In a neighborhood renowned for its architectural eye candy, the Balsley House stands at a level above the rest—and not just because of its gorgeous red-brick-and-limestone-trimmed charm. Located in the heart of Dayton’s iconic Oregon District, the mid-Victorian mansion was built by carpenter and entrepreneur John H. Balsley in 1877. Although Balsley is not a household name, his most famous invention is: Balsley claimed the first U.S. patent for the folding step ladder.
Owners Clive and Geeta Wilson were renovating an adjacent commercial building—the Balsley Building, when they received notice that the house was going to be placed on the market. The timing wasn’t optimal. But the couple leapt at the chance to purchase it, recognizing that they couldn’t let this gem slip away.
Elevating history to the present
The Wilsons devoted more than a year to refinishing, updating and upgrading the home’s six bedrooms, numerous bathrooms, library, parlor, dining room and kitchen. They did much of the interior design and labor themselves, guided by a clear-cut vision to celebrate the home’s historic character.
“Being from England, we have a real appreciation for history,” says Geeta. “We wanted to create a place for the old in the present in a way that also informs the future—we loved bringing that out.”
The couple’s English roots, together with a European tour that coincided with the renovations, clearly influenced their selections. The parlor’s plum window treatments were imported from the oldest mill in Belgium.
The wallpaper was made by British designers using traditional printing methods. The gourmet kitchen, with its stunning granite slab from India, is finished with high-end European appliances.
Details both large and small elevate the home’s rich legacy as a witness of time. A high-water mark in the parlor dates back to the Great Dayton Flood of 1913. The signature of the home’s original wallpaperer is preserved on the second floor. A framed copy of Balsley’s stepladder patent and other prominently displayed artifacts honor the original owner. And a tasteful collection of antiques, combined with inspired lighting and classic finishes, round out the home’s refined elegance.
“The Balsley House is a beautiful building,” says Geeta. “I felt a responsibility to not let it down, to bring it to its full potential, to magnify its splendor and beauty; that was part of our conviction about the place.”
Giving a boost to revitalization
The Wilsons see value in investing in Dayton and promoting its renaissance to the wider world. So while they have made the Balsley House their home, they have also made it available to others through AirBnB. Luxurious amenities—including a sauna, a massage chair and table, and a salon room—make it not just a place to stay, but a true destination. In addition to providing a boutique-level experience for large parties, the Balsley house has hosted weddings and been featured on the Oregon District Holiday Tour.
“When we purchased the house I think the previous owner hoped that we would feel that this is a home to be treasured, not just maintained,” says Clive. “More than that, I feel like a caretaker, a steward of this wonderful resource.”
RESOURCES Architect Greg Lauterbach; Contractors and designers Clive and Geeta Wilson, Be Niice Ltd.; Lighting, accessories and furniture Restoration Hardware; Macy’s; Painting and wall treatments Restoration Hardware; Farrow & Ball, Bloodline Merchants; Flooring Lowe’s; Window treatments Restoration Hardware; American Blinds; Kitchen cabinetry Ultracraft; Countertops and sink Emanuel Granite; Backsplash The Tile Shop; Faucet Newport Brass, Build.com; Appliances Thermador dishwasher; Fisher & Paykel refrigerator, Wolf and Miele ovens, Appliance Gallery; Range Godin, Lawton Imports; Sauna Sunlighten
Article by Bethany Reiff/Photos by Breana Soliday-Haughton
Article originally appeared in Housetrends Dayton – December 2019