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Under the Big Top

Sells Circus House gets a new owner, look You know what’s remarkable? That the most whimsical home in Columbus was once party to an epic divorce and was a gathering place for alcoholics. Of course, it also was a daycare and a Fraternal Order of Police lodge, making the history of the Sells Circus House [...]
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Sells Circus House gets a new owner, look

You know what’s remarkable?

That the most whimsical home in Columbus was once party to an epic divorce and was a gathering place for alcoholics.

Of course, it also was a daycare and a Fraternal Order of Police lodge, making the history of the Sells Circus House as colorful as the big-top tents its first owner used to prop up all over the country.

Now, the house has a new ringleader—insurance man Wes Wolfe who, as only the home’s seventh (private) owner, is setting his sights on restoring the home to its “original grandeur and purpose.”

You said that purchasing this house was about fellowship. Not everyone is like that—many just want to have their home and not have it be a big deal. What draws you to want a place that you somewhat share with the community?

The home is such a magnetic draw and has so much intrigue in the community with the history and myths … it has just naturally happened. The home was built by the Sells Family largely to entertain and welcome people in. As I get more and more involved in the local community, it has naturally started to become that. A place to bring great people into my house—all locally engaged, passionate, and hustling in their own careers and in life.

You said you were energized by the purchase, whereas it would be easy to be immediately overwhelmed. What makes you different in scenarios like this? Why is this your jam?

I thrive and am motivated in situations that to most seem to be impossible things to take on and balance. I had a vision for my business, Wolfe Insurance Group when I purchased it from my father, and a similar thing happened when the opportunity to purchase the Circus House came about. The stars aligned perfectly … when I first walked in the house—the energy and vibes—I knew instantly where I was supposed to be. It was a huge thing to take on, but I thrive on risks and my entrepreneurial spirit!

What were the places you lived in before this one? This is quite the upgrade…

I had a small cape cod house in Gahanna that I bought when I was 20 and lived in for 16 years; great home, and the old Gahanna area was really cool. When I moved my company downtown in 2016, I had a great opportunity to buy a house in German Village across from Hausfrau Haven.. I loved the house! I bought it for around $600,000; with same philosophy of being involved in community, I was on the Home and Garden Tour in 2016 and from that got an offer for over $1 million for my house … it wasn’t even on the market. That was too good to turn down. The same luck and turn of events took me to the Circus House—and here I am.

What was your house like growing up, in both feel and look? Did your parents entertain a lot? What was the decor like?

We grew up in Gahanna. My dad owned the insurance business and my mom was a school teacher for 35 years. The décor was modern and current to the period; they entertained, but not to the level I [do]. Having a family with active kids made it difficult, whereas my situation is completely opposite.

Did you ever think you’d be living in a million-dollar house? (Just like on those TV shows!)

Never in a million years! [laughs]  I actually saw pictures of the Circus House in the paper 10 years ago or so and had no interest at all. But since then, my life experiences and growth brought me to the place with a different perspective. It was understanding the importance of the home in the community, the incredible story, the architecture, ambiance, and energy.

How much of the old decor from the previous owners have you kept?

I have pretty much redone the entire home in three months… repainting the entire home, gutting and redoing four bathrooms, all floors, painted the entire house and have redone 7,400-square-foot of hardwood. And [I’m] putting in a pool in this summer…

What are your favorite parts of the house? And with so much to explore, are you still finding new highlights since you moved in?

I love the entire house—literally every room. I gravitate most to the Tent Room in the front, just because of the cool décor and the awesome view of the park. I also love the kitchen area which is very open and easy to move around. But with so many guests so intrigued by the entire place, I always go to where they want to spend time the most.

Parking may not be simple, but no one will ever struggle with directions to your house ever again. What are some other pros of being the owner of the Circus House?

Well I do have a six-car garage and two driveways. The home is so welcoming and intimate despite the size—it really is a masterpiece! I wake up every day and can’t believe I am lucky enough to call it my home. I want to continue to pay respect to the history and intended purpose: sharing it, using it as a way to meet great people, network, collaborate, and keep paying it forward for the amazing city of Columbus, Ohio.

Cons?

The cons would just be the upkeep. I say, like previous owners, that I am merely a caretaker—and that is a huge undertaking with keeping everything up and preserved.

 

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Home & Garden

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

Laura Dachenbach

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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 columbuslandmarks.org/home-preservation-program.

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Home & Garden

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

Regina Fox

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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!! 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BxAkvRtlU4c/

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.  

https://www.instagram.com/p/B1PQrtznSi6/

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

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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

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.

Check out: stumpplants.com.

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.

Check out: straders.net.

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.

Check out: oaklandnursery.com

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