A 100-Year-Old Bexley Home Blends Fun and Function to Appeal to All Ages

Whimsy, elegance and practicality mix in this family-friendly, century-old suburban house.

Laurie Allen
Joe and Anna Gasbarro with their son, Angelo, daughter, Gemma, and dog, Otis, in the living room of their Bexley home

A massive maple drew Anna Gasbarro to the 100-year-old Bexley home she shares with husband, Joe, their children, Angelo and Gemma, and dog, Otis. “It’s like a storybook tree. It almost has a face. It was the first thing I noticed when I saw the house, and it felt really welcoming.”

She drew upon that essence in curating living spaces inside the home, blending mature sophistication with fun and functionality. The goal was to create an atmosphere that appeals to all ages.

A cerulean blue vestibule adds a touch of whimsical beauty and sets the tone for the rest of the house, which has a color palette of blues, grays and browns, punctuated by live green plants and lilac-colored accents.

The expansive living room initially presented a challenge for Gasbarro, a volunteer with the Columbus Museum of Art and other local organizations. “I felt that it lacked an identity. I wanted it to be something that’s kind of elegant but also playful. I like midcentury, but I didn’t want it to look like The Brady Bunch,” she says.

To that end, the room features midcentury modern furniture that shows a lot of leg, mixed in with ground-hugging, curved velvet sofas that add a touch of glam and playfulness. Two modern wood and cognac leather armchairs sit in front of a traditionally elegant marble fireplace flanked by brass wall sconces with sunburst mirrors and black shades. Nature-themed accents in brass and other metal finishes add a layer of sleek sophistication.

A striking, midcentury, wooden console holds a collection of classic albums and 45s. Meanwhile, a Baldwin piano that belonged to the mother of Joe’s high school girlfriend adds a more traditional musical element to the room. Sturdy, handsome baskets of games and toys are situated on either side of a faux, shagreen-wrapped game table. “I call it a library/music/game room,” where young children and adults feel equally at home, Gasbarro says. “I love this room.”

Designer Julie Paulino, who worked on the home with Gasbarro, says she focused on creating spaces that flow from one room to another, as well as selecting finishes that withstand the daily use of children but please the eyes of adults. Just off the living room is Joe’s office, which once was an exterior porch and still bears some of the original stone. Slate floors, a curved sofa, modern planters and a wallpapered ceiling help achieve the Mad Men vibe Gasbarro wanted for her husband, a semiretired entrepreneur.Wallpapered ceilings are found in other areas of the home, including the large, marble-floored entryway, where an ethereal, blue-and-white pattern resembling clouds excites the imagination while also being airy and calming. A large plaster light fixture reinforces the cloud motif and serves as a dramatic focal point.

The family room ceiling also is papered in a pattern that evokes both midcentury mod and art deco. “It reminds me of cacti,” Gasbarro says. The room itself is painted a warm chocolate brown and has cozy seating in performance fabrics that allow everyone to relax. “Even the dog bed for Otis is in here. This is a room where we are as a family, when everything kind of slows down for the evening,” Gasbarro says. “It’s probably my favorite room in the house.”

Paulino treats ceilings as “fifth walls” that can make a room feel both larger and cozier. “For the TV room, I was looking to convey a sense of welcome and warmth, and wallpapering the ceiling was one way to get us there.”  

A formal dining room that is chic and stylish enough for adult dinner parties also does double duty as a family gathering space. At the center is 6½-foot, walnut-topped pedestal table surrounded by Louis XVI chairs with wood frames and white leather upholstery. Gasbarro ordered the leather online and had the chairs covered at Old Town Upholstery in Columbus. The materials she chose fit family life, Gasbarro says. “I like that the kids [9-year-old Angelo and Emma, 7] can push their homework out of the way and we can still eat around the table. We use it all the time.”

Gasbarro changed little about the white kitchen, which is anchored by an oversized blue island. She purchased blue leather chairs and a round dining table for a bay window area and added pops of color through yellow pottery and blue and white porcelain.

Two aqua velvet chairs in an adjacent seating area are poised in front of a colorful, wall-sized mixed media piece depicting blades of grass. “It’s really calming, and we can see it from the kitchen, where we are a lot,” Gasbarro says. It’s one of her recent acquisitions from No Place Gallery in Downtown Columbus, where she also purchased an industrial-style mirror for the living room.

The intimate space off the kitchen is a fun place for the couple to have cocktails in the evening and greet the day in the morning. “In warmer weather, I like that you can open up the doors in the morning and let the light shine in,” Gasbarro says. The expansive backyard and outdoor living spaces “are very peaceful. We spend a lot of time out there.”

The 6,000-square-foot home is decorated with live plants, black-and-white photographs of nature and other elements that reflect the family’s love of the outdoors. “I just love plants,” says Gasbarro, who appreciates the mature trees lining Bexley streets. “It’s an arboretum here. It’s so beautiful.” Her favorite tree, of course, is the fanciful one in her own front yard.

This story is from the January 2023 issue of Columbus Monthly.