When Julie Clemens and Randall Schweller purchased their Clintonville home in 2006, they were enchanted by both the old and the new. Rope and pulley windows, well-conditioned hardwood floors and original door hardware exuded charm, while a previously completed kitchen renovation added modern conveniences in keeping with the style of this 1920s house. After almost a decade of living with their traditional upstairs three bedroom and one hall bath layout, the space began to feel constraining. The couple vowed to undertake a renovation process that provided all their desired updates but stayed true to the home’s character in quality and finishes.
Keeping in character
Julie and Randall spent eight months working with Steve Hurtt of urbanorder architecture to fashion a master suite that integrated seamlessly with the existing structure and capitalized on their unique double lot. The result was a window-filled second level addition on top of a reconstructed back porch and rear first floor den to create a new master bedroom and bathroom respectively. They usurped an existing bedroom to serve as the suite’s spacious closet.
“Our upstairs was just begging to have this extension,” Randall says. “It was claustrophobic, and we had few functional windows to view the back yard.” Julie adds, “after spending multiple summers taming the overgrowth on our property, we wanted to enjoy the view and benefit from more natural light.”
A new outlook
The new sweeping expanse of windows in the master bedroom ranks as a top favorite for both the homeowners and their remodeler, Todd Schmidt of Renovations Unlimited. That wall’s clean and simple look contrasts with the complex challenge surrounding its construction and the pivotal role it played in the makeover’s overall design.
“With that much glass,” Todd explains, “we elected to install a steel tubular frame assembly to gain the shear strength necessary to withstand potential high winds.” While Todd and Steve worked with the structural engineers to ensure functionality outside, Julie was eagerly researching design ideas for the inside, utilizing library resources, devouring magazines and making frequent trips to vendors. “One of my first decisions, based on an image I had found, was to paint the frames of our windows in Benjamin Moore’s Knoxville Gray,” Julie recalls. “The color contrasted well with the wood floors and that became a jumping-off point for the décor.”
“Julie is a visionary,” raves Randall. “She may be an amateur, but she has an incredible eye. There were a million choices, and it was absolutely necessary to form a plan so we didn’t feel overwhelmed.” In an old-school approach, Julie constructed physical design boards to keep track of each previous selection so that the succeeding ones were certain to coordinate.
“Doing their homework and being prepared made the process much easier and better,” commends Todd. “We were able to consider all the specific details prior to installation and develop creative solutions.” The vintage look of the spa clawfoot tub, for example, remains untarnished since the team found a way early on to disguise the access to its motor which powers air jets and colored therapy lights.
Expect the unexpected
Comprehensive planning, however, cannot prevent the occasional unexpected problem, like when the electrician’s leg made a surprise appearance through the ceiling of the dining room. “He accidentally stepped through a hole in the plaster while we were having our weekly meeting with Julie and Randall,” Todd says. “Everyone was OK, but there was plaster dust all over the pizza.” Reflecting, Randall comments, “this process is not for the weak.”
What made the one-and-a-half-year construction job fulfilling was the tremendous communication between the couple, Steve, Todd and especially George, Renovations Unlimited’s project manager, who did the custom carpentry on items like the master bedroom’s bookshelves and bench seat. “We would see George every day,” says Julie, “so it was important that we felt very comfortable with him.” Todd usually warns his clients upfront that any renovation work is an emotional roller coaster. “The excitement when a project starts is high but quickly wanes when important rooms are not available and homeowners’ routines are upset,” he says. “It rises again when the accessories are being installed and work is almost complete.”
Blending old and new
It is in these finishing touches that Julie and Randall reveled in the selection and creation of a 1920s elegant look. “After a lengthy search, we found the perfect ‘old New York’ style faucets which I love,” says former Manhattan resident Randall. New doors were created in the same style as the old, and Julie scoured Columbus Architectural Salvage for matching crystal handles and door hinges, scrubbing off old paint when necessary. She also found the flush mount ceiling hardware there, repurposing the fixtures with appropriate globes or fabric and trim.
“What is important is not just that you enjoy the renovation but that you are doing what is right for the house,” Julie affirms. Sealed within the window seating in their new bedroom lies an envelope containing greetings from the couple, carefully-placed to be discovered by their future counterparts. “We imagine,” Julie says, “subsequent owners of this home being grateful that we put a lot of time and thought into this redesign. It is our legacy.”
RESOURCES Contractor Todd Schmidt, Renovations Unlimited; Architect Steve Hurtt and Dean Berlon, urbanorder architecture; BATHROOM Vanity in cherry Custom Wood Products; Tile Dover White subway and Matte White hexagon, Classico Tile and Marble; Installed by Impact Flooring and Countertops; Countertop, shower seat and shower curb Polished White Carrara Marble, Impact Flooring and Countertops; Mirrors, accessories and hardware In Home Concepts; Ceiling lighting Columbus Architectural Salvage; Sconces Sophie; Tub, sinks and faucets Worly Plumbing; Paint Benjamin Moore Cement Gray; BEDROOM Built-ins Renovations Unlimited; Lighting Hudson Valley on ceiling; Columbus Architectural Salvage repurposed sconces; Paint Walls in Pashmina, Built-in shelves in Night Shade, all Benjamin Moore from Creative Paints; CLOSET Custom system The Container Store; Paint Benjamin Moore Nimbus Gray; Windows and storm doors APCO; Porch railing Fortin Ironworks; HVAC for 2nd floor Custom Air
Article by Kristin Greenberg/Photos by Daniel Feldkamp
Article originally appeared in Housetrends Columbus – December 2019