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City Park Chic
Steve and Ellen Frischhertz celebrate the good life in their stylish yet comfortable home along City Park Avenue.
Shortly after she began walking in City Park in 2006, Ellen Frischhertz fell in love with a beautiful Victorian house located across the street. “I told my walking friend, ‘If that house ever comes up for sale, I want it,’” she recalls. Serendipitously, the house went on the market in 2012, and Ellen and her husband, Steve, toured the 100-year old property, soaked in the pastoral setting and instantly committed to making it their new home.
As the parents of four grown children, the Frishhertzes wanted a home where family could gather and grow for years to come. That meant starting with a fresh canvas. Working with architect Greg Hackenberg and contractor Luis Musa, Steve headed up the architecture and contracting decisions, while Ellen teamed with Jennifer DiCerbo of The French Mix in Covington to handle the interior design. Steve’s first orders of business were to bring the house back to its original state by re-opening porches that had been closed in and tearing off an addition that was too close to the pool. Steve and Hackenberg decided to remove a bay window so that a new 700 square-foot addition that includes a bedroom suite and den could be built and took down several walls in order to create an open flow between the kitchen, dining room and family room. The Frischhertzes also got rid of an excessive number of closets added by the previous owner; they also removed four fireplaces to maximize the space, and rid the house of old, dated features. “The original tile roof and stained glass are all that was left,” says Ellen, exaggerating only slightly. “We wanted to reduce things down, so it’s much less busy on the eye.”
A painting by Everett White provided inspiration for the colors used in the formal living room. Velvet sofa, hand-painted carved wood cocktail table, shagreen end table, crystal lamp, reproduction French chair with chevron fabric, hand woven Tibetan rug of silk and wool, all from The French Mix.
By eliminating the addition that crowded the pool, the Frischhertzes were able to carve out room for an outdoor walkway. “Steve was adamant about using the fireplace bricks around the pool outside,” notes Ellen. “He also relocated some of the stained glass from the bay window to various sites in the house and found a craftsman to make the carved wooden appliques on the front of the house.” With two grandchildren simultaneously on the way, the Frischhertzes had several new family members to consider during the renovation. To that end, they enclosed a small upstairs porch off both the master suite and one of the guest suites and turned it into a nursery.
Because the couple was remodeling and furnishing the home virtually from scratch and wanted the job done within the year, Ellen looked for a designer who would help her tackle the project in a relatively short amount of time. “I knew my husband was going to be doing the job as quickly as he could. I needed someone to help me pick out kitchen cabinets and knobs and appliances and help me make decisions quickly. Jennifer was always available. We would be texting at night. Working with her was so easy.”
The collaboration began with DiCerbo directing the clients to collect magazine pictures of interiors they liked. The images that Ellen brought back were in sync with the transitional aesthetic that is DiCerbo’s specialty – a monochromatic palette, a mix of antique reproduction and contemporary furnishings, muted rugs, airy slipcovers and statement lighting – and the hallmark of her store. The Frischhertzes told DiCerbo they wanted the home to be inviting, comfortable and relaxing. With City Park just steps from their front door, they also wanted to emphasize the outdoors. “We’ve got this beautiful landscape, old oaks draped with moss, that feels like our own across the street,” says Ellen. “Most of my time is spent looking at the park.”
An antique-inspired iron baby bed from The French Mix and a stained glass window are the focal points of the baby’s room, which the homeowners created by enclosing a small upstairs porch.
In the foyer, a custom iron console is mixed with an antique trumeau, a pair of sconces and a rock crystal chandelier all from The French Mix.
The master suite’s original brick fireplace forms a natural partition between the sleeping area and the adjacent sitting room. Bed, rug and drapes from The French Mix.
Heirloom inspired linens with ruffles and lace dress the reproduction French-style iron bed in one of the two guest suites. Linens, bed, side table and lamp, from The French Mix.
Carrera marble counters, stainless steel and white cabinets provide a cool contrast to the warmth of the reclaimed pine floors. Ellen purchased the glass pendant fixtures above the island online from Shades of Light.
There are no fewer than four porches at the Frischhertz home – all used regularly – and an abundance of ample windows wisely draped with understated panels of linen or silk. White walls and slipcovers provide a clean backdrop for subtle usages of color found in the rugs and accents and for the more saturated colors in the art, most of which came from the couples’ last home. In the dining room, the Frischhertzes gave two mandates: a round table conducive to entertaining family and friends and a cozy seating area where you could read a book or have a cup of coffee. DiCerbo complied with a custom-sized-and-finished pedestal table paired with eight chairs (she also used several round tables on the front porch overlooking the park). Near the windows, she combined two linen slip-covered gliders, an iron and metal coffee table, a wool and silk rug and a pair of floor lamps, successfully creating a spot that is one of Ellen’s favorites. “I decided at this stage in our lives, I wasn’t going to spend the time necessary to seek out antiques,” says Ellen. “I was going to enjoy newer furniture, and Jennifer made that so possible.”
With so few furnishings from the clients’ previous abode, DiCerbo cautioned that hastily filling the house with new pieces could easily look contrived. To avoid that, she incorporated custom pieces in nearly every room. ”Sometimes, people think since I’m buying through my store, everything is going to look the same. But I wanted it to look collected over time.” DiCerbo also credits the success of the designscape to Ellen’s emphasis on both form and function. “The house is done for the way people live today,” says DiCerbo. “It can be very chic but it also can be very livable and comfortable. Ellen wanted the best quality cushions for example, so a chair is not just beautiful, it also feels good when you sit in it.” But the family itself has been the ultimate measure of the house’s livability. “What’s really been important is that it is a great family house,” says Ellen. “We often have occasions with everyone at home with their friends and we can spread out nicely and it feels just right. It feels like a dream come true.”
“We wake up and open our windows and we look straight into City Park,” adds Steve. “It’s perfect.”
A pair of linen slipcovered sofas was custom sized for the family room that opens on to the dining room and kitchen. The custom-made and painted cabinet was inspired by one that Ellen saw in a magazine. Iron cocktail table, textured wooden bench, rug and floor lamp and chandelier from The French Mix. Graphic mixed media artwork by Ed Whiteman.
Panes of stained glass with a crest-like motif illuminate the front doors and a nearby niche. The reproduction settee is upholstered with a champagne colored fabric with a shagreen-like pattern. Settee and two-drawer commode from The French Mix. Painting by Adele Sypesteyn.