Empty-nesters find a new beginning closer to nature.
High above a ravine along the Indian Run watershed in Dublin, a few years back a dated but endearing 1950s ranch caught the attention of empty nesters Rich and Cindy Stratton. Typical of midcentury builds, the home had a boxy and disorganized layout with beautiful views of the property, but from all the wrong rooms in the house.
Despite the home’s outdated aesthetics and functional flaws, the Strattons knew the scenic property and its location near downtown Dublin’s emerging Bridge Park district was too good to pass up. “We fell in love with it automatically,” says Rich.
A significant downsize from their larger family home north of downtown Dublin, the quaint space met all of their criteria for size, privacy and location. “Even though it was old, it was in good repair. You could tell that somebody had taken care of it,” Cindy adds.
Once a showpiece of modern living, the home was constructed by the original developers of the neighborhood who were its only prior owners. Old blueprints found by the Strattons revealed that the initial design was based on a model from “The Book of Pease Homes for 1957,” a catalog compiled of prefabricated floor plans featuring cutting-edge amenities and appliances offered by Pease Woodwork Co., a home-building supplier with an enormous factory and street of demonstration homes located in Hamilton, Ohio.Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to our weekly newsletters.
Boasting quality materials and high construction standards, Pease encouraged customers to browse the latest trends and order materials. Each house was then shipped and installed by the contractor of their choice. (Later sold, an offshoot of the company specializing in kitchen cabinets and countertops still exists at a different location in Hamilton.)
Because the home was sizable, untouched and perfectly angled on the site, it offered a great foundation for a contemporary update, says architect Jamee Parish, who worked with the Strattons to make better use of the spaces and open up the views.
“This house had huge potential from the very beginning. … We really looked at the existing living spaces as a blank slate,” says Parish. “We needed to rethink where each room was going to be placed, how those spaces related to the outdoors and to each other.” It was a process that involved tearing down walls—including those encasing a staircase to the lower level—re-arranging room positions and reimagining the existing bedrooms.
The refurbished floorplan, completed by Collamore Built, now functions around an open kitchen with sightlines throughout the main level and a more sensible layout in which the dining room and family room have swapped places. New windows and doors provide a clear connection to the outdoors, as well as several access points to the back where a revamped patio and new back porch, with its fireplace and TV, extends the home’s living space during fair weather.
In the kitchen, wide walkways surround an island that houses practical elements, including the microwave and dishwasher drawers, as well as more unexpected features such as discreet storage and an inset TV. Nearby, a frequently used sitting nook accommodates Cindy’s home office, which blends in with wall storage, fashioned as a folding desk that tucks away when not in use.
At the opposite end of the kitchen, a beverage bar with seating was designed to be a stand-alone piece, helping to expand the couple’s entertaining space while visually breaking up the transition into the dining room. To ensure that all of the areas felt distinct yet cohesive, the couple worked with interior designer Tanya Ash on color schemes and finishes to bring the completed look together.
While renovations required the removal of a walk-in pantry, every possible nook and cranny that could be used for cabinets, closets and drawers was incorporated throughout the house. “I was so worried about storage because we came from this big house with all of this storage and all of these closets,” admits Cindy, “and I think it ended up being fine.”
Storage concerns are common among downsizers, but it is something that can be addressed by thoughtfully maximizing every available square inch of space, Parish advises. “With Rich and Cindy’s house, we needed to figure out what they needed storage for, how much they needed and then determined where it made the most sense,” she adds. For them, it wasn’t about creating more space, it was about making the current spaces work better.
One such solution was converting a third bedroom on the main floor into a combined master closet and main-floor laundry for easy, everyday access. They also decided to sacrifice a small amount of square footage in the master bedroom to enlarge a formerly cramped master bath. While the changes meant less guest space on the main level, a third bedroom and new, full bath were relocated to the walk-out lower level where an additional living space and Rich’s private office are also found.
The Strattons say that throughout the process, a lot of consideration went into weighing their needs as empty nesters versus what they hoped the house would offer for their two grown daughters to come back and visit—and perhaps bring their own future families. In the end, they are pleased with how the project unfolded and are happy it has been well-received by their children.
“I think this is the perfect example of an empty nester house,” Parish adds. “There’s still enough room for entertaining and feeling comfortable, but it is not so huge.”
Though they have plans for sprucing up the exterior landscaping, it is clear that Rich and Cindy continue to appreciate the home’s walkable location and connection to nature, regardless of the season. Bird feeders surround the house welcoming wildlife a little closer, while the faint rushing sounds of the nearby Indian Run waterfall lend a constant, soothing beat in the background.