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Ohio Magazine - June 2010

 

Modernizing a Fairytale Estate
By Kristen Hampshire

Over the river, through the woods — this is the feeling one gets when crossing into Hunting Valley’s Daisy Hill, a bucolic enclave in the scenic Chagrin River Valley established in the early 1900s by the Van Sweringen brothers. The turn-of-the-century railroad barons built a 54-room mansion, Roundwood Manor, along with this property, referred to as the Daisy Hill Farm Group of buildings, which included blacksmith and machine shops, stables, a hunting lodge, apartments and garages.

“It’s a very striking composition,” remarks David Ellison of The D.H. Ellison Co., recording architect on the project to revive the Daisy Hill Farm Group so it could function for a modern family. “There was always this mystery about the stone complex — what it was then, and what it is today.”

It was never a home. In fact, the 20-acre property called “the farm group” was a working village with amenities to complement the mansion, Roundwood Manor. But today the estate serves as a family compound of sorts, with the addition of a new but historically reverent French-style home.

“The hard part was coordinating the new home with the existing buildings to make it look like everything was built in the early 1900s,” says the homeowner, who purchased the property in 2000 and enlisted Ellison as the local expert to manage detail work. Ferguson & Shamamian Architects of New York City served as design architects on the project, which was featured in Architectural Digest this spring.

Renovating the Daisy Hill Farm Group was as much an exploration of the property’s history as it was an effort to renew it for contemporary use. Despite discussions of its colonial flavor and Georgian elements — and even an initial design by Ferguson & Shamamian that depicted a Federal-style building for the new house — the homeowners firmly moved forward with their desire to create a French country escape.

This style was in perfect keeping with the villa feel of the property, with its dovetail, protected courtyard, hand-laid stone wall and moat — yes, you must cross a bridge over a moat to enter. The breezy interior of the home has the “hacienda feel” the homeowners desired — it’s a combination of relaxed Asian-inspired decor and borrowed features from the property’s hunting lodge, including a majestic fireplace. 

Overall, the property’s footprint evolved as the two-story stucco-faced residence took the place of dilapidated, Van Sweringen-era garages that were razed. Meanwhile, remaining buildings that form a U-shape around a courtyard were completely refurbished to function as 21st-century spaces. For instance, a humble veterinarian’s cooking space in the hunting lodge located across the courtyard from the family home now serves as a well-equipped kitchen for upstairs guest suites and lodge living room/bar. Dog kennels that housed hunting hounds now serve as garage space for the homeowners’ vehicles.

All the details that give this property its sense of place remain intact. “Before us, no one had touched or changed anything on the property, which was great,” the homeowner says, noting how he sorted through the treasures and recovered important pieces. One is a chandelier in the hunting lodge that was made by the blacksmith who once lived there. It depicts “the hunt,” with a carousel of stirrups, saddles, horses and fences. Other period accessories to restore the stable and lodge were sourced from Elegant Extras, an antiques store in Cleveland’s Larchmere neighborhood.

Surrounding the property are a series of intimate garden spaces — rose, fern and peony gardens, a Linden tree allée and borders of Copper Birch — designed by the renowned Maggie Williams of Brighton, England. The homeowner dotes over a koi pond and he and his wife can unwind on an expansive back porch that overlooks the pastoral, cottage setting.

“In the afternoons, we like to come out here, read, sit on our patio,” he says. The horse stalls, for now, are empty. But one day, he may choose to keep his animals on the property, bringing back yet another Daisy Hill tradition.