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Olde is New Again

Renovating a timeworn home is an expedition best endeavored by those open to the twists and turns of a journey through history, style, and compromise. Carrying a legacy within your walls is a distinction offered to few. But the neighborhood of Olde Towne East is saturated with history at every turn, and the tight-knit homeowners [...]
Jeni Ruisch



Renovating a timeworn home is an expedition best endeavored by those open to the twists and turns of a journey through history, style, and compromise. Carrying a legacy within your walls is a distinction offered to few. But the neighborhood of Olde Towne East is saturated with history at every turn, and the tight-knit homeowners love to tell the stories of their abodes. Before the summer tour of historic homes has OTE homeowners opening their doors to the public this month, (614) got a sneak peek into a few of the buildings being remade in this residential renaissance.
Urban History, Unearthed

A streetlight from Chicago, a view of stained glass church windows, buried treasure in the yard, and a baby on the way.

In three years, Michael and Amanda Smith have remade their home on Bryden Road into a polished glow of its ancient splendor. Built around 1893, the elephantine structure boasts unique curved walls and high ceilings. Warm-hued wood banisters and hulking pocket doors are right at home in the entryway, and custom art and details abound.
As we wandered through the house he shares with his wife, daughter, and dogs, Michael reflects on ending up with such a massive home, one they scooped up for far below market value.

“We weren’t looking for a renovation, but it worked out well,” he said. “The size is a lot bigger than we ever planned for. With the third floor, it’s like 4,800-square-feet. But we felt this is a great location, we can really put some work into this and make it something special. And we did.”

Days after closing, the Smiths found out they needed to furnish a nursery sooner rather than later, as a baby was about to make three. And so they got to work.

The house had been split into apartments, so doors and walls needed to be broken down to reparcel the spaces on the second floor. A master suite was added, with an enviable bathroom. It’s a far cry from what they started with:

“I’m not kidding—it looked like a set from the first Saw movie. All white tile, busted and cracked, nasty radiator hanging off the wall. We got rid of it completely,” Michael said.

A huge shower and a stand alone tub now share the space, which is coated floor to ceiling with white Carrara marble from Tuscany. In the walk-through closet between the bedroom and bathroom is a custom stained glass window made by Franklin Art Glass, a final piece of renovation that Michael had installed to surprise Amanda.


Across the street, dominating the view from the master suite is the Old First Presbyterian Church, dating back to 1806. The ancient stone structure has stained glass depictions in the windows that cast their light across Ohio Avenue.

“It’s really nice in the morning, the sunlight comes through the church before the sun gets high. Those stained glass windows just light up,” Michael said.

The Smiths had to begin their work literally from the ground up. In regrading the entirety of the yard, and adding a play area for their young daughter, Josephine, they uncovered a newel post that was tossed aside decades ago. The couple decided to keep the statue, a robed woman surrounded by multiple antique bulbs, as a sort of reclamation trophy. Cleaned up, and set upon a custom pedestal made by Fortin Ironworks, the now floor lamp is wired for power and stakes a claim inside the foyer.

The house acts as a collaborative effort between the homeowners and artists from around the capital city. The sliding door in the guest bath, created by Branches Craft Company, reflects the old six panel doors from elsewhere in the house and has a beveled mirror to recall the antique glass on the entryway door.

Hanging above the stairs is an antique Chicago street light made by Westinghouse, which was rewired and hung with metalwork by the people at The Lamplighter, another in a series of locally-produced furnishings that harken back to a time when everything was custom.

“If you look at the history of the neighborhood, when Bryden Road and Broad Street in particular were built, the people that built those homes, they were the titans of Columbus,” Michael said.

The Smiths feel a responsibility to care for that history as they update their home in a way that keeps it on display for future owners.

“You can get a little nostalgic and think: different people have had a stake in this home at different points in history. When you think about it, at some point in the future, we won’t be here anymore. So what did we leave? It’s a part of that history and continuity of the house. That newel post, at some point 130 years ago, some craftsman was probably out front with chisel sets carving that, and I walk up the stairs and put my hand on it. That’s cool. And that’s what we love about the house and the broader neighborhood—everywhere you look, there’s incredible craftsmanship that doesn’t exist anymore.”

Risk. Renovate. Reward.

She replaced each broken window, and plastered and painted over the bullet holes in the front of the house.
She had a structural engineer reinforce an added wing that threatened to fall away completely from the original structure.
Now, the house on Ohio Avenue stands proudly with a new coat of paint, flowers blooming at its feet. Suzanna Lynch of Sherman Ohio Enterprises sees potential in places that may seem beyond repair. All she needs is good bones and a little elbow grease.
“There was a lot of structural stuff we had to do… But for the most part, the brick house was in great shape. The foundation was in great shape. That back part was just hanging on by a thread.”

