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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.

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“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

Amp up your home style with color and quality from Georgie Home

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Move over, Pantone Color of the Year! A new local business offers a coordinated collection of quality home goods designed in rich color palettes, so consumers can easily and affordably elevate their home style.

Georgie Home, launched by Lauren Wagner and Laura Sullivan, offers thoughtfully designed home and lifestyle products. The company is dedicated to producing high- quality, simple, friendly goods to make your home feel fresh.

“We wanted to create something where we felt really good about the quality and offer products we’d want to have in our homes. We didn’t want something that you just run to a big box store and buy,” Wagner said.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

Wagner and Sullivan’s journey to launch their company was relatively quick. The pair worked together as graphic designers at a national company headquartered in Columbus in the early 2010s. As they searched for inspiration and created mood boards for work projects, they realized they had a similar vision.

“We’d get excited and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could do our own thing some day?’,” Wagner said.

A few short years later, that shared vision was realized when Georgie Home’s first collection launched in November 2019. Phoenix is a line of hand and bath towels in coordinating colors and patterns. The duo started with towels because it’s an easy way to bring a bit of luxury into the home, and high-quality towels will last. While most high-quality towels are plain, Georgie Home offers something unique by combining quality with patterns.

“When you reach a certain age, it’s nice to have a little bit of luxury, and you might as well get something that you will have a while for just a little more money,” Wagner said.

FOR THE LOVE OF COLOR

As designers, Wagner and Sullivan are passionate about color. And when they first started working professionally, there weren’t a lot of ways to feed that passion.

“I was having trouble coming up with color palettes and there weren’t a lot of online resources, so I started creating my own,” Wagner said. “I would find images that inspired me and pulled my color palette from that.” She began sharing these online in a blog about a decade ago, a collection that has evolved into an Instagram account.

As one can tell by Georgie Home’s collection, their current favorite colors (because, like all of us, Wagner said it changes over time) are sage and ochre (a warm yellow- brown) for Wagner, and dusty blue for Sullivan.

CREATE A COZY, PERSONAL SPACE WITH COLOR

Carrying color over into home decorating doesn’t have to be hard or expensive. Wagner suggests using neutral colors such as whites and greys for walls, flooring, and furniture, and using pops of color throughout your space with items like throws, pillows, and wall hangings. She also likes to add natural elements such as dried flowers, which are trendy now.

“I keep my walls the same and change up everything around it,” she said. “My taste changes over time and this lets me update my décor without painting.”

This approach also makes it easy to decorate for the seasons.

“I will add things for the holidays, and I’ll add color in the summer and greenery in the winter,” Wagner said. “I keep it simple–I won’t change my wall hangings, but I’ll update my dining room table, my mantel, and towels.”

If you’re not sure where to start, Wagner suggests perusing Instagram and Pinterest for inspiration.

“There are a lot of home bloggers that are inspiring,” she said. “Find something that you love and recreate it.”

Wagner has a long list of local, chain, online, and brick-and-mortar stores where she finds her decorating elements. Locally, she recommends Jewelweed Floral Studio and Stump as great sources for plants, and Trove Warehouse and Elm & Iron for accessories and furniture. The outlet malls and Wayfair are great for budget-friendly options, and antique shops and Etsy are great if you’re looking for something no one else has. The big retailers such as West Elm, Pottery Barn, and Pottery Barn Kids also have some great pieces.

WHAT’S NEXT

Wagner and Sullivan hope to move Georgie Home into the brick-and-mortar space. With the first collection launched, they are reaching out to retailers to explore wholesale opportunities locally and nationally.

They’re also planning for their second line, which will launch next spring or summer. The collection is likely to include placemats, table runners, and tablecloths. While they haven’t decided on a color palette, it will be fresh and coordinated, and inspired by the season.

Shop Georgie Home’s inaugural collection at georgiehome.com.

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Home & Garden

Columbus Cribs: Scandinavian style, minimal holiday decor in this Columbus cookie-cutter-home

Regina Fox

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Sam Berry is a stay-at-home mom who is passionate about raising her daughter, Scandinavian design, photography, baking cookies, decorating her home, and sharing pics of it all on her Instagram page @chicincolumbus.

She recently moved into a builder-grade cookie-cutter-home in Columbus, which she and her husband are slowly turning into their perfect home. Keep reading read to learn how they're doing it!

614: What would you call your home style? 

SB: I struggle to describe my home style with one word or phrase. I recently took a design style quiz online that kind of opened my eyes to what my style actually is, because it’s all over the place. I love Mid Century Modern but I also like a touch of Industrial. I love Scandinavian design as well but I'm not enough of a minimalist to execute it well. I love a comfortable space that doesn’t feel too much like a magazine (not that I could ever live up to that expectation).

https://www.instagram.com/p/B4xpFyGgBfY/

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

SB: My favorite item in my home is the gold armchair I inherited from my late grandma. I have many memories of it in her home and love that I now have a place for it in mine. It is unique and embodies the Mid Century side of my home decor style (it’s also one of my favorite colors: mustard yellow). I also have a vintage Danish teak sideboard from Boomerang Room that I swoon over every time I walk by it. I would love to know who owned it before it made its way into my home.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B2O48uogj3e/

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

SB: I get my things from all over, but primarily I shop either new at Ikea and West Elm or secondhand via Craigslist/Instagram/Facebook Marketplace. I have found some great secondhand deals, which turn out to be some of my favorite pieces. My favorite places to shop for decorative accessories are Grandview Mercantile, Elm & Iron, and World Market.

