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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

Kitchen Confidential

Mike Debelius and Ruthi Moses have a Clintonville hideaway that houses their two kids and critters. But try as they might, they couldn’t create a cohesive atmosphere in the common areas of the 93 year old house. The kitchen had an “early 2000s vibe” that they found cold. According to Moses, “The kitchen was very [...]
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Mike Debelius and Ruthi Moses have a Clintonville hideaway that houses their two kids and critters. But try as they might, they couldn’t create a cohesive atmosphere in the common areas of the 93 year old house. The kitchen had an “early 2000s vibe” that they found cold.

According to Moses, “The kitchen was very closed off before, which left whoever was cooking alone for the most part. We did try to remedy that ourselves a few years ago by removing part of a wall and adding a bar. It just wasn’t enough.”

After nine years in the abode, it was time for some rehauls. They set out to break down some barriers and open up the main living space of their abode. Namely, between the kitchen and the living room. They went from shut-in, to an open yet warm feel that has an antique look with modern elements.

To use the space more efficiently, Moses went for a one-wall kitchen, with an island for work space. The layout was made complete by her favorite change, which may be the least noticeable: The bay windows. While they were already part of the original design, the remodel made them about two feet taller. And now Moses can really let the sun shine in. 

She drew inspiration from designs from the 1920s, like antique Sears catalogues. One of her missions was to take the feel of the kitchen back to the era when the house was built. Another inspiration was more modern, and more personal: Moses has served plenty of time in the trenches of the food service industry.

“I’ve spent enough time in the back of the house to know how to run a kitchen efficiently, and that was the goal!”

Doing a lot of the early demo themselves, Moses went to battle with the layers upon layers of flooring.

“I needed to get it all the way down to the subfloor so that the new wood floor would be level with the original wood in the dining room. I also had no idea what I was going to find when I started pulling it up. It was hard labor, but I figured out a rhythm (with the help of my neighbors wrecking bar) and was able to start pulling it up in big sheets. There were five layers to get through, and the easiest way to do it was one layer at a time. I also removed the half wall and bar which we’d previously remodeled ourselves. It wasn’t the first time I’ve taken a sledge hammer to one of the walls in my house, and I doubt it will be the last. There’s something extremely cathartic about the demolition process.”

The star of the remodel was a refrigerator that Moses had fallen in love with. It was a SMEG, two door, bottom freezer, tall and slender, mid century modern, pastel green fridge. It was to be shipped in from Italy. This put the arrival time at four weeks. But the mighty SMEG would prove to be a formidable foe. Its Odyssean journey from southern Europe included Moses basically becoming a supply chain manager, and making a part time job out of phone calls to manufacturers and shipping companies. After inquiries and reorders, discounts, a hold on payment, and constant back and forth, it seemed like her dream fridge would never come. 

“At [that] point, [I was] seriously considering driving to South Brunswick [to find] that container myself. It may seem a little silly to wait this long for a fridge, but we designed the custom kitchen around the dimensions of this particular fridge, which is far from standard size. In hindsight, that was probably a mistake.”

Every element that was used was painstakingly researched. Trim like they made in the ’20s is no longer widely available, but resourceful Moses found it online. The floor to ceiling tile is mosaic sheets of porcelain subway tile. The cabinets, drawers and shelves are all custom-built. The countertops and island are all butchers block.

“I left it unsealed, and have done several sounds of sanding and oiling to create a protective barrier. I wanted countertops that are food safe, and will develop their own natural patina over time.

The sink is a Frankenstein’s masterpiece that took a lot of time and consideration, as well as some good old fashioned ingenuity.

“I wanted to have something that would look like a sink in the original kitchen, porcelain coated cast iron, with legs to hold up its weight. There are a few companies that make them like that, but they’re ungodly expensive.”

Moses and Debelius came up with a clever way to get the look without breaking the bank. They found a company online that manufactures early century-style high back sinks out of reinforced cast acrylic, which is very durable and very light weight. And for the legs, Moses went to half off furniture day at the thrift store and found a table with a set of turned wood legs she thought would be compatible. After adding a block of wood to the top of each leg to give them some height, they now make up the custom base for a very sexy early century sink design.

Moses wanted to put an interesting transition layer between the new kitchen floor and the 100 year old wood living room floor. Ceramic tiles were beautiful, but the materials were incompatible.

“After hours of research, I stumbled upon Mirth Studio, a woman-owned company that makes custom wooden, hand painted, tongue and groove tiles. If you read her bio, she was in a similar situation and just decided to make her own! I am more than happy with the result. We even got a little clever and drilled evenly spaced holes in one of the tiles so that it could also act as a vent cover.”

Moses started the demo with her own hammer and elbow grease, but when she needed the hand of a professional, she hired EnhanceIt. The small, family-owned business was perfect for this all custom job that needed great attention to detail.

