A Bexley couple updates their mid-century home while preserving its natural beauty
When they wanted a change from their 1920s Tudor in Bexley, Jeannie and Bill Zox began house hunting in the same neighborhood. After touring several homes, a favorite emerged--a modern ranch that contrasted with the couple's classic three-story.
They were drawn to the openness of the mid-century structure, the creative mix of materials used to build it, and the calming views of the surrounding landscape.
"I don't know that we were necessarily looking for a ranch, but when we saw this house we loved it," Jeannie said. So they sold the Tudor, along with its French Country furnishings, and started over.
Renovating the ranch became a passion project for Jeannie, a stay-at-home mom who studied art history at Ohio State University, and Bill, who works in investment management.
The interior of the home, built in 1956, had been "traditionalized" over the years with wallpaper, carpeting and curtains, Jeannie said. Removing those layers was only the first step to highlighting the home's natural beauty. The transformation continued with a full kitchen renovation and an addition that converted the attic into a spacious bedroom suite for one of their two daughters. Plans for the addition also included a dramatic floating staircase that leads to the second floor.
"We made this house what we think a mid-century architect would build today," Jeannie said.
She and her husband studied vintage books and magazines, pulling inspiration from photographs of ranches designed by renowned modernist architects and developers. They worked with local architect Carter Bean to carry out their vision to expand the one-story home upward. The addition added roughly 600 square feet to the original 4,000-square-foot layout.
"Jeannie and Bill are clients who educated themselves on the design task at hand," Bean said. "That, in conjunction with great style and taste, made this an extremely easy, comfortable and successful collaboration."
The Zoxes couldn't be happier with the result.
"This house has lent itself more to family living," Jeannie said.
Her husband agrees. "There are great spaces to come together as a family in the house, and then there are also great spaces to be alone and to get some privacy," Bill said. "But, in all of them, you always have the outside joined with the inside."
A set of lucite "Louis Ghost" chairs by Kartell lighten up the formal dining room, which is anchored by a large oak table by B&B Italia. The mirrored buffet--one of just a few pieces of furniture that the Zoxes brought from their former home--used to be brown oak but Jeannie updated it for the new space with a darker stain. The blown-glass chandelier and a collection of Erikson glass displayed atop the table sparkle in the natural light. Jeannie decorated much of the house herself, but didn't rush to fill every room. "I'm perfectly willing to live with an empty space until I find the right piece," she said.
The combined living and dining room showcases one of the home's most striking original features--a wall of windows offering a generous view of the backyard and patio. "Mid-century architects kind of wanted the house to blend into the landscape," Jeannie said. She removed the silk drapes that covered the glass to let in more natural light. While decorating, Jeannie mixed old and new pieces together for a contemporary look that doesn't feel forced.
"Sometimes, I think when you walk into houses that were '50s inspired, you feel like you've walked into a time trap," she said. The couch, which was original to the house and matched the old silk drapes, has been reupholstered in soft, gray fabric. A bench and several pairs of vintage chairs, including two Egg chairs that were a gift from Bill's mother, encourage lounging. The Arco lamp extended above the Egg chairs is another vintage treasure from Grandview Mercantile. Jeannie found the metallic coffee tables with help from interior designer Chris King of Manifesto Inc. (He offered advice on several paint and fabric choices, too.) The living room also includes a fun bonus feature: ceiling speakers. "One thing that's nice about the house is that we use all of the space on a regular basis," Bill said. "It's not like we only use that room when we're entertaining. We all like to read in there and listen to music in there."
The kitchen topped the family's list of renovation projects. Its makeover was designed around the glass mosaic tile backsplash. "I liked the bit of caramel that was in it, so I picked that up with the cabinetry," Jeannie said. The custom-built maple cabinets are accented with white quartz countertops for a clean, simple look. A vintage chrome Sputnik light fixture--a mid-century classic--hangs above the comfy banquette. Displayed above the china cupboards are several pieces of Imperial pottery that Jeannie found at Grandview Mercantile. The room also features a camouflaged fridge, two ovens, two dishwashers (including one specifically for glass and china), a warming drawer and a much-used gas cooktop. "I love to cook, so I designed this kitchen with easy access," Jeannie said. "We eat as a family almost every night."
Many elements in the family room are original to the house: the fireplace, the built-ins and the paneling. The room also includes an original mirrored bar--one of three bars in the house when the Zoxes bought it. (The other two were built in the kitchen and basement.) The Zoxes updated the space by adding an L-shaped couch by Montis and vibrant artwork. An Aminah Robinson painting hangs near the fireplace. "I love her colors, and I love folk art," Jeannie said. Neutral porcelain tile runs throughout the house, but a wool nuLOOM rug softens the floor in this space. In the adjoining front hallway, a floating staircase fabricated by Edwards Steel leads to the upstairs bedroom suite. "It was a feat getting it in here," Jeannie said of the steel and wood structure. Similar stairs are found in two famous modern home designs--the Kaufmann House in Palm Springs, Calif., (designed by Richard Neutra) and Fallingwater, the house Frank Lloyd Wright designed for the Kaufmanns in Pennsylvania, said Carter Bean, the Zoxes' architect.
The furniture, bedding and even the paint color in the master bedroom were chosen with a theme in mind: "I was just going for that tranquil feeling," Jeannie said. A Flou bed from Voltage in Cincinnati offers comfort as well as hidden storage. (The top of the bed lifts to reveal a secret roomy compartment.) Mongolian lamb throw pillows and a cowhide rug add interesting texture to the simple canvas. The pair of bedside tables suspended on the wall were originally part of a larger Herman Miller wall unit. And the Papa Bear Chair, a remake by Modernica, is truly as cozy as its name suggests. French doors connect the bedroom to Jeannie's creative space: a sewing room/office.
Bathed in Luxury
Before its renovation, the Zoxes' master bath had mirrored walls--and a mirrored ceiling to match. The disco-era fixtures were replaced with Carrera marble, which now covers the walls and floor. "I love tile," Jeannie said. "It's like jewelry to me." She wanted the room to be "simple, yet really elegant."