How one local resident created a team that designed her dream penthouse.

After owning a large home on Hoover Reservoir, a local woman decided to downsize. She considered building a new house, but instead decided to purchase two condominiums near Bexley and combine them into one grand living space.

That's when she pulled in her friend and designer Gigi Smith, who owns Interior Concepts by Gigi in Sarasota. The project was imaginative and collaborative from the start, says Smith.

The homeowner asked Smith to travel to Ohio to meet members from the design and construction firm Behal Sampson Dietz, which would lead the effort. The condos, while framed, still needed finished. Smith, alongside John Behal and Dan Morgan, didn't hesitate to work together as a new team.

Starting from scratch

“I always say to revise and refine initial floor plans,” says Behal, adding that the plumbing in both condos was already configured, so design plans revolved around that limitation. The experienced architect says at the beginning of a project, “everyone puts their cards on the table,” which he believes ultimately helped the owner achieve the best outcome.

It was also helpful to have a designer who had previously worked with the homeowner. “I know her inside and out,” says Smith. “I know how she lives and what she likes.”

This personal knowledge, combined with architectural, design and construction expertise, created a seamless partnership between Smith, Behal and Morgan.

There are a lot of initial planning steps to complete a project of this scale. For example, Behal and Morgan completed feasibility studies, design plans (alongside Smith), and obtained necessary permits from the city of Bexley. Because of the level of construction needed, they also contacted the building's owner and its original architect.

Among the challenges was being conscious of tenants living in the building's other condominiums.

Creating Spaces

The team started with what they knew the lady of the house considered must-haves: a place to display her impressive crystal collection and an outdoor living space.

When visitors now enter the home, they are immediately greeted by a rotunda in the foyer where glass shelving was installed to house the crystal. Smith says this was important to the owner, who believes strongly in holistic living. “She's very specific in colors,” says Smith. “She likes air, water and earth.” It's the homeowner's crystal collection that links with the spirituality she practices.

After passing through the crystal rotunda, a hallway leads into a great room. This large space, created when the two condominiums were combined, includes a living room, dining area, sitting nook, kitchen and a smaller eating area.

An eye-catching feature of the home is the living room's domed ceiling, which creates a natural separation between living spaces in this multifaceted room. A custom-designed wrap around the sofa also helps achieve this effect.

Smith suggested a custom-created constellation inside the ceiling's dome. “She had fiber optics in her previous home, so I asked her about doing it again in the new house,” says Smith, adding that Behal and Morgan were excited about helping this feature come to life.

The homeowner selected the Scorpius constellation, and Behal, Morgan, and team went to work creating a custom template. “We printed and marked the constellation on the floor, and then we used a laser to transfer the template to the ceiling,” says Morgan.

There are lighting options in the dome ceiling: The homeowner can choose to have the constellation and stars lit, powered by an LED driver with fiber optics. She can adjust the speed of a twinkle effect, as well as its brightness, or she can freeze it in place. There is also lighting installed around the dome that can be used if the constellation is not illuminated.

An outdoor space was also on the homeowner's wish list. The team decided that two small steps needed to be constructed from the living room to the porch to allow for a proper drainage system to be installed on the patio. Insulation, waterproofing and a sloping floor were used to encourage good drainage. Morgan says it was important to properly handle water flow in this outdoor space, while still creating a finished look.

Behal and Morgan were also challenged to put plenty of natural light into the space. “There are select views you need to have from these units,” adds Morgan. “We tried to focus the living area, where she would be able to see the treetops from the windows.”

Additionally, the homeowner worked with Franklin Art Glass to customize a piece used as a divider between the kitchen and the nearby hall. It gives you the feeling that it isn't an interior kitchen, says Smith.

The team selected full lite doors for a study to allow natural light to sneak through the room's windows into the hallway. This long hallway is lined with built-in bookshelves to house the owner's impressive library, while leading to the master suite, the study and another guest bedroom and bath.

Another surprise exists in this area. A secret door was installed in the master suite closet, opening into the main entry's hallway. Smith says it is a nice touch for the owner if she wants to quickly access her office, which is located on the other side of the home. The door is obscured; artwork covers it.

There are also sliding doors installed at the entrance of the bedroom hallway, allowing the owner to create an element of privacy between her personal quarters and the entertainment space, if guests are in the house.

From start to finish, the project took 10 months to complete. For the designer, Smith, it was an enjoyable process. “This was the best camaraderie I have ever experienced,” she says, referring to her working relationship with Behal, Morgan, and the rest of their team.

Behal and Morgan agree that every project they encounter is unique, but starting from scratch with a penthouse view presented a unique challenge. “This was very much a jigsaw puzzle,” says Morgan.

“She is just so happy there,” adds Smith. “It was just an outstanding project for all of us.”