Rating the Suburbs 2011: The Step Up

Matt McNair and Lisa Gloria McNair, Rocky River

Lisa Gloria McNair was never a suburban girl. She grew up in Chicago, where she took public transportation and walked each morning to her favorite coffee shop.

After relocating to Cleveland 10 years ago, she and husband Matt McNair gave suburban life a shot, "but I was worried that I would never again come to the city, do a play or visit a city restaurant," she says. "I didn't want to become that person."

They settled in Tremont until their daughter came along five years ago. The desire for urban life was replaced with new priorities. The McNairs pored over school rankings and neighborhood amenities. They wanted easy access to the downtown vibrancy they loved, a house with four bedrooms and a big backyard, and a neighborhood chock-full of families like themselves.

"Rocky River had it all — everything you can find in the suburbs, yet still very close to the city," Lisa says.

The 1960s-era colonial they bought also provided fixer-upper potential, and they got to work immediately on infusing it with their personalities.

"I wanted something we could put our own touches on," Matt says. "We didn't want a cookie-cutter house that was already designed."

They've spent a year and a half and more than $40,000 on renovations, doing much of the work themselves. They removed the wallpaper that covered nearly every room, even the ceilings in some cases, in favor of contemporary paint colors such as earthy gray combined with blue. They gutted the kitchen to accommodate new dark-wood cabinetry, white Corian countertops, stainless appliances and an ultramodern geometric backsplash.

Other improvements included refinished original hardwood floors and a new stamped concrete patio in place of simple brick pavers. The home's old decor made it feel dark and closed in, say the McNairs, so they lightened up the space by removing dark wall panels and installing light-welcoming blinds and contemporary lighting fixtures.

There is still more work to be done, but for now, "the house is so us," Lisa says. "It's nice being able to say we did all of this."

Home Inspection

Sold for: $250,000
Asking price:
Time on the market:
60 days

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