Back when the tour started in the ’80s, Columbus had a program where you could buy blighted houses for a dollar, if you renovated them. What started 35 years ago as a walking renovation tour—when the changes in the surrounding neighborhood began to spur curiosity—has grown to include churches, gardens, and 15 homes.

Lynch joined the accelerating movement of renovators in Olde Towne East, and four years later, has found herself growing increasingly attached to her latest project, which she calls her baby. Divided up into apartments, the structure witnessed decades of drugs and violence before being put up for sale in a state of disrepair. It eventually went off the market because no buyers were willing to step in and take on its burden of decay.

But Lynch saw possibility where others saw obligation.

“When people see you working on something, they’re like, ‘Well, hey, I’m going to fix up my house..’ and it just really spreads. It’s really rewarding to see.”
Bright light floods each floor of the house as Lynch strolls down the halls, observing her work. She has become a seasoned house flipper in only a few years, due in part to trial by fire. Her first house in OTE was on Sherman Avenue, the namesake of her business.
“It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It was terrible. The roof caved in, it was like Niagara Falls on the front porch, drug dealers around … but when I looked at it, there were beautiful houses all around it, and about every third house, there would be someone taking care of it. And everyone I met there was really nice. So I knew it would be a good investment.”

Like other homeowners in OTE, Lynch attributes her dedication to the neighborhood to the intimate friendships she’s made in her short time there. It’s a place where everyone waves as they stroll down the street, and you can hear calls of questions carried over from previous conversations from porches to sidewalk and back again.

Up a narrow stairway, the attic opens up into a geometrically divided space. Facing the street is a balcony, set on the high third floor. Her little perch above the city has a view of the slowly growing skyline, and Suzanna points to each home encircling hers, referring to the owners by name.
“My neighbor two doors down has been here since he was two. So he’s been here 60 years.  And the lady across the street, same thing. It’s really nice to get to know the neighbors. They really watch out for each other.”
House by house, Lynch and other homeowners are rebuilding OTE from the ground up.

The Olde Towne East Summer Tour of Historic Homes is Sunday, July 9th from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets are available online in advance for $20, or for $25 the day of the tour. Visit for more.

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Home & Garden

This Old House: Local organizations strive to preserve beauty of historic Columbus homes

Laura Dachenbach



The charm of old houses. The fear of old houses. Italianate or Queen Anne or American Foursquare, they are undoubtedly beautiful. But what are you getting yourself into? An endless project? A money pit? Renovations are never as easy as HGTV makes them look. But is owning one of these architectural masterpieces really out of your reach?

If you’ve ever thought about owning an older or historic home, the resources of the Home Preservation Program, part of the Columbus Landmarks Foundation, can help you learn to restore and preserve the architectural beauty of an older home, not only for your own enjoyment, but to create a historic legacy for years to come.

The slightly over three-year-old program, a free service, was started by the city of Columbus, but has since received additional sources of funding to help its mission. The program has made 182 site visits for individual homeowners.

Photos: Rebecca Tien

“We’re not selling anything,” said Susan Keeny, director of the Home Preservation Program and an architect by training. “We want to go out and help people with their decision-making when they renovate homes. We also have a whole list of contractors that work on older homes so we feel confident that when we give somebody a list ... that those are people who know how to work with old buildings.”

One of the first steps of purchasing an older home is finding a qualified home inspector or structural engineer, and the Home Preservation Program offers a list of such professionals. “If you do get into structural issues, that could be expensive,” said Keeny.

The renovation process can take a while, so Keeny recommends a priority list that will get an owner moved in and stable: electricity, plumbing, and HVAC systems generally need to be brought up to code.

“Tackle the important things first, and every step you make, you’ve added life to your old house.”

Although renovation isn’t a good option for everyone, it shouldn’t be an unnecessarily intimidating choice. Keeny points out that old or new, all homes require care and investment. And sometimes the investment in an older home is less than one might expect.

“You don’t have to throw out old windows. You can repair them,” says Keeny. “If your wood windows are well-repaired, and they’ve got weather- stripping and you combine them with a storm, either inside or out, you get just as much energy efficiency as with an expensive new replacement window.” Keeny added that a replacement window must be replaced in its entirety, while original windows can be repaired a bit at a time, and are likely to last longer.

In fact, any old wood that looks good probably is good, since much of it comes from old-growth forests.

“We don’t have those forests anymore, and that wood has much denser growth rings—it’s allowed to grow longer. So it’s inherently disease-and rot-resistant,” says Keeny.

The Home Preservation Program holds hands-on workshops to help homeowners with projects like window repair. Other popular workshop topics have included masonry repair, porches, and garden design. Homeowners and prospective homeowners observe that many of the features of an older home were made with basic tools, making many projects more manageable than they anticipated.

