Home: A Dream Backyard in Bexley
Tucked into a quiet pocket neighborhood of Bexley, Todd and Jennifer Werstlers' English country home and its 1.6-acre lot borders Jeffrey Park and backs up to Alum Creek. It's no wonder the couple dreamed of ways to fully enjoy its beautiful, wooded setting with their now-teenage kids.
When the family moved from Canton to this home in 2011, Todd came with no shortage of inspiration. In Canton, he owns Tower Industries, a manufacturer of solid-surface shower systems and countertops for residential and commercial clients. Thus, he has easy access to a world of stone building materials, talented craftsmen and unique ideas.
Todd started this extravagant project with a simple pool house in mind. Yet, once his creativity took over, it escalated to a complete pool renovation plus four additional structures including a larger pool house, a putting green, an open-air pavilion featuring a fireplace and a series of patio spaces.
“It morphed, morphed again and morphed again,” says Todd.
The idea for a pool house was sparked in 2012 when the couple attended a friend's pool party and took notice of the pool house there. Todd thought a building such as this one would be a practical addition to their home's existing pool.
“It makes perfect sense to not walk in the house in wet bathing suits,” says Todd. From here, his ideas multiplied.
Per his Bexley brother-in-law's recommendation, Todd enlisted local residential designer Pete Foster to help translate his ideas into a design. Todd's initial directives to Foster were to design a pool house with a small bar, kitchen and bathroom that matched the look and feel of the home's architecture.
“Pete really got it,” says Todd. “He took out a sketch pad and started drawing like he'd jumped into my head.”
Foster was attuned to the setting and the architecture of the original 7,470-square-foot home designed by architect Stephen Schwartz and built in 1993 by the company currently known as Behal Sampson Dietz.
“Any time I'm doing a renovation, I try to grasp the original intent of the house,” says Foster. “This home is situated at the end of a court and features a strong series of concentric circles in its circular driveway, arched house, arched interior spaces and circular pool.” Foster respected that element by echoing the arc in the renovation plans and repeating the stone, stucco and cedar shake building materials.
Several revisions later, the pool house plan was expanded to 690 square feet with a large bathroom and sunroom for the kids' hangout space. Todd also requested a putting green after a fun evening of putting at a friend's backyard green. Foster ended up using the putting green as a key element in the arc-shaped final design. He kept the original pool in the center, then placed a 60-foot, curved green along its back side, connecting the pool house on one side and an open-air pavilion on the other. The central placement of the pool and putting green also afforded unobstructed views of the backyard from interior living spaces and patio terraces.
When construction began in 2016, one of the project's biggest challenges was to build a retaining wall to elevate the putting green eight feet above the backyard's flood plain along Alum Creek.
“The wall has enough concrete and steel to hold up the Empire State Building,” the homeowner says, jokingly, about the 80-foot wall built by Lacko Poured Walls. Once the wall was completed, the putting green was installed and fitted with artificial turf by ForeverLawn.
Another construction challenge was gaining access to the backyard. Werstler says they sought the neighbor's permission to enter their backyard through her property and created a temporary gravel road for the construction equipment.
For the pool house, he wanted to create the open-air feel of a beach resort bar, so Foster suggested collapsible walls for the two sides of the kitchen facing the pool. On one side, four accordion-hinged windows open along a raised bar. Along the other wall, four accordion French doors open to the poolside patio. The kitchen is finished with Silestone quartz counters, gray cabinets, a metallic tile backsplash, bluestone-like tile floors, a flat-screen TV and KitchenAid appliances including a microwave, range and beverage cooler.
The bathroom features one of Tower Industries' deluxe showers as well as a custom stained-glass window designed by Todd's wife, Jennifer, and made by Studio Arts and Glass of North Canton. The sunroom on the opposite end of the poolhouse is lined with two walls of windows. Here, a television is mounted above a fireplace with a custom limestone mantel and surround. Both the kitchen and sunroom feature vaulted ceilings with white wood paneling.
One of the pool house's biggest surprises is tucked in a back, barrel-shaped hallway connecting the kitchen and sunroom. Here, Todd special-ordered a stone slab called “Wild Agate” from Cosentino of Spain. The nine-foot slab is filled with Madagascar geodes that have been fused together. The 1,000-pound piece is supported by a custom steel structure embedded in the wall and is stunningly backlit with LED lighting.
On the opposite side of the pool, a 20-by-16-foot pavilion is accented with a mahogany-stained wood tray ceiling, stone fireplace, limestone mantel and another flat-screen television. Todd now calls this pavilion his favorite of the outdoor spaces.
“I love to sit out here, roast marshmallows in the fall and watch sports,” he says.
To design the outdoor spaces, Foster recruited landscape designer Will Lehnert of Outdoor Space Design. Lehnert's first recommendation was to add a series of fountains in a low stone wall along the pool's far edge. He installed six distinctive, bronze scuppers, like those found on ship walls to drain water from the deck.
For the landscaping, Lehnert proposed a restrained planting palette of boxwoods, hydrangea and magnolias.
“The house had so much beauty in its architecture that I didn't want to fuss it up, just frame it,” says Lehnert.
He also advised on finishes for the many intimate spaces created between the home and the new additions. For the dining patio, Will accented a wall with two geometric trellises that now host climbing clematis vines. For the pool terrace, he added an arched oak gate to enclose the patio space. He also tapped into Todd Werstler's resources, including thermal bluestone pavers for the patio and custom limestone coping along the edge of the pool and landscaped beds.
“Todd curated everything for this project,” says Lehnert. “He really showed up with nice material in a timely manner.”