An Upper Arlington couple become urban pioneers after the kids leave home.
Just north of Downtaown, the Jeffrey Park neighborhood has sprung up in the far eastern section of Italian Village on the former site of the Jeffrey Manufacturing Company. Five years ago, only a scattering of apartments existed. A few years later came the development of various sorts of condominiums and townhouses. With that has arrived the latest influx of urban pioneers into one of the city’s newest neighborhoods.
After 30 years of living among tree-lined streets of first Clintonville and then Upper Arlington, this is the new community chosen by empty nesters Ann and Tom (whose last name has been withheld at their request). The couple says they wouldn’t have made the move when they were rearing their children. But after their two daughters were grown and on their own, they began thinking that it might be time to leave the nest as well.
They spent more than a year-and-a-half looking at various neighborhoods, including German Village and Clintonville, but ultimately returned to the first home they saw, in the up-and-coming Jeffrey Park.Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to our weekly newsletters.
“My first thought was, hmm, I’m not ready,” Ann recalls. “There was the lack of land. I’m used to a traditional home. How neighborly is it?” They finally concluded that, “we’re kind of done with the yard and the raking … and it seemed like a community down here.”
She and Tom liked the idea of living in an emerging community of other empty nesters, young people and owners of small businesses doing their own kind of urban pioneering. And living so close to I-670? It has its own unique appeal, especially at dark with the lights of Downtown as the backdrop. “I love watching the highway,” Ann admits with a laugh.
Judicious use of windows in their home is key to making Ann and Tom’s space feel spacious and airy, yet private. The four-level townhouse is in a row of adjacent homes in their section of the street; the same configuration is found around them, many of which are residences still under construction.
A large, undeveloped area directly across the street from their home eventually will become a park-like green space. While she waits for trees and plants to come into view, Ann satisfies her growing instincts by participating in the community garden program at Franklin Park, an easy bike ride from her neighborhood, she says. She supplements those experiences by creating planters on the home’s front porch, a rooftop deck and a small area behind the house.
Before moving in, the couple sold everything in their Upper Arlington home and started over with a different approach to design. Gone are the draperies and kaleidoscope of colors, the assortment of art and other objects.
“I wanted clean lines, top to bottom,” Ann explains. “I don’t like a lot of clutter.” The look she envisioned was “casual, comfortable, organic and natural.”
Ann pared it down to a neutral palette with minimal accessories but it still feels like home, she says. Designer Cary DeLuca Gerschutz helped her with scale, visual lines and textures.
“My main concern was keeping an open view from the front of the house to the back,” DeLuca Gerschutz says, since there are few walls defining the spaces. She and Ann wanted to take advantage of the high ceilings and the prominent wood and metal staircase that is a central architectural feature. The two made design choices before the drywall phase, so understanding scale was vital.
“We started shopping everywhere” but confronted a dilemma others have faced as well. Many local furniture stores have gone out of business, so they resorted to online images and measurements. One notable exception is the dining table, made by Edgework Creative. That company also crafted the simple shelving that flanks the stacked stone fireplace. (DeLuca Gerschutz worked for 10 years as a lead designer at Darrons Contemporary Furniture before it closed last year.)
The dining table can seat 10, thanks to two handsome leather benches at the front window that can be moved to accommodate two people each at either end.
An accent wall on the main floor is painted midnight blue—so dark that it appears black at first glance. Wood tones, creams and grays act as counterbalances, and gold finishes accent accessories and furniture. The custom-stained wood floors are a blend of gray and natural, light wood tones. Large blinds allow light control without being intrusive, while carefully placed paintings provide pops of color.
In the kitchen, an 11-foot island topped with white quartz takes center stage and provides additional seating around it. Subway tiles of white Carrara marble line the wall and tall white cabinetry provides more storage than the previous home. “I actually wound up with extra space,” Ann says.
The lower level of the 3,000-square-foot home contains a media/family room, a bedroom and a full bath. The master bedroom suite, laundry room and a cozy office are on the third floor, and one level up is an open area that does triple duty as entertaining, sleeping and work space. Tom’s work area, with its standup desk, is tucked into a niche with double doors that close off the space when not in use. And an adjacent rooftop terrace provides plenty of room for entertaining and an impressive view of Downtown.
This new home represents a marked change in both form and function from their previous one, offering a different lifestyle that both Ann and Tom have embraced. They can walk to events at Nationwide Arena and use scooters and bikes to make quick trips to the Short North and other parts of the city. They’ve met local shop owners and feel part of a growing community, Ann says. “It’s so fun to be down here.”
Editor's Note: The previous headline said Jeffrey Park was Downtown. We've corrected it to say Italian Village.