Broad & High
A suburban couple easily adapts to city life atop one of Columbus's vintage buildings.
The living room of this 17th floor penthouse has a balcony that features sweeping views of the city.
Michael A. Foley/MAF Photography
The allure of a vibrant urban life was more than a Hilliard area couple could resist when they decided to purchase a penthouse at the top of one of Columbus’s newest residential high-rises.
Today the homeowners’ newly crafted living space incorporates some of the building’s original architectural elements—such as an ornate iron, wooden and marble staircase—and merges them with all the amenities that modern lifestyles require.
The vintage building on the northeast corner of Broad and High streets, now called 8 on the Square, was built in 1906 as one of Ohio’s first office skyscrapers. Known as the Capitol Savings and Trust Building, it was designed by noted Columbus architect Frank L. Packard.
Developing a living space out of the top two floors of a gutted building allowed for plenty of creativity, but not without several months of extreme inconvenience. The woman of the house and her designer, Judy Kenison, recall several early trips to the building’s top floors during which they walked 17 floors up the vintage staircase—because the building’s elevator system wasn’t yet in place. Eventually, they rode a temporary lift system established for the construction process.
Now, though, the building’s elevator rises to the homeowners’ 17th floor location, and visitors emerge into a spacious foyer bedecked with an antique loveseat, chair and sideboard that are longtime homeowner favorites. It is easy to note upon arrival that, although this dwelling is situated in the urban core of downtown, its elevation gives it the same sense of isolation that a country estate might have.
To the right of the foyer, the living room’s comfortable seating space surrounds a stone fireplace, although those who lounge here will be drawn to peer out vast windows to look upon the Ohio Statehouse and the intersection at Broad and High.
The tidiness of this living space has been considered in its design, from its vast number of kitchen cabinets, including others in the home that secure televisions and even—on the second floor—the building’s utilities.
It is within the home’s first floor, though, that the owners have accommodated various groups of friends and charitable fundraisers. On Sept. 11, for example, they hosted a group of 50 for an evening of hors d’oeuvres catered by the Refectory for the Opera Guild of Columbus. At other times, seated dinners for 30 have been scheduled.
“We like something unique and different,” explains the lady of the house, regarding the couple’s choice to purchase raw space and work with their longtime interior designer, Kenison and her associate, Chris Alibrando. Glavin Fehér Architects, Inc. was brought in to assist with structural elements of the project, while the building’s developer, Casto, finished the penthouse’s interior.
“Basically we wanted a space that was open and light,” says the woman of the house. Another important requirement was creating alcoves for the couple to display their many African curios and artifacts, purchased during the times they have lived and visited there.
With Kenison’s help, it was decided to keep the first-floor living space traditional in its design, incorporating both new furnishings, such as the dining room suite, with vintage pieces that the lady of the house had purchased during estate sales and such.
The homeowner is a fan of auctions and sales, and recalls a time when she purchased a condominium full of furniture so that she could get the half dozen, or so, pieces she loved. She then spent time reselling the other pieces that she did not need. One of those kept pieces appears here in fact.
With the marble stairway as a backdrop to this wide open space, the couple elected to place their grand piano near the room’s entry. Nearby, a spacious balcony accommodates comfortable outdoor furnishings and evergreens, selected specifically for the space by designers at Oakland Nursery Streetscapes.
The kitchen, adjoining the living space, is abundant with modern luxuries, including a coffee station with a built-in spigot. The sparkling granite countertop provides plentiful seating space along the island, which also houses a Dacor stovetop and under-the-counter microwave. Two Sub-Zero refrigerators flank the cabinet-lined wall space, while unique storage spaces make short work of hiding everything from water glasses (in a flat cabinet directly above the sink) to spices and cooking oil (in easy pullout cupboards tucked under the stove).
Through the foyer, past a large powder room and down a short hallway is a sufficient guest bedroom and an attached full bath. The master suite consumes much of the rear space of this floor with a large bedroom, marble bathroom and a second balcony looming several hundred feet above High Street.
The second-floor family room of the dwelling has been created from what was once the raw space of a dark, dusty and somewhat scary attic of the original office building, according to Kenison and Alibrando. Since being completed, though, the area is a more intimate venue for relaxation, with its unique built-in bar area.
In keeping with an African theme, an adjoining bedroom features a headboard upholstered with a rug purchased by the lady of the house when she was in Ethiopia in 1973, helping a news team cover the famine. She purchased the rug, which she believes is made of camel hair, at a market in Addis Ababa. She then traveled to South Africa, where she’d done a hitchhiking trip two years earlier, and met her husband, who grew up there. Interestingly, they were both collectors before they met and continued to do so as a couple after they were married in 1977.
It is on this floor of their new dwelling that the homeowners took the opportunity to design specific spaces to house their collection, where an African woman’s scant outfit is framed behind glass, while some carvings and pottery are situated in alcoves built for that purpose. Visitors could spend an hour or more meandering among the contents here, enjoying unique and wonderful stories about each curio. Perhaps most spectacular is the ottoman that is now upholstered in zebra skin, matching another such rug in the adjoining bedroom.
Today, the lady of the house uses a nearby study area for her new business. Another desk accommodates her husband, an investment adviser, when he works on his filmmaking hobby.
When your home looms over busy High Street and the state of Ohio’s power center, two balconies may not be enough, so a third one is accessible through this study. This balcony features a sedum garden of low-lying plants that hold up well in the sun (also done by Oakland Nursery Streetscapes).
Admittedly, the homeowners are thrilled with their new location. Their 4,000 square feet of living space easily accommodates visits from their two adult children, who reside in large cities and adore the urban flavor of their parents’ new Columbus place.
The home’s downtown convenience is nearly startling, confesses the lady of the house. In late summer, for example, she and a friend walked to dinner at Due Amici on Gay Street and then strolled to the Ohio Theatre to see Jersey Boys before simply walking home. Certainly, living at the epicenter of Columbus represents downtown living at its best. n