From Horseshoes to Kids Shoes: A Couple Renovates a Granville Stable

From its original a hayloft to its original dirt-floor stalls, preservationists Jeff Darbee and Nancy Recchie have dramatically improved their Granville getaway.

Jeff Darbee and Nancy Recchie
The former stable was recently extended to create more indoor space.

We have been Downtown Columbus residents for more than 40 years, and as professional preservationists we have been involved with high-profile urban rehabilitation projects including the Statehouse, the Ohio Supreme Court, the LeVeque Tower, the Cincinnatian Hotel and Cleveland’s Tower City.

But we also appreciate smaller communities, especially those rich in historic character—Granville, for example. This Licking County village has a traditional downtown business district, two historic inns, architecturally significant housing stock and the feel of an old New England town.

In the fall of 1988 Nancy’s brother and his wife were looking for a Granville property and asked if we might be interested in an old stable behind a house they were considering. We had talked about finding a weekend getaway close to Columbus. So, accompanied by our 10-day-old son, we drove to Granville, took one look at the stable, and said, “Oh, yes, we want it.”

Before long the sale closed, and we parceled off the stable with about an acre of land. This was not high-style architecture, which suited us just fine. We wanted to redo it as a casual, comfortable and informal second home. Nancy’s parents, who would partner with us and share the stable when it was finished, agreed—so we got to work.

Related:A Couple Find Their Forever Home in Granville After Renovating 10, Building Two New

Dutch stall doors originally faced the exterior of the building and were protected by an open-air overhang. Today, the vintage doors are still put to good use as the stalls have transitioned to become part of the home’s living space.

Vision Is Required

Dating from the mid-1940s, our new acquisition had a 13-by-50-foot concrete block first floor. The building’s design included four dirt-floor horse stalls and their original Dutch doors.

The upper floor was a wood frame hayloft with large doors at each end. An overhang, which extended across the stalls, created a sheltered open area below, also with a dirt floor. Hayloft access was by an interior ladder, and the end walls and each stall had a square window. As a finishing touch, on the peak of the roof was a cupola topped by a weathervane with the silhouette of a horse.

Preservationists always want to give an old building a chance at a new life, but feasibility matters, too. This neglected stable looked pretty feasible. Its deterioration was not too bad. It needed paint, a new roof, insulation and replacement of some rotted wood. To make it into a house it obviously required more: electric power, heat, and water and sewer service. Of course, it also needed bedrooms, bathrooms and a kitchen.

We wanted the stable’s original character to remain, so we kept all four stall doors and left floor joists and roof rafters visible. We made some windows larger and turned two into doorways, and we kept the hayloft doors.

In the overhang area and in the stalls, we installed a concrete base with tile flooring. Eighteen insulated window units, bought on sale, helped to enclose the open overhang area to create a 50-foot-long sun porch.

In the hayloft we built two large bedrooms with small, but complete, bathrooms and knee-wall storage areas. Eventually, carpet was added. Down below, we accented the stall doors with dark green paint and recoated all exterior surfaces in their original white.

We used as little drywall as possible, mainly in walls for the downstairs toilet and shower rooms, a combined living and dining room, a small bedroom in one of the stalls, as well as the second floor’s two bedrooms and baths.

Part of the hayloft’s floor was cut out to form a large central stairway with upward views of the underside of the roof and its cupola. Because we initially planned the project as a summertime escape, heat came only from baseboard resistance units.

A large fan that exhausted through the cupola at the top of the building brought in cool air on most summer nights. The additions of a screened porch on the north side, as well as a swimming pool and an open deck in the stable’s former paddock completed the project.

Practicing Eclecticism

A recent extension incorporates a cozy living area and an expanded dining room makes entertaining more comfortable.

Furnishings are what you’d call eclectic, accumulated over time. Sofas are from an apartment we once owned; tables and chairs are from Nancy’s parents as well as an aunt and uncle. Nancy’s brass bed from her childhood adorns one room, and wood furniture from Jeff’s family includes a rolltop desk.

Artwork includes paintings from Rendville Art Works, railroad and steamship menus from Jeff’s collection, and paintings by various friends, including a quirky Aminah Robinson edition on cloth. A weathervane in the stairwell came from Jeff’s father’s boyhood home in Connecticut, and we bought a Peruvian rug from an artists’ program at the Broad Street Presbyterian Church.

A series of paintings hanging

With all the work finally done, we spent our first night in our new getaway on our son’s first birthday, and over succeeding summers we have spent many happy stays in Granville.

By 2009, though, it was time for an update of both the floor plan and finishes. Nancy’s mother was using a wheelchair, so we installed hardwood floors in place of tile, built an accessible bathroom at the east end of the first floor and enlarged the bedroom at the west end. These changes made the middle room, the combined kitchen and living space, smaller but better proportioned, with room for a long buffet with storage below that proved ideal for serving meals when we hosted friends. We also abandoned the baseboard heat in favor of a heat pump and electric furnace so we could have air conditioning as well.

The updates have continued. In 2017 we built a pavilion roof on the deck to make it more useful on sunny days. Then in 2019, with years of entertaining under our belts, we decided we needed more living and dining space. The natural light in the enclosed overhang area was nice, but this was a long, narrow space of limited usefulness, and in the winter it was dark and gloomy. The answer was an addition. We took out three of the four window units on the south side and built a 500-square-foot, shed-roofed wing, using barn siding inside and out.

The dining room table was created out of barn siding by the carpenter. The table’s legs are by Fortin Ironworks.

A large, four-part window was installed in the dining area, and six smaller square windows were added to provide additional natural light. A wood-burning stove in one corner provides supplemental heat. Our carpenter built a unique dining table of painted barn siding situated on metal legs made by Fortin Ironworks in Columbus.

This recent work, completed in the summer of 2020 despite COVID-19 issues, transformed what had been only a summer home in a once-run-down, old stable into a comfortable four-season retreat only 35 minutes from Downtown Columbus. We now spend more time there than ever.

This story is from the December 2021 issue of Columbus Monthly.