How one homeowner landed a new project next door

Mark Talis doesn't consider himself a house-flipper despite the fact that his current abode is not the first home renovation he has survived. There have been others.

“This is the second home in Bexley I have owned and renovated, but I have flipped a few in other neighborhoods,” says Talis, a real estate agent and owner of the Glenhill Robbins & Talis Group of HER Realtors.

Talis is the third generation of his family to graduate from Bexley High School. Although he lived in German Village for several years, he returned to his familiar stomping grounds in 2012. He bought and renovated a home in central Bexley, adding 1,200 square feet of living space in the process. While that home shared a double driveway with a neighbor, Talis never imagined one day he would own and live in the house next door.

Then, one day in 2015, something unusual happened.

“One day, my neighbor knocked on my door and asked me to come over to see what kind of work needed to be done on the house so he and his wife could sell it. I told him what needed to be done to get the house ready, explaining that not making the repairs would put a dent in the purchase price. I made an offhand remark with a price I would pay for the house in light of its size and condition, not thinking much of it,” says Talis.

Much to his surprise, a few weeks later his neighbor told him if the offer was serious, the house was his.

“So I sold my house and moved across the driveway,” says Talis.

Talis' new home was a 1,200-square-foot, Craftsman-style house that had not been updated in decades. He gutted it and transformed it from a three bedroom, one-and-a-half bath structure into a four bedroom, three-and-a-half bath abode housed in 3,000 square feet of living space.

Not one to shy away from the challenge of a total gut job, Talis met several times with Cheryl Stauffer, his interior designer and CEO of Crimson Design Group, and Matt Dehlendorf, his general contractor and owner of Dehlco Construction, to discuss how to expand and decorate the home. Architect Heidi Bolyard of Simplified Living Architecture was also an integral part of the team.

While design plans were being created and construction permits were sought from the city of Bexley, Talis found himself charged with a task he disliked:

visiting local tile stores, granite fabricators, plumbing supply stores and more to make the countless selections he needed for his home.

“I like the project part but not the search for a lamp,” he says, smiling.

His updated home is marked by a two-story addition, housing an open-concept kitchen, a family room, a sitting room and a pantry on the first floor. Upstairs, the addition features a generously sized master suite, including a large walk-in closet. Five large windows allow for natural light to flood the bedroom, while two smaller, rectangular windows above his bed invite more light into the room.

Favorites

Talis enjoys his kitchen, which features two granite-topped islands that are ideal for entertaining. Recently, he hosted his family for a large holiday celebration and everyone was quite comfortable.

Running a close second as his favorite space is a secret room accessible from the home's sitting area. An innocuous, nearly floor-to-ceiling, built-in bookcase lines one section of the room. Removing a specific book reveals a button that unlocks the door to the secret room.

Filling that bookcase was another shopping expedition. “My designer told me to find black, gray and blue hardback books, which she then arranged in an aesthetically pleasing design. I scoured four book stores, which was a pain, but I really like the end result,” he says.

“I have always wanted a secret room. It's a cool, fun addition that not a lot of people have,” Talis confides. Since there was already some extra space off his sitting room, he decided this was the opportunity he had always wanted.

The room features a hefty, antique barber chair replete with worn black leather, softened by its years in a German Village barber shop. The walls display some of Talis' favorite collectibles obtained from his father's sports and memorabilia company, including an autographed photo of Jack Nicholson and an old album cover featuring comedian Redd Foxx.

By far, his favorite possession in the home is the enormous metal clock he had transformed into a barn door in the dining room. The clock does not work, but its magnitude and girth provide an awe-inspiring aesthetic. “If I ever move, I don't know what I'll use it for in my next place, but I will definitely take it with me, no matter what,” he says.

Renovation survival guide

Since he has lived through home renovations on more than one occasion, Talis is an expert about how to survive. Although the construction on his current home was extensive, he was able to stay in one room outfitted with a small television and microwave. Still, he admits, “there was a short stint I stayed at the nearby Embassy Suites.” When he was having the first Bexley house renovated, he wasn't as fortunate. He slept on friend's couches, showering where he could. The portable bathroom in the driveway (for the construction crew) came in handy on more than one occasion.

Living alone helped make surviving a total gut renovation easier, although it was still challenging at times. He was constantly worried about his bulldog, Clyde, an affable 9-year-old who behaves like a newborn puppy.

As for costs, “it was more than I thought it would be, but it was well worth it. If you're going to undergo renovation, you need to be prepared it will take longer and cost more than you originally anticipated,” he says.

He urges homeowners considering any updates of their home to “manage their expectations,” he says.

“You can't get frustrated when unknowns crop up because that's part of the process,” he adds. “It's exceptionally unrealistic to think a large renovation will finish on time and on budget. A lot of delays are actually the homeowner's fault, like they weren't prepared with their selections or even their payments. Of course, sometimes unforeseen problems come up that can't be known ahead of time, and it's not fair to blame a contractor for that.”

Tami Kamin Meyer is a Columbus attorney and writer.

**This home was part of the 2016 Bexley Home & Garden tour. This year's tour, sponsored by Bexley Women's Club, took place on June 4. More information can be found at bexleywomen.org.