The Art of Legacy - Bexley House & Garden Tour
Andrea Wobst-Jeney gives a glimpse inside the home she shares with husband Stephen and their two children. This jewel on the Bexley House & Garden Tour is a virtual gallery of collected artistic works.
Photos by RYAN M.L. YOUNG
Of all the tours planned this season, the Bexley House & Garden Tour (June 8 & 9) offers the rare chance to visit a home associated with two civic-minded Central Ohio families.
Built in the late 1960s by John F. Wolfe, Dispatch publisher, and his wife, Ann, to raise their family, it became home to Stephen Jeney and Andrea Wobst-Jeney and their two sons about 30 years later. Wobst-Jeney, who grew up in Bexley, is a daughter of Joan Wobst, a celebrated and prolific Central Ohio artist, and the late Frank Wobst, retired chairman and chief executive officer of Huntington Bancshares.
Despite its connections, the house doesn’t overwhelm. Instead, visitors find threads of art, design and family heritage seamlessly woven into an elegant whole that’s as comfortable and vibrant as the Oriental carpets underfoot.
Some first-time visitors may have a sense of deja vu as soon as they step inside, thanks to the popularity of Wobst’s “Umbrella Girl” fountain, placed in a quiet, shaded area of German Village’s Schiller Park. Two versions of this work are in the house: One is a painting in the entry hall at the top of the broad, easy-to-climb stairs. The second is a twin of the park fountain, which serves as the focal point on the stonewalled terrace that opens off the entry hall.
Another moment of deja vu awaits visitors familiar with Boston. In the breakfast room, where a wall of windows overlooks the terrace, a serene and verdant park scene is depicted on murals on either side of the table.
Wobst’s painting of Boston Commons gives the room a perpetual springtime feel. She included the four members of the Jeney family as they looked when they lived in a Back Bay condo.
There’s a J.M.W. Turner painting in the master bath. Framed paintings, prints and memorabilia are grouped on walls of rooms and hallways. Subjects range from beloved pet dogs to children’s works to a realistic scene of a girl paddling in the surf. The latter adds warmth and sunlight to the living room even on the dreariest day.
Also in the living room are a towering secretary with various inlays of wood and a small 19th-century square piano. What looks to be an antique model of a sailing ship in the dining room is the work of Wobst-Jeney’s father, who loved model railroading and built scale buildings for scenery.
While it helps having creative family as a source for art, how does Wobst-Jeney make selections and where does she find the pieces? “I have always loved art no matter if I see it at a garage sale,” she says of her collection. “It’s not about what it costs, but what it says.”
Wobst-Jeney’s sense of design melds furnishings of various styles, artwork and accessories into a comfortable whole.
“I think people will come through and say, ‘I could do this,’ ” says Ann Russell, past president of the Bexley Women’s Club, which sponsors the tour to benefit its scholarship fund.
Charming and sometimes witty touches abound. Take the puzzle theme in the cozy bar. Several framed picture puzzles inspired the wallpaper. It looks and feels like pieces of a giant puzzle. Some of the ceilings, such as that in the master bedroom, are painted with decorations.
A dramatic chess set amazes visitors. Hardly a Parker Brothers version, Wobst’s delightful interpretation uses painted terra cotta figures. “The Primate Chess Set” employs gorillas as royalty and a descending order of apes and monkeys as bishops, knights, pawns and other pieces.
The set sits atop a low table, which is ornamented, appropriately, with vines.Wobst-Jeney made it the center of attention of a large, inviting sitting room just off the entry hall.
Veteran Bexley tour-goers may remember Wobst had an “Alice in Wonderland” theme set at her own house a few years ago. (Alice and company have since been donated to the Columbus Museum of Art.)
Of all the house’s appeals, it was the kitchen that prompted the Jeneys to move from just four doors down. They were facing a major kitchen redo to accommodate their growing family’s needs.
This kitchen is as much a place to live as cook and dine. A skylight illuminates the work area and island. Large windows frame views of the terrace just beyond the door. A fireplace invites relaxing on the sofa and easy chair. (This is Stephen Jeney’s favorite room.)
The library-like room above, dubbed the “perch,” is where Wobst-Jeney says she most often settles to handle business and relax. The quiet room affords views of the terrace from two small balconies flanking the fireplace.
When the Jeneys entertain, much of the house is used, from the kitchen to the perch.
In mild weather, activity often centers on the terrace, an inviting place with plump cushions on the large chairs, flowers and the gently splashing fountain.
The semiformal landscape—with knee-high, primly clipped boxwood hedges to frame flowerbeds—enhances the Old World aura of the stone house. There’s a living “sculpture” in the form of a pear tree trained as an espalier to grow flat against a trellis. The crisscrossing branch pattern is called a Belgian fence.
Just as Wobst-Jeney periodically rotates artwork displayed inside, storing some and bringing others out to view, so too the garden scene varies.
“We keep on making changes as things come and go,” says Joe Daubel, who manages the garden. Annual flowers in beds and containers vary with the seasons. Phlox and other perennials add colorful accents. “There’s always something going on.”