A collector's paradise
Columbus natives enjoy spectacular views from a condo designed around their collections.
Carol Wolfenbarger eclectically mixes old and new, including this double dining room table from Grandview Mercantile and contemporary light fixtures.
Michael A. Foley/MAF Photography
Many suburbanites associate a move downtown with downsizing. But Guy and Carol Wolfenbarger, whose spacious home is situated on the 19th floor of the Condominiums at North Bank Park, did the opposite.
When the Wolfenbargers moved from their Bexley Tudor to the newest Arena District high-rise in 2009, they negotiated a double unit one floor from the top of the sleek glass building. “We needed more wall space for the art,” explains Carol, who has attractively displayed their expansive collection in the 5,000-square-foot dwelling.
Carol, a retired teacher and collector who’s developed a curator’s eye, loves the new setting. As she looks out the window toward the Scioto Mile, she describes the panoramic view the couple sees every day. “You should see the oranges on the buildings, and the shadows of the train trellises as the sun sets,” she says.
The Wolfenbargers’ L-shaped unit wraps around to the north with a bedroom view of the outfield at the new Clippers’ stadium, Huntington Park. The Condominiums at North Bank Park were developed by Nationwide Realty Investors as part of the redevelopment of the area which was once filled with barren rail yards, old warehouses and the demolished Ohio Penitentiary. Located at Neil Avenue and Spring Street, the tower includes more than 80 two- and three-bedroom units.
Inside, Carol created a gallery-like interior with neutral walls that provide the background for carefully edited art collections including the work of notable local artists and children’s book illustrators. With some 18 paintings by Emerson Burkhart, she’s clearly a fan of the late Columbus artist known for his risqué mural once whitewashed at Central High School and now restored and relocated to the Greater Columbus Convention Center. In fact, the Wolfenbargers’ collection includes two study paintings of this “Music” mural.
Works of other familiar Columbus artists include the late painter Alice Schille, glass sculptor Christopher Ries, prolific storytelling artist Aminah Robinson and the late Lucius Kutchin, who painted the “Youth” mural at Carol’s alma mater, South High School.
Behind the living room’s piano, an eye-catching composition of 16 portraits are framed in a mix of square and circular gold frames. Along one wall in the sitting room, 21 children’s book illustrations are framed, including two above a closet door.
Carol says she and her decorator hang the art together. “Every time I’m measuring, subtracting and dividing, I think of my junior high school math teacher and all of the practical applications he taught us.”
A docent at the Columbus Museum of Art, Carol has been collecting children’s books and illustrations since she started teaching in 1977. While obtaining her doctorate in children’s literature at Ohio State, she learned to appreciate children’s book illustrations as art. One of her oldest illustrations is from The Story of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith, published in 1906.
The Wolfenbargers’ collections extend beyond prints and paintings, though. A group of 36 cameos are displayed in a wall-mounted case in the bedroom. In the dining room, a collection of Ohio art glass takes center stage. Pieces of Cambridge and Fostoria glass, as well as others, catch the natural light as they sit in a case near a window with the skyline as its backdrop. In a guest bedroom, six generations of family photos are artfully arranged. In the library, 27 aqua-colored Ohio pottery pieces, including McCoy and Roseville, are situated in staggered heights on a bookshelf among old books. Carol keeps her favorites at the new dwelling, but stores the remaining 9,000 of them off-site.
The new high-rise home features an eclectic mix of traditional pieces, antiques and vintage treasures. She claims that she brought “everything but the twin beds” from their large Bexley home. Double seven-foot dining room tables are both from Grandview Mercantile, an antique fireplace mantel and a reupholstered train bench is from Scott Antique Markets, a mission-style TV stand was purchased from Pottery Barn and a wine rack from Crate & Barrel.
With help from interior designer Jon Falk, Carol chose neutral colors for the interior walls, hardwood floors, a large contemporary sectional and draperies made by the designer. “We wanted to show off the art,” says Falk. “The neutrals create spots where there are calming aesthetics.”
“When you develop an eye, you don’t have to pay $5,000 for each piece,” explains Carol regarding her furnishings. “You can find things [like the Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel pieces] that work for less money.” Working with Steve Coup of Coup Restorations, a Biedermeier settee from a tag sale, a baby grand piano and an heirloom secretary desk have all been restored.
The kitchen and bar areas are ideally suited for entertaining. Many of the appliances are hidden in a butler’s pantry tucked behind the minimalist kitchen. In the living area, a bar is designed in a masculine dark wood with a raised granite counter and artsy light pendants from MacKenzie-Childs. Handsome leather bar stools provide comfortable seating, and glass-fronted dark cabinets attractively display glassware and bottles.
Carol says that the couple doesn’t miss their suburban home, especially the yardwork and maintenance. “We used to plant 144 flats of begonias each spring,” she says. (The Wolfenbargers’ Bexley home was featured in the October 2004 edition of Columbus Monthly Homes, although the homeowners requested anonymity at that time.)
Today, from their new perch, these Columbus natives relish being in the midst of the city, appreciating its rich history and continued revival. Forever the art lover, Carol fondly points to several landmark favorites in the living landscape outside her windows—the newly opened Scioto Mile, the arched Main Street bridge and historic pagoda-style train depot nearby. Her husband’s southside trucking business and her high school alma mater are in the distance. n
Teresa Woodard is a Columbus-area freelance writer.