Eric Fryxell began work on his 100+ year-old home in Woodland Park: “I have long wanted to fix up a neglected old house. This is because I’m fascinated by the past, recycling benefits everyone, and old houses generally are more attractive and well-built than new ones.”

He reclaimed the house from a poorly-done flip. “Fortunately, the flippers were so cheap they did not damage the house. It had gorgeous original unpainted trim, the old ceilings and original walls.”

In the middle of his renovation process, Fryxell met Keeny at a Home Preservation Program presentation, and found the connection invaluable. “Susan was immediately enthusiastic and helpful, soon coming to my house and working on planning the kitchen, which was the next major and overwhelming step. She produced at least half a dozen plans and was most generous with her time,” Fryxell said. “Dozens of times I anticipated our consultations with pleasure, and was always inspired and comforted by them. Susan was more than an architect. She was also a general advisor and psychotherapist through the ups and downs of a long, exciting, and stressful process.”

In addition to repair and maintenance workshops, Columbus Landmarks and the Home Preservation Program holds Saturday workshops to help people research the history of their older homes. Fryxell has found information on the original owner (and likely builder) of his home, as well as others who have resided at the address throughout its history.

Fryxell has been at work for about four years on his home since its original improvements were shoddy, but he doesn’t regret his decision to purchase an older home.

“True, had I known that it would be so long and frustrating, I may not have bought a house that needed so much work. At the same time, I am really enjoying the process,” he said. “It is satisfying to have control over the future of an old house—its quality, and aesthetics. I feel that I saved a beautiful house from the ravages of open concept, granite countertops, gray walls, painted trim, and recessed lighting!”

But the Home Preservation Program doesn’t see just individual houses. It sees an entire piece of Columbus history populated in neighborhoods with older homes, subject to neglect and possible demolition.

“Those are the ones we want to save because when those start going, you don’t get those back,” said Keeny.

To see if the Home Preservation Program can help you, visit

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Home & Garden

Columbus Cribs: Grove City home combines farmhouse feels, industrial inspo for beautiful blend

Regina Fox



On a little plot of land by The Pinnacle in Grove City, one local woman has transformed a house into a haven for design, style, and expression for her and her family.

Nicole McCullough, a stay-at-home mom to her two-year-old daughter and one on the way, has always had a creative flare. It took life when she and her husband moved into their new home in The Woods development about a year ago. Now, their home is filled with storied antiques that have been repurposed, cute DIY projects, and unique pieces of interest that combine vintage and industrial for a look all its own. Welcome to Columbus Cribs with @littlehouseinthecity614.

614: What would you call your home style?

NM: I like the country farmhouse style with white tones and vintage pieces, my husband likes the industrial look with darker tones and rustic pieces, so together we create something unique. I don’t really know what style you would call it though. We live in a brand new home and we are slowly but surely trying to create some old charm and character within it.  

614: What are some of your favorite items in your home?

NM: My most favorite piece is my dining room table. I got the table itself at a flea market and then my dad removed the top and put on an old barn door that was from a barn on our property built by my grandpa. My dad had asked and asked my grandpa for that barn door and my grandpa always told him no but then when I asked him he let me have it. Haha, so my dad was a little salty about that deal. 

We added a bench and two accent chairs on each end and I just love the whole look of it and the way it turned out. Our dining room in this house showcases it perfectly. We got an amazing chandelier from Capital Lighting in Polaris, and a cool distressed canvas sign off Etsy from wordsofwisdom. 

Another favorite piece is my chest and mail cubby in my office. I got the chest on sale from Arhaus and the mail cubby was a great find at Elm and Iron!  I had been on a hunt for a mail cubby for quite awhile. I was kicking myself in the butt because I had passed one up once when I wasn’t exactly sure where I could put it and then when I went back for it it was gone. So when I saw this mail cubby one day while browsing Elm and Iron I had to get it and it fits perfectly!!

614: Can you tell us some of the places you have found your items, or places you like to shop? 

NM: Local stores I love are Arhaus, Elm and Iron, and The Heritage Square Mall.  I also enjoy going to vintage markets, and such. I just went to the Country Living fair last weekend and had a blast! 

614: What inspires your design style?

NM: I grew up in the country in a log cabin and was surrounded by antiques. Going “pickin” is one of my mom and I’s favorite pass times.  I would say this is where my style started from and it has evolved from there as I got married and combined my husbands style and such.  

614: What do you try to avoid while decorating?

NM: I try to avoid to much clutter!  I tend to like to pile a lot of stuff into a tiny space and it drives my husband crazy. So I will pile a bunch of stuff together and then slowly take away some things until it looks right! I think I redid these shelves a hundred times before I got it right. Sometimes I had it to cluttered and sometimes there wasn’t enough!  I love these shelves though, my husband made them! He is pretty handy and we do a lot of DIY projects.

