A challenging remodel in Italian Village Words: Jim Weiker | Photos: Barbara J. Perenic

A 16-foot-wide, 1,221-square-foot home should be a remodeling breeze.

But when the house includes a chimney that must be removed, and when it sits on a 20-foot-wide lot with no parking, that home can seem like a high-rise headache.

Gretchen Stephenson and Stephanie Belt were in the market for an urban getaway when they came across the two-story Italian Village house a few years ago.

They also knew they had a project.

The house, built in 1900, had been inhabited for years by an artist who used the home as his studio. Although he had made useful updates, such as adding a tankless water heater, the home was due for a makeover.

Stephenson and Belt contacted Epic Group and Mary Shipley-Smith, owner of Mary Shipley Interiors. With the help of Heidi Machul Bolyard, with Simplified Living Architecture + Design, the team came up with a plan to renovate the home top to bottom.

They were unable to keep most original touches, so Shipley and the owners sought to echo the home's age. They added wood floors, brick veneer walls and distressed maple cabinets.

All interior walls came down, along with all the cabinets, shelves, doors and bathroom fixtures. Then came the chimney, which dominated the middle of the house. Removing the brick stack required removing a 4-foot-wide section of the floor separating the first and second levels.

Removing the floor revealed an inch of soot and one rodent nest that convinced the owners to replace the first floor's bead-board ceiling altogether.

The look of the home is accented by decorating touches such as a bathroom shelf made of iron pipes.

Epic reshaped the interior, adding a guest suite off the front entrance and allowing the rear to be an open living/kitchen space leading to a new deck and patio.

The second floor is occupied by the master suite.

Very little of the home, in fact, was salvaged, beyond the back door.

With neighboring homes just a few feet away, it was impossible to get any equipment in the backyard to lay the patio, forcing workers to dig the patio base by hand.

The home will be showcased with 10 other renovations in this weekend's Home Improvement Tour, sponsored by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

Today, more than a year after the completion of the renovation, Belt said she and Stephenson wouldn't change a thing with the six-figure project.

"There's nothing I would do differently," Belt said. "We are so happy with this place."


Barbara J. Perenic /The Columbus Dispatch

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