With sleek exterior sconces and ultra-modern house numbers, a new three-unit condominium building has emerged on Brickel Street in the Short North. The gray cement block building looks hip and urban, as if it has been plucked from the warehouse districts of New York or Chicago. Its prominent sawtooth roof and large windows blend with other industrial buildings on the same street.
Designed by urbanorder architecture's Dean Berlon and Steve Hurtt and built by developer Richard Bruggeman, it meshes well with the area. Horizontal black bars form the iron security gates-open or closed-add graphic punch to the view. The rectangular, stainless steel lighting fixtures, Euro in style, illuminate the night.
Indoors, Peter Yockel and his partner Rick Gore have settled nicely into their Short North abode. During their lifetimes, the two have traveled around the world for their careers. As a Peace Corps volunteer, Yockel did his two-year stint in Costa Rica, followed by travels to Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America as a staff member and consultant for the Peace Corps.
As for Gore, the list of remote places he has visited is lengthy. From Amarna on the Nile to Istanbul, from the Serengeti Plain to Zhongwei, China-his work in such remote locations as a writer and science editor was featured in National Geographic from 1974 to 2001. Gore claims to hold the record for most articles ever published by National Geographic.
So, of all the places in the world, how did the two of them land in Columbus? They'd left Washington, D.C. some time back, had just sold their home in Fort Lauderdale and wanted to find an easy-maintenance place reasonably close to their farm in Zoar, Ohio. Pittsburgh and Cleveland were considerations, but they felt a strong vibe here.
"It was a beautiful day in April and we fell in love with Columbus," says Yockel. "We liked the energy of the Short North-we're spontaneous people, extroverts." Last December, Yockel and Gore made the move. Now they're planning a new theater company in Columbus, too.
In their Brickel Street condo, they've integrated exotic collections that reflect their collective years of travel. Not only are they imaginative, they have succeeded in visualizing fresh possibilities for their décor with interior designer Connie Lane Christy.
As the lemon-yellow front door of their condo swings open, visitors are greeted in a home doused in sunlight, which backlights the open staircase ahead, and draws the eye beyond, toward views of a walled garden. This condo includes a deliberate mix of periods, styles and textures: Arts and Crafts furniture, Mica hanging lights, a black-and-gold Art Deco screen, pottery from Indonesia and African textile wall hangings.
Staircases have evolved into graphic focal points in this 2,700-square-foot dwelling, beginning with the stairs that lead from the foyer to the second floor. The blueprints called for the staircase to be enclosed in drywall, but Christy quickly realized it would result in a small, closed space.
"We left it open and substituted horizontal black iron rails where the walls would've been. It kept it light, and created a sense of spaciousness," she explains. A thin black iron bar stretches underneath each riser, in what appears to be yet another creative touch. "Actually, it was necessary for the building code, to lessen the gap beneath each step," Christy confesses. Yockel designed the newel at the base of the stairs, which was custom-crafted from black bars by welder Frank Stricker.
A spiral staircase on the second floor ascends from the kitchen and dining area to a third floor loft, elegantly exemplifying modern industrial design. The bars of the black railings were initially verticals, says Christy. "But we turned them the other way and now it looks like ribbons circling down. It's beautiful, lyrical."
No one suggests that getting such a showstopper in place is easy, though. Bruggeman recalls the spiral staircase delivery from its Maine manufacturer. "We had expected it to be in sections," he says. "But when the truck pulled up, we realized it was all one piece. To get it inside, we had to cut it in two, and then re-weld it."
The massive wood ceiling puts warehouse characteristics in play again. Trusses, tongue-and-groove wood slats and galvanized pipes are exposed, with a two-story drop to the dining area and living room below. "We left the pipes as they were," says Yockel, "but painted the rest to neutralize it a bit." On the ceiling and select walls, pale sage green is juxtaposed with walls painted tannish-gold, casting the room in an intentional mix of light and shadow.
A rich purple and green Moroccan rug hanging above the sofa supplies the color palette for the living room. Creams, greens and cool grays are anchored by touches of black-a glass-topped coffee table by Baker and the commanding base of a Robert Kuo floor lamp. West African artist Papisco Kudzi's painting, purchased around the corner at the Kiaca Gallery, completes the composition.
A tall, handcrafted cupboard visually introduces the dining area and adds height. "We were at Weaver's Furniture in Sugarcreek, in the Amish country, and found this bottom piece," explains Yockel. "But we needed something tall. They made a top specifically for it." Its brown and honey-colored wood tones provide contrast to the dark, circular Mission dining table and chairs.
Using gray subway tiles by American Olean for the backsplash, and painted cabinets with brushed pewter bin pulls and knobs, Christy created an authentic Arts and Crafts look for the kitchen, right down to the bubble glass in the doors of the lighted display cabinet. Grayish-taupe marble from Marble and Granite Works was chosen for the counters and the island. To make prep work easier, Christy tucked lighting beneath the upper cabinets to illuminate the countertops. Stainless steel appliances, such as the Electrolux fridge and a six-burner Electrolux stove, with its convenient pot-filler spigot, keep the industrial feel.
Christy, Gore and Yockel sleuthed incessantly for the perfect marble to use in the master bath and selected a color called rainforest, which is unique in its tones of rich green, brown and rust. True to its name, the veins resemble vines-they found a section that looks like an ancient tree draped in Amazonian jungle vines and then featured it in a shower inset.
Lavender walls in the master bedroom offer a subtle backdrop to newly purchased Harden furniture, which also has an Arts and Crafts look. The bedroom opens to the third floor loft and has a large warehouse window of its own. Borrowed light also is available here as three tall windows connect to an adjacent room, an idea that Yockel says was inspired by the interiors of Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens in Akron.
From the bedroom, two focal points of the open loft above command attention. An alcove, in what Yockel calls his Zen room, contains a statue of the Goddess of Compassion, purchased at Grandview Mercantile.
And there's an Isfahan rug. Gore recounts the story: "The Shah of Iran originally owned it. A friend of mine, a writer, gave it to me-this was all during my National Geographic days. It's a treasure-it's got an ivory field. We've got it hanging because it's too valuable to walk on."
A touch of Zen also infuses the walled garden at the back of the condo. Colorful steel ribbon sculptures by artist Mike Elsass undulate against gray cement block walls. Carefully edited plantings-coral bells, hinoki cypress, climbing hydrangeas flanking a modern industrial fountain, maiden hair grasses and a paper bark maple-ensure lushness now and winter interest later.
The homeowners carefully edited their outdoor seating, too, preferring four Brown Jordan chairs and a low, glass-top table to the typical outdoor dining set. Black metal frames and bright red cushions appear decidedly Asian. With a small serving bar just inside the door, "it's a perfect spot for cocktails," Yockel says. Quiet, serene, yet steps away from the hum of the Short North's urban energy.
Rhonda Koulermos is a freelance writer.