Rick Doody had always admired the stucco and stone home in Hunting Valley.
Built in 1916 by Amasa Stone Mather, son of shipping magnate Samuel Mather, the three-story Tudor exemplified the height of country house living with indoor plumbing, solid oak woodwork, decorative fireplaces in every room and a gentleman’s bar outside the paneled study.
“I loved the architecture,” Doody enthuses.
The property had generated interest since going on the market in 2013, but one prospective buyer after another had passed. There were drawbacks to be sure. The 10,000-square-foot estate lacked whole-house air conditioning and badly needed a kitchen update. The maze of discrete rooms, accessed through low, narrow doors common to the era, put off younger homeowners accustomed to open floor plans.
None of that bothered Doody, the founder and chairman of the Columbus-based Bravo Brio Restaurant Group. He enjoyed the home renovation process. Plus, he was going through a divorce and wanted a place near his ex-wife and three teenage children and Bravo Brio’s office in Chagrin Falls.
“It needed somebody that fell in love with the history of the home, the architecture and wanted something special, to be a curator throughout their time here and take this house to the next level,” says Wendy Berry of W Design in Chagrin Falls.
Doody, who also owns Cedar Creek Grille in Beachwood and Coastal Taco in the Flats, purchased the Mather house for $2 million in 2013. He hired Berry, who’d worked on some of his restaurants, to transform it into a five bedroom, five bath and two half-bath retreat.
He envisioned an open, light-filled base where he could recharge and his kids could visit comfortably. The result skillfully balances modern style with Old World architectural design and historic details.
“It’s not someone’s grandmother’s house,” Berry says. “It’s not a country club. It’s a livable family house that feels fresh.”
When it was built originally, the home was meant to have three or four bedrooms. Compared to Samuel Mather and Flora Stone Mather’s 45-room mansion on Millionaires’ Row or their 25-room Shoreby summer retreat in Bratenahl, it was tiny. Some even speculate it was constructed as a gatehouse or hunting lodge, a precursor to a grander showplace that was never built, says Christopher “Kit” Whipple, a Cleveland historian specializing in the Mather family.
Still, Amasa Stone Mather’s estate attracted notable guests such as President Theodore Roosevelt (“They were hunting buddies,” says Whipple) and indulged his passion for horses. The elaborate stables were made in the same style and with the same high-quality materials as the main house.
When Mather died of pneumonia in 1920 at age 36, his wife and two young children moved back to her native New York. Yet a series of notable owners helped the home retain its luster throughout the 20th century.
Philanthropist Louise Ireland Humphrey, widow of M.A. Hanna Co. president and CEO Gilbert Humphrey, built the pool. Jeffrey A. Cole, former chairman and CEO of eyewear and specialty retailer Cole National Corp., finished the guesthouse and added the pool house. Another resident added a three-bedroom, two-bath west wing.
Berry began the renovation by widening and raising doorways as much as structurally possible to open views throughout the first floor. She created the illusion of height on the remaining doors by adding faux transoms fashioned from paneled doors removed between first-floor rooms.
“You walk in one space, and you feel all the rooms,” she says.
While new heating, cooling and electrical systems were installed, much was preserved. “It has so much Cleveland history and was beautiful,” says Berry.
Original wide-plank oak floors were refinished. Plaster walls and ceilings were painstakingly repaired, then painted a creamy white. “You had to put a surgeon’s glove on your hand and keep dipping it in water to make [the plaster] smooth and give it a mottled feel,” Berry says of the process.