Home: Granville modern

Sherry Beck Paprocki
A Denison University trustee was smitten with this vintage Granville house that he found in an unkempt state on one of the village's brick streets. After seeing its potential, a massive modernization occurred. Black leather arm chairs by Cassina Hola surround the wooden dining room table.

Three men with personal histories of preservation collaborate to create a miraculous renovation.

During his visits to Granville, Denison University trustee, Jeremy Flug, would often ride a bicycle on a narrow, brick-lined street that winds its way up the western side of the campus, passing an unkempt home that obviously needed some love. Eventually, he called the Realtor listed on the sign.

"I have no rational explanation other than the fact that I was a Denison student and I sit on the board of trustees…," Flug explains, his voice trailing off in a litany of reasons why one romanticizes a college town and the years spent there. This brick-lined street reminded him of San Francisco or perhaps some place in Europe.

"You become enchanted, for whatever reason," he says. "The fact was, I thought it would be a fun project. I looked at it as finishing up a street [of renovated homes]. I wasn't looking for a return. This wasn't something that made economical sense at all."

Flug is a New York City native who moved to a 1920s house in Rye, New York, as a teen. He developed an affinity for old properties as he watched his father oversee the renovation of the Rye home.

In Denver, where Flug now resides with his wife and four children, he had hired an architect several years ago by the name of E.J. Meade, who has since twice renovated the Flug family's 1940s home.

After the deserted Granville home-which once accommodated three student apartments-was purchased, Flug again needed Meade's help. "I had looked at the backside and thought, 'This house needs light,'" recalls Flug.

Meade got it. He, too, has a childhood history that includes restoration. It goes back to an old inn, a historic property between Philadelphia and New York, that his mother "lovingly restored," he says.

Meade went to Colorado after spending time in Boston and Waterville, Maine, where he earned a degree in history from Colby College. After a few years working on historic properties as a certified preservation carpenter, Meade went for an architectural degree and eventually landed a faculty position at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

"I really just became fascinated with modernization," he says. From Boulder, he and a partner launched their firm.

Meade visited Granville to determine the scope of the project. Then, happenstance intervened. Meade met Central Ohio architect Todd Parker at a national conference, and discovered that Parker lived in Granville. In fact, Parker could see the back of the Flug property through the woods. He recommended local builder Andrew Hale for the restoration job.

A New Albany-based contractor, Hale's ancestors built homes in Hale, England, before some moved to Connecticut in the 1700s to continue their trade. Eventually, some of the family moved to Portage County, Ohio, and founded the town of Suffolk. And even though Flug says several builders were interviewed, it was Hale who got the job. The challenges were many for the Flug home, built in 1919.

"Ninety percent of the framing is new," says Hale. Meade says he probably underestimated the amount of water damage to the space. "The biggest thing we hadn't realized going in was how much neglect it had gone through," he explains.

Over a period of 19 months, the team worked through many problems, creating a modernized, one-bedroom home out of the tiny, three-bedroom house. Hale says the floor in the main living space sloped a dramatic six inches toward an old chimney, which eventually was removed.

Flug wanted to protect the old slate roof and there was a point that Hale feared the roof would simply collapse. (In the end, it was saved.) The crumbling stone foundation was practically rebuilt. Tall, steel windows were added to the rear of the home, as an old addition was rebuilt to accommodate a dining room that hosts dramatic views of the wooded ravine beyond. "The dining space really becomes a treehouse," says Meade.

Instead of mimicking the historic footprint of an old house, the architect prefers extreme modernization. Two of the second floor's bedrooms were combined into one peaked master suite with the accoutrements of an open bathroom just steps away from the bed.

"We do a lot of suites in which there's a blurred line between the sleeping area and the bathing area," explains Meade. Nearby, a third bedroom was transformed into a master closet. "It's a master closet that just happens to have a laundry in it," says the architect.

The restoration of neglected properties always includes multiple challenges, Meade concedes. "It's a hard niche," he says. "They take a lot of love to do."

Flug-who visits Granville only for trustee-related events-tends to agree. "This is a labor of love," he says. "I have a great place to stay."

His eventual plan for the home is unsettled, as he adds art from his collection to its walls.

"I want to see where this story ends," he says.