Renovations Turn a Former Fishing Cottage on the Scioto Riverfront into a Dream Home

Matt and Annie Kentris Arthur sought a home in Upper Arlington, but fell in love with a riverfront property in Norwich Township. Extensive renovations made it a perfect place for family and friends.

Nancy Richison
Matt and Annie Kentris Arthur in their dining area

In 2017 while looking for a new home, Matt and Annie Kentris Arthur gave their real estate agent a couple of non-negotiable constraints. “I told her I was not moving from Upper Arlington, and I don’t want to live on the river,” Annie recalls.

“She sent me [a notice about] this house,” Annie says of the Norwich Township home on the Scioto River that the couple eventually bought. Although the Arthurs had plans for Matt’s birthday dinner that night, they didn’t want to miss out on what might be their dream house. They stepped inside and Annie proclaimed: “This is it.”

She had broken through both constraints they had given to their real estate agent. “It was such an awesome house,” says Annie. “It had good juju. Everything about it, I loved.”

It didn’t take long, though, to envision the renovations that would soon begin. The home was originally built in 1947 as a 980-square-foot fishing cabin. Since that time, each of the four previous owners have added square footage making the home suitable to their style and needs. The Arthurs were no different; they’ve transformed the home—nearly doubling it by adding 4,000 square feet, and turning the four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath home into an eight-bedroom house with five-and-a-half baths. A pool and a pool house have been added to the backyard that overlooks the Scioto.

“We need a big space,” Matt says. The couple, who have two boys, 13-year-old Abbott and 11-year-old Arlo, and a three-year-old Labrador mix named Moose, are frequent entertainers and often open their home for extended family gatherings. For Thanksgiving, it’s not uncommon to have 45 people for dinner with out-of-town family members encamping in the Arthurs’ three guest suites.

“All the cousins want to stay with their cousins,” Annie says. “We fill these rooms.”

Renovations are nothing new for the Arthurs, especially Annie. Her parents lived in 17 homes over 35 years. After meeting at Miami University in Oxford, Annie and Matt graduated from Seattle University Law School. When they returned to Ohio, they practiced law with Annie’s father and one of her sisters. They then took over the family business as Taco Bell franchisees. During their marriage, they have renovated four homes in Ohio, two in South Carolina and one in California. “It’s normal for me to go into a house and totally rehab it and make it our own,” Annie says.

Throughout the downstairs, she used a black-and-white palette adding touches of color and accenting the rooms with tile work from Classico Tile and Marble, including custom black, white and gold tile on the floor of the downstairs’ owners’ bathroom—one of two owners’ suites in the home. In the kitchen pantry, the black and white penny tiles spell out “Ciao,” a nod to Annie’s part-Italian ancestry. She says Classico owner Jan Cahill was “a driving factor in how I styled the house.”

The kitchen is one of the home’s showstoppers designed around the Officine Gullo stove and hood, which Annie says, “came on a boat from Italy in a big shipping crate.” She says the stove is where she typically begins when designing her houses. In this case, she chose a butcher block island, white marble countertops, white cabinets and brass drawer pulls. The True refrigerator in white and brass features a glass door. Whimsical metal pigs float high above on the walls of the room.

Annie has incorporated nature and animal themes as a nod to the home’s setting on 1.5 acres. In the first-floor half bath, the wallpaper features colorful deer, frogs and butterflies in stark contrast to its black background.

Classic black-and-white checkerboard tile flooring in the dining room, which the Arthurs transformed from a former sunroom, highlights a custom, reclaimed wood table that was built for the room by Edgework Creative. Annie says the large table, which measures 8-by-12 feet, can seat 28 guests. Black Windsor dining chairs that her mother had for more than 40 years are placed around it. Edgework also designed a custom table in the kitchen along with a mirror, mantle, island and bar countertops, and even the front porch swing.

Just off the dining room is the gentlemen’s lounge with Wedgewood blue walls and a black-and-white striped ceiling. The room also houses a bar, four cognac leather chairs and antique pictures of men and one “hen,” Annie points out.

The couple each have a home office. Matt’s is connected to part of their favorite room in the home, a cozy space that has numerous windows on every wall to draw in the outdoors. Dubbed the “brick room” by their youngest son, it is located at the back of the home and features water views of both the pool and river, cedar walls and beams, and stonework where it adjoins the original fishing cabin. The brick flooring and fireplace inspired its name.

“It’s the only room I didn’t touch,” Annie says. “We’re in here all the time.”

Annie’s office toward the front of the home is a flash of color compared to the neutrals and farmhouse style seen throughout the first floor. The walls are painted teal and feature colorful artwork including a Robert Mars portrait of Audrey Hepburn.

The Highland Group did the construction on the home and architect Juliet Bullock was an integral part of the process. “She’s done every job for us and for my mom and sister [who live nearby],” Annie says.

Bullock connected the roof lines of the new two-story addition and three-car garage. Upstairs is the couple’s bedroom suite, as well as the boys’ rooms, and two guest suites, one of which includes a sitting room and access to the second set of stairs in the new addition. One of the bedrooms, added by a previous owner, houses the family’s workout room.

The large second-floor owners’ bedroom features views of the river and pool, and a stone fireplace. The vaulted ceiling is covered in shiplap. An adjoining bathroom features a wet room with a clawfoot tub, shower and arched glass doors. The closet was expanded by taking a couple hundred square feet from the original owners’ bedroom.

Matt credits Annie with having the idea of making this house their “forever” home. The two say they have no plans to move and even added a first-floor owners’ suite in the new addition. It’s a room that they may someday move into but, for now, they keep it ready for when Matt’s mother visits from Findlay.

The boys’ bedrooms are connected by a Jack-and-Jill bathroom that includes its own urinal. They also share a playroom, which is all part of the new addition.

“I don’t like a lot of clutter,” Annie adds. This home is designed to be lived in, where no rooms are formal and unused, and their sons can bring their friends over and feel at home. “It was comfortable and casual when we moved in here,” she explains. “I wanted that. It’s a pretty well lived-in house.”

This story is from the November 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.