A Match Made in Bexley

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

A longtime resident connects with a renovated home (as well as a partner)

About six years ago, a Bexley widow decided she was ready to start dating again. She spent a year having coffee with men she met via Match.com. But it wasn't until longtime Lancaster resident Stephen Winegardner suggested they talk over a glass of wine that Michelle Brunetto felt she'd met her match.

Brunetto calls herself a "lifetime lion," having graduated from Gahanna-Lincoln High School, home of the Lions, before moving to Bexley, also known as the Lions, in the 1970s to be closer to Capital Law School, where her late husband Joe was studying. There, they raised their three children in the Bexley schools, where Michelle also worked for 25 years, until recently retiring.

After meeting Winegardner over that fortuitous glass of wine, the new couple soon began taking turns driving to the other's home to visit.

They weren't exactly looking for a place to call their own, but it happened when a Bexley house Brunetto had admired was about to go on the market. Her son, a co-owner of the remodeling company H Design Build, had updated the property for its then-owner and Brunetto had walked through the home to view her son's work at that time. She fell more in love with it after each visit. At one point, she messaged the homeowner to ask if ever it were for sale that she get the first call.

When that call came, Brunetto and Winegardner quickly decided to make an offer. In 2013, Winegardner left Lancaster, a city where he lived for 48 years, to join Brunetto in their central Bexley home.

"I love it," says Brunetto, of the 3,200-square-foot abode. The house, built in 1942, offers generously portioned rooms and a vaulted ceiling with a large skylight over the kitchen dining area. Brunetto chose to have rooms painted in neutral, albeit warm hues, making it feel like a "Florida home," she says.

Winegardner likes the house's open feeling and the natural light that floods it. The house has three stories, but the couple spends nearly all their time on its first floor, which features a large living room, a piano room, an open-concept kitchen and dining area, Winegardner's office and the large master suite.

"There's plenty of room to have your own space if you want it, but not so much that you feel you have to hunt for company," says Brunetto.

A spacious second floor includes two bedrooms and a full bath. The rooms are ideal for overnight guests and to serve as play rooms for the nine grandchildren the couple has between them.

Even though he doesn't use it often, ?Winegardner has a man-cave in the lower level of the home, complete with Ohio State University memorabilia. (Now that Brunetto has retired, her partner jokes that he may make his way there more often.) There is one reason the couple heads to the basement together, though. A former storage area is now lined with wine racks to accommodate the bottled collection.

Among the couple's favorite characteristics of the property is a new landscaping project they've completed since its purchase. Both enjoy gardening-she likes flowers and he grows vegetables. In the summer of 2015, they hired a Bexley landscaper to remove unwieldy plantings and revamp space near the driveway. On one side, annuals and some perennials are planted. On the opposite side, large, raised wooden containers are installed so each resident can tend to his or her space.

The stone driveway was extended to include an area near the two gardens where Brunetto's son erected a wooden pergola. When it became apparent that the pergola needed some type of roof to protect people sitting under it from the sun and elements, they came up with an inexpensive solution: a large painter's cloth secured to the top of the structure that blows gently in the breeze.

These days, the couple enjoys uber-comfortable seating under the pergola, where they listen to the bubbling sounds of the small water feature installed next to it. "We had no idea how the pergola would change our lives for the better," says Brunetto.

Even though she has lived in Bexley for four decades, Brunetto says the move from north Bexley to central Bexley has transformed her life. While she misses her neighbors, she loves the location of the new residence. Shops and eateries on Bexley's bustling East Main Street are within walking distance. The Bexley Library is also nearby, as is the Drexel Theater, which has recently undergone a $2.5 million facelift.

Because their home is centrally located in the neighborhood, Brunetto says living there is like being on a vacation. "It's busy, fun and full of life," she says. "It's city living with a little bit of heaven."

Tami Kamin Meyer is a Columbus attorney and writer.

This vintage Bexley house, circa 1942, was renovated by H Design Build for a previous owner. One of the contractors' mothers, who witnessed the renovation while it was under construction, decided to buy it a few years later.

The bright, white kitchen is flooded with light, partly due to a skylight overhead. The open kitchen and dining space serves as a central location used by the current homeowners. At right, top, the piano room provides a secluded space for music. Below, modern, rustic furnishings fill the dining room.

The home's first floor master suite means that its current owners spend most of their time on one level. Upstairs, two additional bedrooms and a bath are used only for guests, which may include any of their nine grandchildren.

With the indoor spaces already updated, the new homeowners undertook a landscaping project that was finished with a cozy pergola, draped with a painter's dropcloth. A gurgling water feature, nearby, creates a serene space for lazy summer days.

Photos by Will Shilling