the home’s architectural integrity, such as keeping the original front Dutch-door and unique upstairs windows, while subtly adding conveniences. In the master bathroom, medicine cabinets are cleverly hidden behind framed mirrors. A former nursery in the home has been redesigned as a large walk-in closet.
Keeping connected to the past is important to both Jim and John. An upstairs wall is accented with another collection, a large gallery of old family photos. “John and I both have wonderful childhood memories of grandparents and other relatives, and having things of theirs in our home helps us keep those memories alive,” says Jim.
Architect: John Behal, BSD Architects; Contractor: Behal Sampson Dietz; Designer: Sally McDonald, Interiorworks; Hardwood flooring: Oak (original); Cabinetry: D.L. Atkinson; red cupboard by Michael and Emily Kincaid; Kitchen countertops: Santa Cecilia granite; Backsplash: Ceramic tile, Hamilton Parker; Kitchen sink: Blancowave; Dishwasher: KitchenAid; Cooktop: Creda; Refrigerator: GE Profile; Oven: Jenn-Air; Bathroom cabinetry: Stained cherry; Bathroom countertops: Marble; Bathroom faucet: Newport Brass, 920 Series; Bathroom sink: Caxton undermounts, Kohler; Lighting: Dining room chandelier, French Antique; Entrance Hall: Vaughn; Iron bookcase and wine rack: Fresingers; Rugs: Baktiari, Heriz and others; French doors in master bedroom: Pozzi