614: What inspires your design style? 

SB: I am inspired, as I’m sure many are, by Instagram (@_forthehome, @beginninginthemiddle, and @reserve_home are some of my current favorite feeds) and Pinterest. I love that there are so many different design styles and people out there, so there’s a never-ending supply of inspiration. I have thousands of pins and dozens of saved Instagram posts that I often review when I feel the itch to tackle a project or redecorate a space. I love to take an image that inspires me and recreate it with the items I already own.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5p7KwvgNgg/

614: What do you try to avoid while decorating? 

SB: I try to avoid buying and displaying things that I don’t really love. I believe the items we own can be beautiful and functional at the same time. I actively try to pare things back to only those that “spark joy” à la Marie Kondo. In addition to limiting my decorative items, I also try to not solely follow trends unless they align with my style. 

614: Any tips for winter/Christmas decorating? 

SB: Use what you have! I have so many items that were castoffs from my mom that I love so much so I make sure they have a place. I have added a few things over the years here and there as I come across them. Like the rest of my decor, I try to stick to only displaying those items that I love. I recently donated/threw out a lot of things I’ve been hanging on to that just don’t fit my style at the moment. Now I have room to replace them with things that fit better. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5vtlI1gcRG/
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Home & Garden

Columbus Cribs: This Worthington bungalow is a mid-century modern dream

Regina Fox

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If you're one of the 19.2k Instagram followers, you're likely already obsessed with @bungalow614. If not, we reckon you're about to be.

Taylor Basilio is a home decor enthusiast behind the gorgeous account. She's madly in love with her 1938 bungalow in Worthington that she shares with her husband, two kids, and two dogs. Basilio spends her time culminating the perfect moody environment, tackling as many house projects as she can handle, and eating desserts.

Keep reading to learn more about the local homemaker and her bungalow that gives us heart eyes!

https://www.instagram.com/p/B4QDncjHHRc/

614: What would you call your home style?

TB: If I had to use defined design "styles" I lean towards, I would say mid century modern and Scandinavian, but if I had to define my personal style, I would describe it as cozy spaces that feel lived in. I love moody spaces with contrast; mixing old and new elements like furniture, floors, and accents; and spaces that feel like home as soon as you walk in. My goal is that anyone who spends time in our house feels as comfortable here as we do.

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

TB: Most of my favorite things are items I scored secondhand off places like Facebook Marketplace. Before we moved back to Ohio last year I bought an antique dresser that's now in our master bedroom. It's not very practical, is super heavy, and the drawers will fall out if you pull too quickly, but I love how unique it is and the detail of the pulls. I love that I've never seen another piece like it. Another favorite piece is the dining room table my mother-in-law passed down to us a few years ago while downsizing. Not only is it beautiful, but we have so many great memories around it and no plans to stop adding new ones.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B4ft_qDnmin/

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

TB: Like I mentioned above, I love Facebook Marketplace. There's something so good about an item someone else has loved before you; I love the history. I also love getting things for a fraction of the cost, regardless if they are name brand or not. If I need something new I always check there before going to a store or ordering online. Some of my favorite places to find really great, high quality items we've loved for years are Article, West Elm, and even Amazon. A brand I really admire and hope to add to my collection is Schoolhouse.

614: What inspires your design style?

TB: This really depends on what area I'm working on at the time. I love gathering inspiration, sometimes even months or years before a project, whether it's from Pinterest or a picture of the Bath & Body Works bathroom that I have saved on my phone (this is actually on my phone right now). Right now I feel really inspired by renovated interiors of old Brownstones and I've been working to include similar elements in our home (even though it's a 1938 bungalow and not remotely related to the spaces I use for my vision). I'm really driven by collecting inspiration from spaces I personally would love to spend my time in, and I love figuring out how I can reflect them in my home. My list of projects is never ending and the amount of posts I have saved on Instagram to look back on later is almost embarrassing.

614: What do you try to avoid while decorating?

TB: I used to have a really bad habit of decorating based on other people's opinions of my home. I could be very easily influenced by specific trends, like when the modern farmhouse style blew up. My whole house was modern farmhouse, but also very confused because it wasn't really my style at all. Eventually I got over keeping up with what I thought other people would like, and as soon as I did, my home felt more "me."

I also personally love when homes coordinate in some way, like carrying a specific paint color throughout each or similar accents. I love the cohesive feeling of walking through a home and it all feels like one piece with different personalities. In our house, we've carried the same paint colors all throughout, like in the window trim or doors. And don't forget that things don't need to be new to be beautiful!

614: Any tips for winter/Christmas decorating?

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5HDE5PnDoZ/

TB: My style tends to be really defined by the seasons, but I don't actually change out much of anything other than moving around stuff I already have or bringing in more outdoor elements. In the the summer, I feel inspired by a clean, white room with fresh flowers and bright lighting. We end up moving many of our plants outdoors when the temperature warms up and focus on our outside spaces, making areas like our backyard patio and fire pit as comfortable as they would indoors and spending a lot of our time out there. In the winter, I love filling my home with plants, garland, twinkle lights, and scented candles. And these tend to be my favorite months; I'm a total cold weather and gloomy day person, and I love when my house feels magical like the season.

Follow@bungalow614

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