614: Any tips for fall/Halloween decorating or transitioning from summer to fall decor? 

NM: I LOVE fall/Halloween decor!! I tend to decorate for fall really early.  It’s like as soon as I burn a pumpkin spice candle I go crazy!! I would say just to find your style and go with it.  Whether that be more subtle or going all out.  I also like to get a little more decor to add to my collectio n each year but I like to go after the holidays when everything is on sale! 

Do you have a sweet Columbus Crib or know someone that does? Let us know at [email protected]

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Home & Garden

Easy Being Green: 3 places to stock up on houseplants




Your space is your little part of the world. What can you do to make it a little more alive? Plants are an obvious step in this direction, but bad luck and bad experiences can intimidate the new gardener. Fortunately, plant stores and garden centers around Columbus help make greenery more accessible to everyone, ranging from absolute beginners to gardening experts. Here are a few local options to help bring springtime blooms into your living space and gardens.


Stump is aesthetically designed around the plants it sells. No ceramic creatures sit on the shelves, no butterfly magnets stick to the wall, even the soil is tucked away. The store is just plants in pots, providing inspiration for how the pieces on display could fit within a home.

One of the distinguishing characteristics about Stump is that it focuses on providing one-on-one consultations. Co-owner Brian Kellett says Stump employees like to talk to customers about how much care people are willing to invest in their plants and what their living situation is like. Travel frequency, available space and light, and how many people live in the house can all shape the advice Kellett may give. Even owning pets can be an important piece of information, since no one wants their plant to kill their cat. (Or vice versa.)

“The biggest misconception is it’s not as difficult as you would think,” Kellett said. “There’s certain rules that you kind of play by, like don’t over water.”

Kellett and his wife, Emily, first opened Stump five years ago. While Emily was studying industrial design at the Columbus College of Art and Design, she started doing research on the horticulture industry, and with Brian, was inspired to open a plant store targeting millennials. Brian also studied and later taught at CCAD, and together they applied their artistic background into the aesthetics of the store: a minimalist, greyscale design that showcases the vibrancy of the plants they sell.

Because Stump focuses on houseplants, most of the species it sells are desert and tropical plants. It’s a great starting point for beginning plant parents, says Brian, especially since Stump provides personal service, and the experience can help prepare someone to be more confident in going to a larger garden center.

“It actually works really well because people build up their confidence at Stump and then they’re like, ‘Oh, now I can go to Oakland or Straders and I know what I’m looking at. I know what section of the garden center to look at,’” Brian said.

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Strader's Garden Center

The Strader’s Garden Center on King Avenue is small. Of course, it has all sorts of plants perched from floor to ceiling, including currently the trendy air plants that can grow almost anywhere in a house. But it’s also a treasure trove for quirky yard and house decorations to accompany the greenery, while also providing the tools needed to tend to the plants and keep up with yard work. 

Strader’s Garden Centers is one of the most iconic garden stores in Central Ohio. Jack and Ruth Strader opened the first Strader’s Garden Center more than 60 years ago on King Avenue. Now, it’s grown to eight total locations through Central Ohio, some of which look very different from Stader’s current shop in Grandview.

Along Riverside Drive, near Dublin, Strader’s has an expansive greenhouse with rows and rows of plants, along with a selection of outdoor decor, making it a one-stop shop for all landscaping and gardening needs. They offer fairy gardens and bird houses, along with seasonal plants and flowers to create a garden center with pretty much everything a gardener needs.

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Oakland Nurseries

Taking gardening and landscaping even one step further is Oakland Nurseries, which has wrap-around services and products for everything gardening and landscaping-related. Back in 1940, Gustav and Bertha Reiner founded Oakland Nursery in Columbus, and 10 years later they moved the business to its current Oakland Park Avenue location. The Reiners spent 40 years in their home in the North Linden area, and since they died their house has been transformed into a meeting and education space for green organizations in the area.

With almost 80 years of experience bringing plants into houses, businesses and public spaces around Columbus, Oakland Nurseries has plants for every person and every occasion. 

Inside their garden centers, like one would expect, are seemingly endless variations of flowers, shrubs and trees, including the charming pawpaw tree, which bears America’s largest native edible fruit. This year, Oakland has over 300 varieties and over 10,000 rose plants available, the largest plant selection in Central Ohio. 

But the garden center team provides much more than plants. They also do landscaping, irrigation systems, lighting, streetscapes and holiday decorating. To get people excited and educated about plants, Oakland hosts programs like herbal mixology cocktail classes and “paint and sip” classes where participants make art and drink mimosas. 

So no excuses readers. Get digging. It’s time to plant some roots.

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