Built to Order

Though it’s a down economy, Northeast Ohioans are looking carefully at details when sculpting the homes in which they dream of spending the rest of their lives.
The story of the lake began 90 years ago with a great-grandparents’ plot of land and a modest cottage — a family enclave that laid the groundwork for four generations of children growing up on Paw-Paw Lake, just a few miles from downtown Chagrin Falls.

Chris Goodin remembers driving his wife, Mindy, around the lake 15 years ago when they were engaged. She told him, “Wouldn’t this be a perfect place to raise a family?”

For Chris, the lake and family are synonymous. Paw-Paw is his connection to the past, to memories of visiting his grandparents there as a child and learning how to swim in the lake, which was dug in the 1920s. His mother had lived on Paw-Paw Lake until her college years.

So when a modest cottage went on the market, the Goodins jumped on the opportunity to build a home in the sleepy community. They were prepared to settle there for good, and their plans to tear down the structure and create a new-old lake house went much deeper than devising and executing a plan.

“We wrote a story before we began the design,” Chris describes, rehashing the creative journey that led the couple to their ultimate vision for a family home. “We wanted the house to look like it had been here for 100 years and that families had added on to it over the years,” he adds.

This imagined story became the soul of the house plan; the design evolved into an illustration for the vision that Mindy and Chris had of their lives on the lake for years to come.

“I always say Mindy and I are like 60-year-olds in 30-something-year-old bodies,” Chris says. “We both decided that we were ready to build a house to collect all of our memories with our children and call it quits. And that was what set the precedent for all of this.”

Designing a house for raising three small children — boy-girl twins and a son, all under the age of 9 — that could evolve with the family and eventually suit the Goodins as empty-nesters required serious spatial considerations. How much room did the family really need?

“We worked aggressively on deciding what was the right size for us,” Chris says, remarking that they didn’t want to manage an empty castle once the kids were gone. A 4,000-square-foot floor plan, with room to grow in a bonus space above the garage (which could turn into an in-law suite or an office), was the magic number for the Goodins.

“The idea was to put all of our money into the detail,” Chris notes.

No feature was overlooked in the design. Enlisting Payne & Payne Builders in the process, the Goodins collaborated with Eric Payne to achieve a new-old house that would become the heart of their family.

“There are a few things that are consistent about an old house,” Chris says. “They’re intimate. They’re comfortable. You feel at home, and you know if the walls would talk, they would tell ... ”

“Stories,” Mindy says, jumping in.

“The Goodins did a lot of homework, showing what they liked from magazines and the Internet, and we’d take the concept and make it their own,” says Eric Payne, who worked with Chris on drawings to help achieve the couple’s goals. Marc Graham, of Marc Graham Classic Designs, did the exterior architectural design and the floor plan.

The Goodins focused on the defining elements of an old home: trim, baseboards, flooring, architectural detail in walls, nook-and-cranny storage, mindful use of space and an overriding commitment to building integrity and attention to detail.

Every bit of hardware was hand-picked, from the face nails pounded into the distressed pine floors to the barn door hinges on a custom-fabricated sliding door that separates a mudroom garage entrance from the main body of the house.

Payne helped execute the illusion of a home that had expanded with additions over the ages by creating visual seams. On the exterior, the main portion of the home is finished in lap siding, while “additions” feature James Hardie lap siding that looks like cedar shake but will not require maintenance. Varying floor materials — such as brick in the mudroom “addition” and 10-inch pine plank in the core of the house — also allude to the patchwork design the Goodins desired.

Meanwhile, aging a new home required special finishes. Mindy points out intentional chips in the seafoam-colored glass mosaic countertop, which is over-grouted to fill every gap, fast-forwarding the wear that time achieves on its own.

Chris kneels to the floor and notes how 10-inch wide pine boards were purposely set with gaps, and how the boards were distressed with chains and hammers then coated with seven layers of tongue oil rather than stain to look as if 100 years of family foot traffic had worn the new surface into one rich with character.

Every bedroom has a lake view, and the focal point of the first floor was inspired by coastal homes in Bald Head Island, N.C. —a symmetrical living room/dining room space with twin fireplaces and a central grand staircase. Architectural detail was carried out through the upstairs in pitched bedroom ceilings and interesting wall crevices. No room is a perfect square. The Goodins were intensely involved during the yearlong construction, helping to draw woodwork detail and source interior accents such as antique lamps that would suit the home. After all, this would be the house the Goodins built, end of story.

“They were willing to take the time and invest the money into high-quality finishes and detail, which is what adds to the overall character of the house,” Payne says. Though Payne has seen a sharp decline in building, he says that clients who recognize opportunities in this environment are buying in at the right time.

“Commodities like lumber are at all-time lows,” Payne says. “Interest rates couldn’t be better. Because there was nothing going on for months with a lot of trades, [suppliers] have become more aggressive with pricing because they want to keep busy. Collectively, I don’t see how it could get any less expensive for someone to build right now, and there are people who recognize that.”

The Goodins completed their project prior to sharp market turns in 2008, but for them, the object to build was driven by a different sort of timing: their luck in finding the lot in the first place and a desire to build something that would last a lifetime.

“We want our kids to come back one day, maybe with their kids, and have great memories here,” Mindy says.
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