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Published: Saturday, 5/30/2009

Sweet Homes: New farmhouse has warmth, charm of yesterday

BY TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Blade will periodically feature intriguing homes and gardens that reflect the creativity of their owners. Tell us about your abode by writing Tahree Lane at tlane@theblade.com or calling 419-724-6075.

Renovating an old farmhouse and raising kids in the country seemed like just the ticket to Wendy Wilson.

But Dave Wilson, her husband, had already fixed up one old house.

"I was dealing with everybody else’s mistakes. Nothing was level in the house, nothing was plumb," he says.

He suggested an alternative. "He said, ‘Let’s just build an old farmhouse,’" says Mrs. Wilson.

In summer, 1987 they broke ground on three acres they’d been given by his parents who owned farmland in Providence Township. Mrs. Wilson pored over library books for ideas, drew sketches, and consulted with an architect who was a family friend. She was charmed by the stone houses of rural Pennsylvania.

"I wanted a classic brick-stone farmhouse, family-friendly and beautiful but comfortable and functional, where my kids could cut loose and have fun."

Money was tight. When they moved in to the partly finished home in December, 1987, they had two little boys, Jonathan, and David, and Mrs. Wilson was pregnant with daughter Emily.

The Wilsons achieved their goal beautifully with this five-bedroom, 2,600-square-foot home in the southwestern corner of Lucas County. They embrace a couple of so-old-they’re-new-again concepts: DIY (do it yourself) and buy local.

"Everything we’ve done has, for the most part, been fun," Mrs. Wilson says. "It really is kind of a hobby."

They’ve tackled most of the work themselves and hired friends to do what they can’t. Their home is filled with furniture from their parents, garage sales, and pieces crafted by friends and neighbors. Wall art — "quilt paintings" of colorful fabrics and actual paintings made by studying Audubon’s illustrations — are by Mrs. Wilson.

Buying wooden flooring would have been far simpler than the time-intensive process Mr. Wilson undertook. He selected 14 mature oaks from his father’s woods, cut them down, hauled them to a sawmill to be sliced into wide planks, and transported them to another town to be kiln dried and tongue-and-groove edged. Some pieces were fashioned into moldings, baseboards, and stair railings. Particularly nice pieces became stair treads.

Dave and Wendy Wilson built a new 2,600-square-foot home in 1987, modeled after a Pennsylvania country house. Dave and Wendy Wilson built a new 2,600-square-foot home in 1987, modeled after a Pennsylvania country house.
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"I handled this wood a lot," he says. "It’s more meaningful to me that the wood came from our property. I grew up in these woods."

Mr. Wilson co-owns Scott/Wilson Masonry, Inc. a small masonry, concrete, and building-restoration company. For the exterior, he selected Nottingham Tudor, an old-looking, irregular brick.

"I hated laying that brick. I was working all day and I’d come home and mix up one batch of mortar and lay it. Or I’d work on it all day Saturday or Sunday. I was really glad to be done laying these bricks."

He salvaged most of the stone from old barn foundations nearby.

"I split them and shaped them. Now that was a lot of work. I probably should have just bought stone."

The inside of the front doors are painted a soft pear color; walls are several shades lighter.

The stunner in the living room is the huge brick fireplace and wood stove. Each has an overhanging lintel that’s a slab of stone. The simple mantle is a 12-foot-long, 9-by-9-inch block of cherry, also from his father’s woods.

The bathroom has a vintage-style clawfoot tub, sink, and floor. The bathroom has a vintage-style clawfoot tub, sink, and floor.
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Why a fireplace and wood stove cheek-by-jowl? The fireplace is a cozy visual, the wood stove heats the entire house. When designing the home’s floor plan, they considered how hot air from the wood stove would circulate through the rooms. Mr. Wilson cuts wood in the winter when masonry work is slow.

He’s an outdoorsman, fishing, turkey hunting, camping, wood gathering, gardening, and paying attention to conservation. "I keep track of the fish population in the pond."

At Start High School, where Mrs. Wilson teaches biology to 10th graders, she’s worked to establish a rain garden and native-Ohio plantings for a school urban watershed habitat.

Both 55, they grew up near here; their parents knew each other. They started dating after graduating from Anthony Wayne High School in 1972 and married in 1981.

Consequently, they know folks in these parts.

The big cherry dining room table was made by Boyd Box. Ray Polker copied a catalog design to build them a couch and two easy chairs. Sam Scott, Mr. Wilson’s partner Doug Scott’s father, made a beautiful walnut cradle that was recently used for their first grandchild.

The living room flows to the dining room where windows open to views of the slightly larger than -acre pond that’s 17 feet at its deepest. To control algae, they use water willows, water lilies, and, at the edge, blue flag iris.

Much of the lawn surrounding the pond is being converted to native grasses, namely little blue stem grass, with some side oats grama and prairie dropseed grass. A neighbor, Craig Nilsson, is helping with the conversion that will substantially reduce the amount of mowable lawn.

"I’m not into mowing and I like the looks of these," Mr. Wilson says.

The kitchen is small by new-house standards. It has red-quarry tile flooring, dark gray granite counters, and deep stainless sinks. Windows over the sink provide views of the woods, pond, patio, and vegetable garden.

The generous triangular stone patio, defined by a white picket fence, is enclosed on two sides by one stone and one brick wall. Four T-stones worked into the brick wall aesthetically tie the two walls together at their intersection.

The master bedroom upstairs is a spacious 15-by-24 feet. They seldom use its brick fireplace. A wooden yarn winder and a spinning wheel flanking a dresser were Mrs. Wilson’s mother’s, as was their four-poster bed. Creamy walls are accentuated by dark-blue window molding, blue-willow china, and a blue bedspread.

Outside a Bradford pear blooms white in early May. Windows yield restful vistas of pond, woods, and grain fields.

"I love this room. To me, it’s just so calm," says Mrs. Wilson. She paints and makes quilt scenes at a large table against the windows.

Last year, the Wilsons took their commitment to buying local a step further by purchasing produce from Friendship Farms, run by neighbor Craig Nilsson, whose house they can see from theirs. They get a variety of vegetables weekly for the 20-week growing season, and are learning to enjoy some new foods such as arugula and purple cherry tomatoes.

Subsequently, they’re creating a community with eight neighbors, all of whom subscribe to the Community Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) membership-buying plan at Friendship Farms. They meet for dinner monthly in each other’s homes.

"We try to use local foods," at the meal, notes Mrs. Wilson, and they share recipes, such as a delicious marinade for blanched asparagus (sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, grated ginger, and water).

"If you understand the whole sustainability movement, let’s keep things here so we’re not shipping across the country, buying things that grow very well in a certain area, which means less pesticides and herbicides," she says. "And it’s nice to support the local economy, too. A lot of my students don’t understand what’s raised in their own community."



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