Home & Garden: A Dublin House Offers Waterfront Tranquility

A Central Ohio architect and her fiancé build a grand home on the banks of the Scioto River.

Laurie Allen

A residential architect with 20 years of experience, Heidi Bolyard knows how to capture and cultivate her clients’ wishes for their homes. But when it came to her own she was apprehensive.

“Everything intimidated me,” she recalls. “I am used to saying to clients, ‘Tell me what you want. I can do that.’ For this house, I really had to think about that.”

Bolyard and her fiancé, Rob Steward, who owns a specialized construction firm, together oversaw the creation of a 5,000-square-foot residence on the Scioto River in Dublin where a 19th-century log cabin once sat.

The land’s previous owners discovered the historic cabin during a house renovation and stopped the project so that the structure could be dismantled, moved and ultimately relocated elsewhere in Dublin. (The relocation has yet to occur, but a story and photos about the cabin’s discovery appeared in The Columbus Dispatch in 2017.)

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When Bolyard and Steward purchased the property, the house surrounding the cabin was gone, and all that remained were a three-car garage and a salt-water pool. Bolyard, taken with the river frontage and natural beauty of the property, set about designing a home that would take advantage of its environment and accommodate a family of six.

The result is a home that is both spacious and cozy situated on a precious waterfront landscape. She and Steward named it Sycamores on the Scioto in honor of the towering trees that lend a powerful sense of time and place. Bolyard’s favorite space is a screened-in porch overlooking it all. “I had no idea I would love this so much,” she says.

Her design expertise, combined with Steward’s construction experience, gave them a head start on the building process. Still, creating a family home on this open lot brought its share of challenges. The couple expected to find rock underneath the surface, but not the 12-inch stone slab they encountered. Bolyard remembers driving up to the sight of a giant hammer hoe, a piece of specialized equipment the excavators had to rent. The house also had to be built around an existing septic system, and a gas line hookup took 11 months to complete. (They lived without hot water for a month last summer.)

Bolyard designed an idyllic two-story farmhouse, which starts at the front with a stone exterior and a wood-framed, gabled roof. She chose heavy stone for the family room fireplace and an exterior wall in the master bathroom. This is the same wall where two windows with cedar headings flank a large soaking tub. The architect admits agonizing over the stone. “When I first saw the front of the house, I absolutely hated it,” she confesses. “But the mortar changed everything. I remember crying and saying, ‘This is so beautiful.’”

The home’s interior is modern but with a nod to the past. Its main living space contains the kitchen, dining room and family room, all spanning the width of the property with expansive views of the riverfront. Bolyard placed a long dining table between the kitchen and family room so it became an integral part of the living space to be used every day.

Her design choices for the kitchen spun out of a glass backsplash that she and Steward fell in love with, from the quartzite island countertop to the light fixtures above it. Simple, maple cabinetry stained dark brown adds depth. Bolyard designed a small “messy kitchen” that corrals mail and other necessities, and a pantry, located just off of the main kitchen and mudroom. The pantry was made smaller so that extra space could be created for Sheppy, their 3-year-old Sheepadoodle.

They also took great care when designing the second floor, where all the family bedrooms are located. Bolyard and Steward each brought two children to their union, with three boys and one girl ranging in age from 9 to 13. The three boys have their own wing and share a bathroom, while daughter Ellie has a private bedroom and bathroom on the opposite side of the main hallway.

Down another small hallway is Bolyard and Steward’s cozy, but open, bedroom. Windows over the bed allow bright moonlight to enter. Bolyard created a small prayer room that is hidden from view, cleverly tucked behind a shiplap wall with no doorknob or handle attached. Closets and the master bath boast windows overlooking the river. “Sometimes it takes me too long to get ready,” she laughs.

On the lower level are a guest bedroom, a pool changing area, a bar and a family room. Bolyard envisions the space getting more use as the children grow older.

Bolyard, whose work includes designing homes in Bexley, Upper Arlington and Dublin, drew on ideas she had used in clients’ homes to solve certain design puzzles in her own.

With the couple’s busy lifestyle, staying on time and on budget also influenced their design choices. Bolyard’s favorite light fixtures are in the dining room and cost about $300 each. She found the same fixture by accident for the foyer. “I’ve seen people blow their entire lighting budget on one fixture, and you don’t have to do that,” she says. “You can find really beautiful things without breaking the bank. It takes footwork and being open to possibilities.”

For the lower level bath, a cost-efficient vanity from Menard’s fit perfectly, and she chose floor models and scratch-and-dent appliances in some cases. “We’ve got four kids, they’re going to get scratched anyway,” she adds.

Because the house location is vital to its essence, Bolyard and Steward want to embrace that as well. Tree removal was kept to a minimum, and they envision eventually creating a wildflower garden and other natural areas behind the house. “Our goal was to maintain as strong a connection with the environment as we could,” she explains.

Maintaining that sort of connection also helps Bolyard juggle the many projects on her plate. She is currently in the midst of designing a group of tables with clean lines, made of wood and glass, and assembled without fasteners. The furniture line includes additional pieces, such as books shelves and entertainment centers. She’s partnering with a woodworking company to refine prototypes for production. In her spare time, she is embarking on a book about her experiences as a woman in the field of architecture.

Bolyard harkens back to a goal-setting exercise she participated in a few years ago. “I envisioned writing a book by the water, and now I’m doing that,” she says.

As she says on her website, her work as a residential architect transformed when she asked the question: “Can a home plant a seed that will blossom into a life filled with calm and peace?”

Her goal for each project she undertakes is to create a home that brings more happiness, joy and love into the lives of those who live there. In the end, she used those words to guide her personal journey in growing a home from the ground up.