Lakeside Whole House Remodel Featured in Cincinnati Magazine

September 28, 2010

Frank Woodside loves to give tours of his family’s lake house, and when you see the before pictures, it’s no surprise why. He and his wife, Julie, turned a relatively modest A-frame cabin into what their contractor calls “a 3,700-square-foot summer extravaganza.” Gorgeous views of the water extend from almost every room, and light streams in from all directions. If you couldn’t see the original A-frame’s outline inside and out, it would be hard to believe this is the same house at all.

The first stop on the tour reveals the driving motivation behind the project: a small room to the right of the entryway that’s nearly adjacent to the living room. Before the renovation, this space served as the couple’s master bedroom, and its location meant they could hear everything else going on in the cabin. Often, that was quite a lot. Since purchasing the house in 1990, the couple and their two sons have enjoyed countless weekends at their Lake Lorelei retreat, about an hour’s drive east of their primary home in Cincinnati. Many of those trips included enough of their sons’ friends to fill the original four bedrooms, the couch and, with the addition of sleeping bags, even a fair amount of floor space.

As their sons grew (they’re now 28 and 30), the couple began to think about creating their own private retreat within the home. The boys decided to settle in Cincinnati, and one of them is already engaged, so it only seemed natural to create a vacation house where everyone in this growing family could enjoy different activities without being on top of each other.

Extreme Makeover
This simple wish eventually blossomed into a renovation project that more than tripled the structure’s square footage and transformed nearly every corner of the existing home. It’s such a radical change that one of their sons’ friends came out to visit and thought he had pulled into the wrong driveway.

Expansive hardwood flooring greets you when you step into the house, and the back of a fireplace separates you from the living room. The kitchen and dining room are on the left, and a doorway to the right leads to two bedrooms. A mudroom between the garage and the kitchen is where the vacationers drop their towels and sports gear after spending the afternoon in the lake.

The project’s architect, Rod Sidley of Rod Sidley Architects in Wyoming, worked hard to maximize the lake views—a new luxury since the original A-frame provided only one view. There’s a long view of the lake from the dining room, and the living room’s soft, inviting furniture places guests right between the fireplace and glass doors with an entirely different look at the water. To bring more sunshine into the room, Sidley added skylights to the original A-frame’s slanting walls. Even the family’s dog, a Lhasa Apso named Cocoa, knows this is the perfect spot for an afternoon nap.

It’s the upstairs where you’ll find Frank and Julie’s new retreat. “This is what started it all,” Frank says, opening the door to the master suite. The first room features a desk for catching up on work and a sitting area where it would be easy to lose a Sunday morning with a good book. This space opens up to the bedroom, where the couple’s bed is surrounded on either side with built-in cabinets. On the other side of the room, there’s a fireplace, an oversized bank of arched windows and glass doors to a small, private deck. Outside you’ll find what’s arguably the best lake view in the entire house. With a few well-chosen snacks, it’s not hard to imagine spending the whole weekend in the master suite. An impressive bathroom with golden limestone completes the space.

There are three more bedrooms on the second floor along with another full bathroom. In all, the home includes six bedrooms and four-and-a-half bathrooms. You’ll also find two garages where the family stores a boat and two jet skis, along with a huge deck off the back of the house complete with hot tub. The Woodsides are adding a fire pit to the yard, so they can sit outside during cooler weather.

Frank and Julie say they spend more weekends than not at the house and even some weeknights. “Last year I probably spent 75 nights here,” Frank says. “It’s 42 miles to my office. I can get downtown faster than people in Mason.”

The main attraction, they say, is the chance to unwind. “We’re type A’s who keep going and going,” Julie says. “You come out here, and there’s nothing to do but relax. There’s no time where you have to do anything. I can’t get in the car and run to the cleaners and do all the errands.”

It’s also a quiet spot where you can listen to the crickets chirp and take in the pitch-black night. “Even the dog sleeps better out here,” Frank adds. “There are no cars—nothing to wake anybody up.” And if the kids are playing poker or watching sports, Frank and Julie can now head upstairs to the master suite where it’s always peaceful.

Behind the Scenes
But while the house seems effortlessly comfortable now, it took a lot of sweat equity to make it happen. Sidley worked with the family on the design for six or seven months, then brought in Ryan Remodeling, a company he’s worked with on countless other projects. The home’s plans were complete in spring 2005, but the team waited until the fall to start construction, so the family could enjoy the summer season. With a crew working through the winter, the project was finished in time to celebrate the following Fourth of July in the house.

Unlike some clients, the Woodsides didn’t have the time or inclination to pick out every tile and doorknob. Instead, Sidley presented them with suites of materials for approval, and they trusted in his reputation—and the impressive photo gallery of past projects on Sidley’s office wall.

“The truth of the matter is we wanted him to make it what he thought it should be,” Frank says. “I told him when he was done we wanted him to be proud enough to put it on the wall. He said he thought he could do that.”

While the family’s primary home in Wyoming is quite formal, Sidley describes the lake house’s style as “casual elegance.” All the materials are nice, but none are wildly expensive. The hardwood floors on the ground level, for instance, are actually grade two oak, which means the boards have more knots and imperfections than better grade wood. But in this natural setting, those “defects” simply add interest and texture. Many light fixtures look like they might be just as comfortable outdoors, which adds a rustic, comfortable flavor. Natural materials, such as slate and limestone in all the bathrooms, create a unified look.
These kinds of well-thought details make the house more inviting, and you find them everywhere you look. Sidley replaced the old wooden deck railing with decorative metal for a more sophisticated look that doesn’t obstruct the view. He also designed a staircase that’s easier to climb at every age. Each step is a little longer than normal with a little less rise, so you actually feel like you’re gliding up to the second floor. Once you’re there, you can admire Sidley’s built-in beds for the two smaller bedrooms. They tuck into the sides of the slanting A-frame roof to save precious floor space.

Attention to detail was also a goal for Ryan Remodeling, according to Tim Taney, the company’s president. And though this project was out of town, Taney says it didn’t require much extra work for the homeowners. He dealt with many issues over the phone, talking with Julie two or three times a week after the roof went on, and the job foreman, Jim Barrick, kept things on track at the lake house.

Things turned out so well that the Woodsides decided to make a few improvements on their house in Wyoming, and they’re working with the same team once again. But as time goes on, it may not be so easy to tell which house is the primary residence.

“We can go from one house to the other with no problem,” Frank says. “We just walk through the door, adjust the thermostat and enjoy. It’s like going home.”

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