“There’s only so much you can learn how to do through internet research. And while we’ve done quite a bit of DIY stuff around here, we’re not professionals and I really wanted the kitchen to be completed with finesse. I needed people who are skilled at carpentry and finishing touches, which is beyond our skill set. But as far as design and layout goes, it’s basically plucked straight from my brain, and flawless.” 

By Brian Kaiser

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Home & Garden

Kitchen Confidential

Mike Debelius and Ruthi Moses have a Clintonville hideaway that houses their two kids and critters. But try as they might, they couldn’t create a cohesive atmosphere in the common areas of the 93 year old house. The kitchen had an “early 2000s vibe” that they found cold. According to Moses, “The kitchen was very [...]
614now

Published

on

Mike Debelius and Ruthi Moses have a Clintonville hideaway that houses their two kids and critters. But try as they might, they couldn’t create a cohesive atmosphere in the common areas of the 93 year old house. The kitchen had an “early 2000s vibe” that they found cold.

According to Moses, “The kitchen was very closed off before, which left whoever was cooking alone for the most part. We did try to remedy that ourselves a few years ago by removing part of a wall and adding a bar. It just wasn’t enough.”

After nine years in the abode, it was time for some rehauls. They set out to break down some barriers and open up the main living space of their abode. Namely, between the kitchen and the living room. They went from shut-in, to an open yet warm feel that has an antique look with modern elements.

To use the space more efficiently, Moses went for a one-wall kitchen, with an island for work space. The layout was made complete by her favorite change, which may be the least noticeable: The bay windows. While they were already part of the original design, the remodel made them about two feet taller. And now Moses can really let the sun shine in. 

She drew inspiration from designs from the 1920s, like antique Sears catalogues. One of her missions was to take the feel of the kitchen back to the era when the house was built. Another inspiration was more modern, and more personal: Moses has served plenty of time in the trenches of the food service industry.

“I’ve spent enough time in the back of the house to know how to run a kitchen efficiently, and that was the goal!”

Doing a lot of the early demo themselves, Moses went to battle with the layers upon layers of flooring.

“I needed to get it all the way down to the subfloor so that the new wood floor would be level with the original wood in the dining room. I also had no idea what I was going to find when I started pulling it up. It was hard labor, but I figured out a rhythm (with the help of my neighbors wrecking bar) and was able to start pulling it up in big sheets. There were five layers to get through, and the easiest way to do it was one layer at a time. I also removed the half wall and bar which we’d previously remodeled ourselves. It wasn’t the first time I’ve taken a sledge hammer to one of the walls in my house, and I doubt it will be the last. There’s something extremely cathartic about the demolition process.”

The star of the remodel was a refrigerator that Moses had fallen in love with. It was a SMEG, two door, bottom freezer, tall and slender, mid century modern, pastel green fridge. It was to be shipped in from Italy. This put the arrival time at four weeks. But the mighty SMEG would prove to be a formidable foe. Its Odyssean journey from southern Europe included Moses basically becoming a supply chain manager, and making a part time job out of phone calls to manufacturers and shipping companies. After inquiries and reorders, discounts, a hold on payment, and constant back and forth, it seemed like her dream fridge would never come. 

“At [that] point, [I was] seriously considering driving to South Brunswick [to find] that container myself. It may seem a little silly to wait this long for a fridge, but we designed the custom kitchen around the dimensions of this particular fridge, which is far from standard size. In hindsight, that was probably a mistake.”

Every element that was used was painstakingly researched. Trim like they made in the ’20s is no longer widely available, but resourceful Moses found it online. The floor to ceiling tile is mosaic sheets of porcelain subway tile. The cabinets, drawers and shelves are all custom-built. The countertops and island are all butchers block.

“I left it unsealed, and have done several sounds of sanding and oiling to create a protective barrier. I wanted countertops that are food safe, and will develop their own natural patina over time.

The sink is a Frankenstein’s masterpiece that took a lot of time and consideration, as well as some good old fashioned ingenuity.

“I wanted to have something that would look like a sink in the original kitchen, porcelain coated cast iron, with legs to hold up its weight. There are a few companies that make them like that, but they’re ungodly expensive.”

Moses and Debelius came up with a clever way to get the look without breaking the bank. They found a company online that manufactures early century-style high back sinks out of reinforced cast acrylic, which is very durable and very light weight. And for the legs, Moses went to half off furniture day at the thrift store and found a table with a set of turned wood legs she thought would be compatible. After adding a block of wood to the top of each leg to give them some height, they now make up the custom base for a very sexy early century sink design.

Moses wanted to put an interesting transition layer between the new kitchen floor and the 100 year old wood living room floor. Ceramic tiles were beautiful, but the materials were incompatible.

“After hours of research, I stumbled upon Mirth Studio, a woman-owned company that makes custom wooden, hand painted, tongue and groove tiles. If you read her bio, she was in a similar situation and just decided to make her own! I am more than happy with the result. We even got a little clever and drilled evenly spaced holes in one of the tiles so that it could also act as a vent cover.”

