January 2008 Issue
From sketch to reality, Tom and Laurie Hill's vision became a stunning residence in New Albany.
A decade ago, Tom and Laurie Hill fell head over heels in love with a vacant plot of land in what was then the up-and-coming suburb of New Albany, Ohio. This, they decided, was where they wanted to build the home of their dreams.
It’s easy to see how the Hills fell so hard for the place.
In many ways, New Albany — a woodsy, picturesque suburb 20 minutes northeast of Columbus — resembles a Hollywood set. There’s the centrally located New Albany Country Club, for instance, which features a 27-hole championship golf course designed by none other than Jack Nicklaus. There are rolling hills, ponds and neighborhoods of red brick Georgian-style homes surrounded by white picket fences.
Billionaire businessman Les Wexner, chief executive officer of Limited Brands, calls New Albany home. In fact, the village of New Albany was Wexner’s brainchild.
In 1998, Tom Hill, an attorney at Kegler Brown Hill & Ritter in Columbus, and his wife Laurie, a high school social studies teacher, were living happily in Dublin, Ohio, when flyers about New Albany began arriving in their mailbox. The couple, adjusting to life as empty nesters, began attending open houses in the area and ultimately stumbled upon a yet-to-be-built subdivision, named Wiveliscombe, after a town in Somerset, England.
“I knew that this was a wooded area, which excited me,” Laurie, now retired, says of Wiveliscombe. One day, she ventured to the vacant area, pulled on her hiking boots and marched along a flowing stream that ran through the area, which consisted of 31 lots. She loved the combination of natural beauty and the convenience of having everything she needed — a bike path, coffee shop, arts center, library and excellent schools — within walking distance of her home. She was sold.
“At that point, they had stakes in [the ground] so you could tell where all the lots were going to be. I picked this lot.” Soon after, the Hills set to work designing and building their dream home from the ground up.
For 25 years, Laurie Hill has collected copies of Architectural Digest magazine. Stowed away in stacks several feet high, these design bibles came in handy as Laurie took charge of making the couple’s dream home a reality. For the next two years, the Dublin home’s dining room table became her command center. Like many projects in life, this one began with a list.
“I made a big long list of everything I wanted to have in the house — what was important to me,” Laurie says. On the list: a first-floor master bedroom; a garage connected to the kitchen; a second master suite upstairs for the Hills’ two children (and five grandchildren) when they visit; bathrooms attached to each guest room; an open floor plan; lots of natural lighting; and a generous patio. Laurie had never designed a house before, but she pulled out a pen and a yellow legal pad and began sketching out the various floor plans floating around in her head.
As she sketched, she sought inspiration everywhere. New Albany required that the home blend in with its brick, Georgian-style neighbors, so, in addition to Architectural Digest, “I read every book I could find,” she says. “I went to the library and loaded up on books about Georgian architecture, Georgian home styles, Georgian homes in Britain and America. … Every time there was an open house, every time there was a parade of homes, every time there was a decorator’s show house, I went.”
Legal pad drawings in hand, the Hills interviewed three architects before settling on David Stock and Doug Stone, of Stock & Stone Architecture in Columbus.
“It was almost all Laurie’s motivation to get us there,” Tom says. “She’s always loved homes and always loved architecture, so she drew those plans on the dining-room table. We took them to the architect, Stock and Stone, and they said, ‘We don’t normally get hand-drawn plans like this that are really workable. … We can make this into a house.’”
Stock and Stone studied Laurie’s drawings, drew up a blueprint of the dream home and invited the Hills to their office for the big “reveal.” The Hills were ecstatic. “I thought, ’Oh my god, it’s just what I wanted!’” Laurie recalls. The Hills also brought a builder, Doug Butterman, and an interior designer, Sally McDonald (owner of Interiorworks, in Columbus), on board for the project.
From the beginning, it was a labor of love. Even before construction began on the home, Laurie made a point to keep their plot of land looking its best. “I used to come over here with the lawn mower in the back of my car… There was nothing here, but I would come and mow the lot,” she says with a laugh.
The Hills finally moved into their home — an expansive, yet welcoming, Georgian brick dwelling — in 2000. “Tom and I have lived here seven years now and every single day we wake up happy,” Laurie says. “I think it’s the light and the color scheme.”
Natural light floods into the first floor of the home through three Palladian windows in the living room, which open to the home’s latest addition — a 1,100-square-foot red brick outdoor patio, which they finished building over the summer. More than 75 people can fit comfortably on the patio, which features cushy seating, vibrant floral arrangements, an outdoor fireplace and a grill. Parties for neighbors and friends, as well as law firm events, have already been held on the patio.
In the winter, when it’s too cold to enjoy the patio, warm colors — soothing reds, pinks, yellows and greens — breathe life into the home’s interior.
The front entryway wall is painted a crisp, earthy green. It’s a grand entryway, to be sure, but something is notably missing: a staircase.
Instead, the stairs are located in the kitchen area. A staircase, Laurie explains, would have “used up a lot of room in the front of the house, and I liked the idea of not having this staircase where you always had to go back to the front door to go upstairs.”
An open floor plan adds space and depth to the home, as well. Standing in the front entry, for instance, a visitor can see clear to the back door. The kitchen, living room and family room are contiguous, divided by vaulted ceilings of varying heights.
“We didn’t want to downsize. So the first floor is about the same as our old house, but we added things we didn’t have,” Laurie says. “We didn’t have a den. We didn’t have a formal dining room. We were really happy to add those two things. All the guests are upstairs, which is great because we had a ranch before, so the guests didn’t have the privacy they now have by going upstairs.”
When it came to furnishing, decorating and accessorizing their home, the Hills put their trust in McDonald to come up with a design scheme to marry their tastes, which Laurie describes as “eclectic traditional,” and the architecture.
“They were so easy to work with. They were so open,” McDonald says. She started by helping them select fabric — a pink, green and blue floral on a yellow background — for a living room chair, and branched out from there. The Hills also collect paintings by Ohio artists, most purchased from Art Access Gallery in Bexley. The paintings are prominently displayed throughout the house.
“It’s sort of a stunning place for me to come home to, because it’s always beautiful,” Tom says. When at home, he spends a lot time in his study, which he helped design.
“I sat one evening in our home in Dublin … and I went through Architectural Digest issues, one after another, for two or three hours.” He studied trims and crown moldings and selected a 21-course molding (multiple layers of wood trim) that matched the dark wood office walls.
The Hills plan to grow old in their home, so they planned ahead. The master bedroom is on the first floor, while a second master bedroom, on the second floor, could accommodate a live-in caregiver, should the need ever arise. Doorways and entryways throughout the home are extra wide and wheelchair accessible.
“I think all women love to have a nest, and I was working toward my best nest,” Laurie says. “This will probably be my final home, so I wanted to do my best job.”