At Home with Yvette McGee Brown

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

It was at a Pilates class that Yvette McGee Brown met the interior designer who would help remodel the bulk of her 1993 Gahanna home, a process that took nearly a decade.

"My husband says it was the most expensive class I ever took," chuckles Brown, former justice of the Ohio Supreme Court and now law partner at Jones Day. "You really get to know a person when you do Pilates. I knew she was someone I could work with."

So with the insight, humor and patience of designer Candy Greenblott, Brown transformed her brick-and-stone 2-story home into a modern respite from the daily grind.

"I don't have the decorating gene, and it takes me time to visualize the final product," Brown says. "I need to see it in my space and feel the texture. Candy never pushes for a quick decision. She is a great listener."

The results speak for themselves.

"After 21 years, I finally have my dream house," Brown says with a sigh. Here's how it happened.


The nearly 3,500-square-foot home Brown lives in with her husband, Tony, and son, David, has come a long way since the couple built it more than 20 years ago.

"This was a Parade of Homes development in 1990," Brown says. "This was the last lot. We like to say we got the best of everybody else's house because my husband would come over and look in the other houses being built.

"We have the double molding on the ceilings because Tony saw that," she continues. "We got surround sound in the basement. We had a bay window in the kitchen but not in the dining room, so he said, 'I think there should be one there, too.' There are skylights here, skylights there. It was a lot of change orders. Consequently, we were way over budget when it came to closing. But I love this house."

Fast-forward several years, though, and the once-chic Corian countertops in their Romanelli & Hughes custom home were starting to look dated, as was the carpet in the family room.

"Initially, I told Tony I just wanted to put granite countertops in the kitchen," Brown recalls. But once the countertops were updated, the white marble kitchen floor-which extended into the entryway and nearby half bath-no longer matched the decor.

"You know the old saying: It starts with one thing, and then everything else looks old," Brown says.

So out went the square white kitchen tiles, and in came caramel tiles of varying sizes to add visual interest. Next, the adjacent foyer was updated with an eye-catching stone floor composed of thin, diamond-shaped, butterscotch-and-cream insets.

The half bath off the foyer ended up getting more than new flooring. "We did some interesting faux painting on the walls in there," Brown says. Next, the family-room carpet was replaced with hardwood.

As the individual remodeling projects snowballed into a near-complete home makeover, friends began to ask Brown why she didn't simply start fresh.

"A lot of people kept teasing me, 'You should move to New Albany,' " she recalls. "But our taxes are reasonable; David goes to Columbus Academy, which is right up the road; I'm 17 minutes from Downtown. We love it here."


Once Brown persuaded her husband remodeling was less expensive than moving, Greenblott and Brown didn't look back.

The carpet in the living and dining rooms, which abutted the kitchen and entryway, was replaced with thick, creamy, wool carpet-as was the carpet in the office across the foyer and up the bridal-style staircase, which greets visitors upon entrance.

The basement, too, got new carpet-and a furniture upgrade.

"Tony has a modified theater room down there now," Brown says. "He has a 70-inch TV and chairs he can recline in. He and David spend a lot of time down there."

Upstairs, Brown converted the former bedroom of one of her two now-grown daughters into a customized closet space.

"It was after she got married, so I knew she wasn't coming back," Brown laughs. "The kids call it my 'Queendom.' I don't know how Tony and I ever shared a closet-and we had a walk-in."

Of all the rooms remodeled in the Brown home, the master bath, which was revamped last fall, is the crowning jewel.

"It is my favorite room in the house," Brown says. "It has a bigger shower that's all glass and has a rain head. And I have this bathtub with those massaging heated bubbles that come up, plus the jets. We have a TV on the wall, so you can sit in the tub after a hard day and watch television. It's my own little spa."

While relaxing among the bubbles, Brown likes to watch shows she has pre-recorded, such as "Scandal" and "Chicago Fire."

"If it's a weekend, I'm a 'Law & Order' junkie," she says. "Or I'll watch a movie-or sometimes just close my eyes."

Brown's other relaxation space is the family room, home to a brick fireplace, blonde oak flooring, twin skylights, a dark leather sectional and a TV nook beneath the back stairs.

"That's kind of the gathering place," she says. "If I'm sitting in there, David will come in and talk with me. It's just a good place to be available for those unintentional conversations."


When Brown isn't working, she enjoys curling up with a good iBook.

"I like historical fiction," she says, noting "Team of Rivals" and "The Presidents Club" among her favorite reads this year. "I find Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln fascinating," she adds.

Then there's dancing.

"I think people would be surprised to know I like to dance," she says, adding weddings and parties are the best places to unleash her moves. "I love line dances like the Electric Slide, the Cha-Cha slide-things I am way too old to be doing in public. It embarrassed my kids whenever I got on the dance floor."

But that never stopped her. In fact, she recently considered taking her skills up a notch.

"My husband and I want to take salsa dancing," she says. "We thought it would be fun."

Yet what Brown finds most relaxing and rewarding these days is simply hanging out with friends.

"When you have kids, you get so consumed," she says. "It's either work or doing stuff with them: going to sporting events, traveling. But now that the kids are older, I really enjoy spending time with my friends that I don't often get to see."

Staying connected to friends, family and work associates is important to both Brown and her husband. That's one of the reasons they've put so much energy into remodeling their home and making it as welcoming as possible.

"I hope what it says is comfortable but nice," Brown says. "We like to entertain, so we want it to be presentable. But it's comfortable. It's open. There are a lot of windows. I like the sun coming in.


"I've seen bigger houses, but their rooms are sort of chopped up," she continues. "I like big, open spaces."

Best of all, Brown's remodeled home brings a smile to her face every day.

"I get up every morning, and when I come downstairs, I'm like, 'I love my house,' " she says. "I think it reflects my personality."