Moses started the demo with her own hammer and elbow grease, but when she needed the hand of a professional, she hired EnhanceIt. The small, family-owned business was perfect for this all custom job that needed great attention to detail.

“There’s only so much you can learn how to do through internet research. And while we’ve done quite a bit of DIY stuff around here, we’re not professionals and I really wanted the kitchen to be completed with finesse. I needed people who are skilled at carpentry and finishing touches, which is beyond our skill set. But as far as design and layout goes, it’s basically plucked straight from my brain, and flawless.” 

By Brian Kaiser

Continue Reading

Home & Garden

Midwest is the Best

Sarah Karakaian and her husband Nick went straight from Kent State to NYC without ever hitting the capital city. They bought an old home in Astoria, Queens, fixed her up, and rented out the mother-in-law suite in the basement on Airbnb, and the income from that paid their mortgage. Living for free in one of [...]
Jeni Ruisch

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Sarah Karakaian and her husband Nick went straight from Kent State to NYC without ever hitting the capital city. They bought an old home in Astoria, Queens, fixed her up, and rented out the mother-in-law suite in the basement on Airbnb, and the income from that paid their mortgage. Living for free in one of the most expensive cities in the world, they soon realized they made a great team. Such a great team, in fact, that they caught the eye of HGTV. After eight episodes of Beach Flip, they found their new calling: Making homes beautiful and functional. They left the hustle of NYC behind, and on a jaunt through town on their RV tour of the US, they stopped over in Columbus, finding a place to buy, sell, and call home. 614 caught wind of the new arrivals, and stopped by to hear Sarah tell their story, and welcome them to town.

Nick and I decided to join forces and started Nestrs, LLC. We did everything from design, construction, real estate staging, selling kitchen cabinets, and even started a blog. Life in NYC was getting increasingly difficult. In order to work in one apartment in one building you have to get board approval, you can only work from certain times, good luck to you if you have anything large to install, and if the super of the building decides he doesn’t like you, you might as well throw the towel in. We often had to pay someone to just sit in our car while we unloaded furniture and tools. I wanted better weather, and Nick just wanted some place where real estate was affordable and where people had driveways and parking lots. We sold our property in NYC, bought a pickup truck and a 37’ travel trailer, and explored.

I had never been to Cbus before. My very first stop in Columbus was the Stauf’s in German Village. Holy shit! The brick streets…the old homes….I was smitten! Nick and I couldn’t believe how cute everything was. We met up with Carrie Cliffel from the KW Classic Properties office and she treated us like she’d always known us. We were like…is everyone in the Midwest this nice?! We found a run-down fourplex in the Grandview area and fell in love! A lot of Grandview reminds us of Queens, where we lived in NYC. You can walk everywhere and there are a lot of locally owned businesses. Since then, we’ve also purchased another investment property in Schumacher Place.

It started to feel more and more like home. People are SO nice here. And so driven. Don’t get me wrong, ever since I was little I wanted to live in NYC. I miss it very much. But the food scene here is on point. You guys know how to make amazing cocktails. And the residential architecture is on point. Do you even know how hot your real estate market is here?! Investing here is smart.

We furnished [our Airbnb properties] with items we found at local consignment stores and even reached out to local artists and vendors to round out the design. Airbnbs are getting crazy competitive so, as a host, you have to be on your A-game. Guests LOVE when they can experience a bit of the local culture during their stay. We leave a Welcome Packet in our spaces that explain where the art and furnishings came from. We direct them to all of our favorite food spots. If they love the countertop in the kitchen we tell them where they can get it. We share our love of design with our guests and they love it.

Designing Airbnbs is very different from staging a home that’s for sale or designing for a particular client. You can have more fun and try new things. You also want pieces that will last a while and will stand the test of time. If you put quality fabrics and materials in your short-term rentals, you’ll spend less money over time, attract guests that appreciate a well designed space, and create something you’ll be proud of.

I always feel my designs have a touch of what I call Grandma-Chic to them. If it borderlines on something that Grandma would be into, but it’s still likely to grace the pages of home decor magazines, that’s where I like to live. Obviously when I have clients, I do a lot of listening. It’s less about our style and more about what makes them tick. But, I’m a big fan of mixing old and new. Wanna frame an antique doily in a chrome frame? That’s my jam. An elegant chandelier paired with a giant handmade leaning rustic wood mirror? Sounds like a good time to me.

Everyone wants a piece of Central Ohio right now. It used to be that if you were talented and grew up in the Midwest you’d either move to the West or East coast. Now? Talent is staying here. We’re excited to be here in Columbus. Houses here are much much different from old NYC apartments. It’s overwhelming how many people we’ve met here who have giant goals and their missions are all the same…to make Columbus awesome. We’re pumped to be a part of that.

For more, visit nestrs.com, or find them on IG at @nestrs

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