Hidden in plain sight in a recently renovated Delaware County home is a clue to the owner's occupation: a shining sheet of aluminum blanketing the back of the kitchen's island cabinets.
Hidden in plain sight in a recently renovated Delaware County home is a clue to the owner’s occupation: a shining sheet of aluminum blanketing the back of the kitchen’s island cabinets.
The aluminum serves as a sly tribute to the Airstream travel trailer by the company’s CEO, Bob Wheeler, who renovated the home with his wife, Kelly.
The metal, along with a similar piece in the master bathroom, is the only physical nod to Airstream in the Wheelers’ home, but the home tips its hat in other ways to that icon of midcentury American style.
“When I joined Airstream, it started exposing us to midcentury design,” said Bob Wheeler, 46. "Our tastes definitely changed, being part of that culture.”
Working with Charlie Griffey, owner of Griffey Remodeling in Columbus, the couple relied on a striking combination of materials to turn a conventional 1980s home into a contemporary showpiece.
“I have been in business for 23 years, and this is by far the largest, most fun and most unique project I have undertaken,” Griffey said.
The Wheelers decided more than a year ago to move from Sidney, Ohio, to the Columbus area to be closer to a larger city for their three young sons. They wanted to be in the Dublin school district, ideally on its western edge, to be closer to Airstream’s headquarters in Jackson Center, Ohio.
They sought a house similar to the one they owned on the outskirts of Sidney: a 3,800-square-foot home in a wooded setting. Built in 1953 by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, the home features many of Wright’s trademarks such as an open floor plan, walls of glass, wood ceilings, built-in cabinets and a low-slung profile.
“Kelly told me if she could pick up the (Sidney) house and put it in Dublin they would be so happy, but I knew that house didn’t exist here,” said Angela Murphy, an agent with the Revealty real-estate company who represented the couple. “She was optimistic, but realistically, she knew what they had was special.”
After looking at a few properties, the couple realized that they weren’t going to find a home like the one they left. Instead, they turned their search to a home they could renovate to their tastes.
What they found — a large but nondescript 1985 walkout in need of repair — bore little resemblance to their Sidney home but offered a 3-acre wooded site in a location they loved and just enough hints of potential.
“It took awhile to think what this house could be,” Bob Wheeler said. “We knew it wasn’t the style we were looking for, but we knew, with the right things done, it could be a great house.”
The remodeling started with the repairing of structural problems, such as an exterior wall that had been excavated by nesting woodpeckers, and walls and floors that were rotted by water.
The home required only a few structural changes, the biggest of which were removing the wall between the kitchen and dining/living space and replacing a wood deck with a 270-square-foot cathedral-ceiling screened-in porch that perches like a treehouse into the woods behind the home.
Otherwise, the changes are largely cosmetic but painstakingly thorough. (The only area untouched in the home, Bob Wheeler said, is a lower-level guest bath.)
The changes reflect the couple’s tastes for eye-catching materials and flair for technology.
“We’re lucky we have similar tastes,” joked Kelly Wheeler, 41.
Among the plentiful details:
• dark tile floors in the kitchen, dining and living areas instead of the ubiquitous wood
• bleached walnut cabinets with horizontal grain
• quarter-sawn oak planks on the living room’s cathedral ceiling
• a urinal in the bathroom shared by three boys
• handmade square-foot green ceramic tiles that run from the kitchen counter to the ceiling
• a charcoal gray soapstone kitchen counter with strong marbling accents
• a thick aqua-colored glass master bath countertop lighted from behind to create a glowing nightlight
• pop-up outlets on the kitchen counter, to avoid outlet holes in the wall tile
• chameleon vents, inlaid with tile or wood from the surrounding floor allowing them to nearly disappear into the surface
• cable railing around the stairs to the lower level in place of the framed surround
• a metal grate on the landing leading from the garage to the home that allows visitors to shake mud, water and snow from their shoes into a tray below
• motion-sensor clothing rods that light up when someone enters the master closet
• a ventless kitchen wall fireplace fueled by alcohol gel
• glass bar shelves embedded with LED lights that illuminate barware from beneath
• bamboo bath cabinets including a custom-made bamboo pocket door
The Wheelers moved into the home in June, adding midcentury furniture and light fixtures such as a George Nelson bubble lamp, completing the transformation of a once-dated home into something fully modern.
“We could not be happier,” Kelly Wheeler said.