A charming Bexley mansion
Ambitious homeowners update a 1920s dwelling to accommodate their aspirations of family.
An eclectic collection of furnishings in black and white are highlighted with splashes of green in the living room of this Bexley home. The rug is made of white cowhide.
A year ago, two Bexley homeowners planned one of their first gatherings in their new house—an elaborate Easter brunch featuring a yellow table set for 15 people, centerpieces of gold fish bowls and a Peeps-decorating competition.
This is the type of event that homeowners Ron Negron and Mike Gritzmacher anticipated for their vintage Bexley mansion—a home they purchased for its generous family spaces, as well as the backdrop it provides for special occasions with plenty of guests. The home will be one of those open during the annual Bexley Home & Garden Tour 10 am to 5 pm on June 12.
Negron and Gritzmacher were living on the south side of Parkview Avenue, among Bexley’s most prestigious addresses, when they decided to ramp up their search for a bigger place. Hoping to become parents, they wanted room for a family. Eventually, they bought the European-influenced mansion across the street with its many formal and unique rooms.
There was some discussion before the deal was made, though. Negron, a native of Connecticut who arrived in Central Ohio several years ago as a trainee for Abercrombie & Fitch, appreciated the white-washed brick exterior of the home. But Gritzmacher, a Wisconsin native who also works for A&F, had to warm to its appearance. “The white-washed brick is something that I’m not used to,” he says. “But once we came in, it was more the open floor plan that we wanted.”
Immediately, the two envisioned changes that would be made. “We saw the potential,” says Negron, who is admittedly the big-picture visionary of the two. Gritzmacher, on the other hand, enjoys the implementation of smaller details, such as the elaborate table-scapes they present during holiday gatherings.
Together, they vigorously began a redesign. The home’s foyer underwent a dramatic transformation that involved flying in Negron’s relatives from Connecticut to assist with stripping dark woodwork in preparation for white paint. Surrounding walls were painted a light shade of gray. The wooden foyer floor was replaced with large marble tiles to add the grand entrance the two felt the space deserved. A too-small chandelier was moved to a nearby powder room, which the couple suspects was a space once used as an elevator shaft for the original dwelling. A crystal chandelier centers the foyer today.
To the right of the foyer, the formal living room is done in a modern, eclectic style that includes pieces the homeowners had previously owned, as well as new items. “A lot of stuff we’d collected through the years,” explains Negron.
When they moved in, they brought along a leather sofa and two accompanying chairs from their previous home, then added a French-influenced sofa, from Oly Studio, that was found at a small Connecticut shop. It happened to match two similar chairs purchased through an online company called Wisteria.
“If you keep the color palettes narrow, you can tie together pieces,” explains Negron. Following his own design rule, numerous throw pillows were selected to coordinate the spacious room. A rug of white cowhide bought at abc home & carpet in New York City covers the wooden floor, with accent pieces of steel and glass scattered about.
At the rear of the room is a column, with intricate cornices, purchased at Grandview Mercantile. Green plants provide color accents throughout. The fireplace here is gas, as is the one in the master suite. Several other fireplaces in the home are wood-burning.
From this room, French doors can open to the home’s recently landscaped front and back lawns featuring at least 150 new trees. Also in the backyard, a new swimming pool is easily visible.
Beyond the formal living room is the library, where original pine paneling is painted deep gray. “We still like the idea of a rich, dark room,” says Negron. Floor tiles were lacquered deep red. A comfortable leather sofa and a prominent desk are placed here.
Across the foyer is the home’s original dining room with more of its quaint French doors overlooking the home’s front lawn. Throughout the formal rooms of this home, large, heavy draperies were removed in favor of allowing in natural light.
A unique olive-brown color called gargoyle from Benjamin Moore was selected for the dining room walls to highlight the creamy white woodwork of crown moldings and such. Here, smaller dinner parties are held.
A rear hallway leads from this room into the home’s former kitchen. Now used as a multi-purpose area, this space usually serves as the mud room with a door leading to the adjoining portico and the garage beyond.
When the couple is entertaining, the area becomes a self-serve beverage center. Nearby, a service sink is available to assist with meal preparations and the former kitchen’s refrigerator was left in place to accommodate overflow. On one counter is a coffee station and another most recently serves as baby bottle headquarters for the couple’s 19-month-old daughter.
Creative types, the homeowners did much of the visionary work and hands-on labor in this home themselves, although the architectural firm of Behal Sampson Dietz was brought onboard to relocate the kitchen and reconfigure the second-story master suite.
To the rear of the home, previous owners had added a big-box-style addition that the new homeowners felt had little warmth and even less style. “It was like a blank canvas,” says Negron. What they loved, however, were its windows and the light that flowed indoors. It was obvious they would extend the plumbing into this massive addition and locate a kitchen here.
With the help of architect John Behal they envisioned a space with white cabinetry, opting for appliances covered with matching panels. They tucked the microwave, a second oven, a warming drawer and more under the generous island.
Marble was selected for the countertop around the outer wall of the kitchen space and a farmhouse sink was installed. Muted gray quartz is used on the island, blending a light-colored palette that extends throughout much of the home. The wooden floor in the entire great room space was stained a deep espresso tone.
“It’s all about just having a nice background,” explains Negron. Across the expansive room, Behal designed the adorned screen that resembles art and folds back to reveal a flat-screen television. Furnishings, generally, are from Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel.
Upstairs, Behal Sampson Dietz also assisted in reconfiguring what once was an awkward master suite, situated over the rear kitchen addition. “Their sensibility is more focused on serene and clean space planning,” explains Behal. “So we worked out a design that is symmetrical and balanced.”
An average-sized bedroom is accompanied by a large bathroom furnished with two vanities. The architects suggested adding the two windows that now offer glorious views of the lawn below.
A new, claw-foot bathtub is situated near the windows so that an occupant can look over the backyard, without giving up privacy. Across the room, a large shower and toilet area each have sandblasted glass surrounds with an aqua hue. Large closets adjoin this space, and a rear hallway emerges into a convenient laundry and craft room. A section of the former kitchen island was installed here for folding purposes.
Other second-story spaces include several guest rooms and their daughter’s nursery all done up in pinks. Through a hidden space over the portico of the home, a narrow hall leads to perhaps the home’s most charming guest quarters, a small room that is situated over the garage and features interesting windows and angular peaks. A stairway leads down to the garage.
During Thanksgiving weekend last year, Negron and Gritzmacher hosted seven adult overnight guests and two additional babies. Guests were scattered throughout the home’s five guest bedrooms and its multiple spare baths were put to use. Daytrippers also arrived for Thanksgiving dinner, which involved a total of 25 guests in two heated and protected tents that were erected on the back lawn.
The most whimsical of all spaces in this home was saved for family use. The one-time third-floor ballroom has been converted to a comfortable sitting space and playroom. Negron—currently a stay-at-home dad—recently designed the fantastical play space in pink and green for their young daughter. It features plenty of affordable shelving and storage spaces purchased through a national discount chain. Nearby, a sitting space designed for parents tending to play dates includes a wood-burning fireplace, television and other electronics.
The homeowners tell a whimsical tale of the house being designed during Prohibition. They suspect that parties were planned for this third-floor protected space so that liquor could more easily flow. Locked cabinetry was installed, perhaps, to safeguard the illegal substances in case law enforcement officers showed up.
Today, the eight windows once established as lookouts over Parkview and the surrounding area simply provide plenty of light for a little girl, her parents and her friends while they are at play. Certainly, with the work that has been done to date, this Bexley mansion has become a warm and welcoming family space.
Sherry Beck Paprocki is the editor of Columbus Monthly Homes.