Back from the Future: Bexley Home Gets a Revival

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

The home was built in 1921, but the decor screamed "Miami Vice." Think glass block accent walls, laminate cabinetry, pale beige carpet and buttercream walls galore.

"The house, in the early '80s, had a major renovation; it was good work for the time, but it denied what the house was," says interior designer Fritz Harding, who has been working to return the 5,300-square-foot historic Bexley home to its Roaring '20s glory.

Homeowners Mike and Sherri Palackdharry, who contacted Harding shortly after buying the house in 2013, are no strangers to renovation. The first home they owned was a Chicago-area Prairie-style house they expanded from 2,500 to nearly 5,000 square feet. Their second home was custom built to their specs. Their most recent house was a traditional brick in Cincinnati where they completely redesigned the kitchen before they moved here.

"Every house we move to, we renovate," Sherri says.

So, when the couple found a well-maintained, old stone home in a neighborhood they loved, they looked past its awkward decor. They knew they could make it right.

"I thought, 'Wow, we have a lot of work to do to change this.' But we really liked the location, and we loved the yard," Sherri recalls. "We knew we could make it comfortable for us and our kids."

Getting to Work

Choosing where to begin was easy. "Any house we look at, as soon as we see the carpet, we know it's coming up," Sherri says.

Dark hardwood floors now shine in nearly every room, and the walls sport fresh colors. But once the easy fixes were done, it was time to start the major work. They decided to begin with the master suite.

"It was just uncomfortable," Mike says. "The bathroom was very cramped. There was no door on the toilet. There was no door between the bedroom and the bathroom. There were glass block windows around the shower. It was like the centerpiece of the bedroom."

Out came the sledgehammer.

"We took everything down to the studs in the bathroom," Harding says. "We gave more space to the bathroom and took a few feet off the bedroom."

The family found a pair of original doors that had been stored elsewhere in the home, so those were worked into the design-one to conceal the toilet, the other to make a linen closet in the bathroom.

"The house in its original floorplan had some 45-degree angles and octagons, so we worked with those to create a walk-in shower," Harding says.

There's also a steam shower, a double vanity with raised marble vessel sinks, a dark oak window seat and a vintage claw-foot tub.

Harding also reconfigured the portal between the master bath and bedroom.

"There's a little vestibule there now, and we reintroduced some segmented arches," he says. "It keeps it open, but maintains that formality."

Harding incorporated several architectural salvage pieces into the master bath design to help rebuild the character of the space, as well.

"Columbus Architectural Salvage had some linen-fold gothic paneling, which worked very well with the renaissance detailing," he says. "We also used architectural salvage in the vanity and window seat."

Making it Classy

The master bedroom didn't require such an extensive reconstruction, so after exposing the extra casement window previously sealed behind drywall, most of the work was decor-driven.

"We found the bed first," Harding says, noting its similarity to the woodwork in the rest of the home. "It's a pickled, white-washed finish that's original to the house. That's one thing they had never altered-the English white-washed oak."

The ornate, leather-inset headboard initially pushed Mike out of his comfort zone, but he's come to appreciate it.

"Fritz was very true to the architecture of the home, and we wanted that," Mike says. "Another thing he did was make the fireplace more of the center of the room, which is nice."

Color-wise, the room is done in taupe, gold and deep purple fabrics in various designs.

"Our family color is purple, so he pulled purple into the room everywhere," Sherri says. Harding even started referring to it as Palackdharry Purple.

"He quickly picked up on what we liked," she says. "He would send me pictures, and it was like, 'Yes! That's it!' He got us a lot of great deals, too."

A pair of identically upholstered but differently shaped armchairs bearing pillows in the family color flanks the fireplace. A botanical Persian rug warms the room. Mismatched night tables grace either side of the bed. And an ivory console table with a Moroccan-inspired gold-framed cutout on the sides dresses up one wall.

"The challenge with finding the right furniture was for it not to be a suite of furniture," Harding says. "These were all found from different showrooms in North Carolina."

Even though his decorating style reflected the family's, Harding still managed to surprise them.

"Something I never would've done was put wallpaper in," Sherri says of the wall leading from the bedroom into the bath area. "But he convinced me that it would be nice and, when I saw everything, I could see it come together."

The complete renovation took about a year, but the Palackdharrys say it was worth the wait.

"Before, the room was just awkward," Mike says. "Now Sherri calls it her vacation suite."

Sherri smiles, adding, "When I'm in there, I'm happy."

Resume:Fritz Harding, principal, Cirqua Studio

Master's degree, historic preservation, Columbia University

"People don't realize historic preservation applies just as strongly to modernism and mid-century works as [older ones]. It actually takes more creativity to preserve a modernist building."

Former chair of Interior Design, Columbus College of Art & Design

"I taught professional practice at CCAD, so launching my own firm has really tested all those theories that I taught."

First client: "Interestingly, my first project was retail-the Blake Rose Salon in Grandview. Now, my focus is residential. One of the reasons I like working on residential is it's more of a relationship. And the more the client trusts the vision, the more you can do for them."

Latest challenge: "My current project is a mid-century gem. It was Byron Ireland's own home. He was the architect of the Ohio History Center. He had a philosophy that you need to respect openness and geometry and simplicity. That project is all about respecting that architect's vision while updating it for the current family's use. We're working with a glass artist and even using things like steel and live-edge wood to reinforce the architect's original vision."

Third time's the charm

Bob Juniper knew the layout of his family room wasn't working, and after two previous attempts to decorate it failed, he turned to design guru Fritz Harding.

"I think what they were trying to do early on is fill the room with furniture," Harding says. "It's a large space and it's vaulted, so we needed to achieve some intimacy."

Now, a custom-built, 8-foot round light fixture helps visually shorten the space. Held up by four massive chains, the fixture blends an oak wheel from a mill with a foundry mold that looks like a wagon wheel.

"The room feels cozier now," Juniper says. "It took some of the focus off the ceiling."

Harding also worked with local carpenter Steve Buckland to build a gaming table with reclaimed wood.

"We warmed up the room with a large rug and over-scale sectional," Harding says. "Bob loves detail, so he chose the exact nailhead he wanted."

Harding even incorporated the Junipers' Navajo rug collection into the room by layering a handful of them along an iron rod hanging from one wall.

"We just wanted an extra layer of warmth that they felt they hadn't achieved yet," Harding says.