Buzzby’s Manor

My favorite designer, John Saladino, once said, “If when entering a room for the first time your heart does not start beating a little faster, the designer hasn’t done his or her job.” As soon as I passed through the vibrant blue door of this gracious home in Linn Township, I knew that I was walking into something special. The story behind the success of this home’s interior is the synergistic relationship that developed between the owners, their builder, interior designer and landscaper. By bringing everyone together at the beginning of the project, the homeowners created a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

When the homeowners first brought their interior designer, David Van Ling, to the office of Engerman Contracting, John Engerman had no idea what to expect. Within the hour, they had bonded, immediately sensing each other’s abilities and dedication to realizing the homeowners’ vision. David Van Ling presented Engerman with a revised floor plan that included all of the owners’ existing furniture and antiques.  The owners and designer also brought the builder a complete list of their choices of cabinets, flooring, plumbing fixtures, and bathroom tile from Bella Tile and Stone.

“As in all good design, this house is about its details, function, flow, and subtle repetition of themes”

Getting to this point wasn’t an overnight process.  At the very beginning of the project, the designer took all of the owner’s carefully inventoried furniture and collections and designed the house around them.  As a result, everything fits. Even the baby shoes once worn by the owner’s father were given pride of place in the living room on a French farmhouse table that doubles as a sofa table.

Although Van Ling’s studio is in Tampa, Florida, the line of communication and creative momentum between he and the homeowners was never broken. “There were as many as 20 to 30 emails a day between us,” says Van Ling, “many of them before 9 AM.” With laser-like focus, Starbucks coffee, and his clients’ ability to make immediate decisions, designer and client were able to work comfortably through every detail despite the long-distance.  Whenever David found the perfect furniture, fabric, painting or trim, he would text a photo or post it on his Facebook page for his client to review.  Immediate approvals or disapprovals allowed him to progress as if they were working side by side.

Inside the home

As in all good design, this house is about its details, function, flow, and subtle repetition of themes.  For example, the grid patterned entry gates are repeated by square sidelights surrounding the front door.  Small white squares of the same size are embedded about every four feet into the “Bleu Fonce” Limestone entry floor.

From there I entered into the living room. Three things caught my eye as I first glanced into this room: the reclaimed timber trusses supporting a voluminous 19’ gabled ceiling, two massive (50” diameter) brass chandeliers from Circa Lighting, and a beautifully proportioned 64” tall fireplace mantle built by Brent Schwarz of Brent Schwarz Design in Lake Geneva.  Schwarz also made the built-in shelving which houses a flat screen TV as well as the cabinetry in the piano room that doubles as an office.

The fireplace surround is composed of 18th century Delft tiles that the designer found in an antique shop.  After spending several hours experimenting with various combinations until he was satisfied that he “had it right”, Van Ling created a map for the tile installer by photographing and numbering each tile indicating where it was to be placed in the surround.

Sisal rugs throughout the house send a message of informality, and serve as a perfect contrast to the owners’ well-placed Oriental decor in other rooms.

In many houses ceilings are often neglected, but that is not the case here. Every ceiling in the house is designed to be as interesting as the room below it.  Additionally, these ceilings are created to send a subtle message about the formality of the room.  By contrast, less formal rooms in the house have ceilings of wide plank and beautifully washed layers of color.

“Ceilings in many houses are often neglected, but not in this house. Every ceiling is designed to be as interesting as the room below it.”

Above-door display areas for the homeowner’s cherished objects and pediments fill otherwise wasted space.  Adding further interest, the designer varied the sometimes multiple build-ups of crown molding and trim, tray or coffered ceiling treatments. Sophisticated use of millwork is a trademark of Van Ling.

David Van Ling also uses circles as a repeating theme, either as negative space formed by the concave profile of over-door pediments, or archways and light fixtures.  A curve in the hallway wall is David’s nod to an oriental aesthetic designed to display the Japanese prints collected by the owners during the eight years they lived in Japan.

Another thing that I was happy to see, as one of the owners and Buzzby the dog showed me around the house, were bookshelves that actually had books in them! and…be still my heart, picture lights at the top of each, positioned to illuminate them.  The owner insisted that comfortable, well-lit reading nooks be sprinkled throughout the house.

I was struck by the exquisitely simple and functional kitchen cabinetry, provided by America’s Best Cabinets, in Lake Geneva. Open shelving provides easy access to everyday dishware and utensils. A freezer and refrigerator stand independent of one another on either side of a drawer base. More open shelving is perfectly positioned above this arrangement.  Two pendant lights, lined with pleated fabric, hang over the massive wood countertop, fabricated by Engerman Builders.  The pewter hood over the cooktop was sourced by the Van Ling while shopping in Atlanta.

The kitchen and adjoining informal dining room floors use the same “Bleu Fonce” limestone, in part because of their proximity to the swimming pool. No need to worry about swimming pool water on wood floors!

The grid motif I spoke of at the beginning reemerges by the pool in the trellis that connects the house and outbuildings.  The pattern also connects other poolside amenities, such as the exterior walls of the pump house, the TV wall of their outdoor kitchen, its ceiling and even the strap iron furniture.

As for landscaping, Engerman brought in long-time collaborator Stonetree Landscaping, knowing that they would be as determined as he and the designer to make the homeowners’ vision a reality.  This was not an easy task, considering that they started with, according to the builder, a “very rough” building site.  However, through the use of stone outcroppings, and a healthy variety of perennials, shrubs, and trees, they were able to create a beautiful backdrop for this stunning, well-built home and its outbuildings.

From the moment I entered, I knew this was a beautifully built home, with its authentic design and craftsmanship. The homeowners attribute the ultimate success of their building project to their relationship with designer, building and landscaper. They knew that by bringing everyone together to work toward a common goal, something wonderful thing would happen … and it did.

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