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Written by Amelia Jeffers



A quintessential Arlington aesthetic greets guests at this remarkable residence, but a few steps past the substantial solid mahogany front door and the interior is more Telluride, Colorado than Columbus, Ohio. When Susie Liebert endeavored to build the home of her dreams with her late husband, Bob, she knew she needed the team of her dreams to accomplish the ambitious plan. Turning first to noted interior designer, Pamela Stavroff, Susie sought to assemble the perfect combination of professionals to help execute the vision. With Pamela’s guidance, the Lieberts selected acclaimed architect Brian Kent Jones and prominent custom builder Kevin Knight to round out the talented and capable team - with Susie at the center. For nearly two years, the group worked closely together - reviewing hundreds of photographs, diving into dozens of design books and traveling to major design centers around the country to examine materials firsthand.

Featured in our Sep / Oct 2015 issue, this amazing home is a wonderful blend of edgy industrial and antique chalet. Photo, Dale Clark.

The resulting interior is a wonderful blend of edgy industrial and antique chalet - on a grand proportion. The vaulted great room is anchored by massive windows overlooking the stunning, sloped rear grounds and Scioto River. Overhead, colossal steel trusses transcend a strictly structural function and combine with a reclaimed Oak ceiling in a Jacobean finish to provide warmth and scale to a room that could feel cavernous. Comfortable seating areas surround a huge limestone fireplace. Steps away, in the kitchen, honed limestone, exposed wood beams, a deep, rich palette and hand cut glass and stone tiles provide a sophisticated backdrop for large family gatherings. Twelve years after their first meeting, I asked Susie, Pamela, Kevin and Brian - the four talented minds behind this exquisite property - to describe the project. Their comments each echoed one another: wonderful synergy, incredible collaboration, inspired design. Perhaps Brian Kent Jones said it best, “it was an uncommon opportunity that built a great house and a lasting friendship.”


Shortly after our article about one of the most coveted neighborhoods in Columbus was published, New Albany was named by Business Insider magazine as the “Number 1 Suburb in America” and with good reason. Masterfully designed by some of the greatest architectural and urban planning minds of the 21st Century, the community exudes perfection: course after course of perfectly placed bricks on similarly-styled and iconic Georgian homes, exceptionally symmetrical allées, expanses of lush green fields, and, of course, that conspicuous white fence.

A view of the rear of the incredible New Albany Country Club. Photo courtesy of The New Albany Country Club.

Residents tout the quality of life afforded by gracious amenities like “The Club” (New Albany Country Club); miles of paths for biking, running, or walking (the community even has a magazine, Healthy New Albany, published to promote wellness); and a quaint, walkable town center with a growing list of trendy and luxe shops and eateries anchored by the Charlotte P. Kessler branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library. The 200 acre learning campus looks more like a private school than public, earning a national Blue Ribbon School of Excellence designation at every division. And, the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts serves dual duty for school performances as well as hosting concerts and events like the Jefferson Series, an annual speaker lineup of nationally-recognized leaders in fields like mental health, public policy, and historical perspectives. Benefitting the New Albany Community Foundation, the series has “sold out” in advance of the start of each season for several years, a solid indication of the spirit of philanthropy and learning found here.


The entire compound is reminiscent of an English estate. Photo by Rob Manko.

The picturesque and serene family farm featured in our very first issue remains a favorite. Guided by a deep desire to deeply connect with family and friends, one visionary couple guided the evolution of an unassuming property in Loudonville from a rustic farmhouse on 100 acres to a 400 acre estate with three homes and a plethora of recreational pursuits. Midway through the hour and a half drive from downtown Columbus to the serene retreat, the “sky gets a little bigger, wide swaths of pavement are traded for smaller, country lanes,” and cell service begins to fade. Visiting the farm has never been less than a spiritual experience; the gentle rumble of gravel roads shaking off the clutter and banality of worldly concerns.

The horse program was stewarded carefully by the late man of the house. Photo by Rob Manko.

Bordering the long drive up a gentle hillside to the primary residence is a picturesque polo field (seemingly always marked by a big, bright blue sky) and small horse barn that anchors an impressive horse program - lovingly and passionately stewarded by the late man of the house, a dedicated surgeon whose enthusiasm for all things competitive was only bested by his love for his family and faith. The sophistication, style, and attention to detail throughout is breathtaking: 18th Century paneling salvaged from a large home in Surrey, England; hand-carved limestone; and masterfully-smithed wrought iron hardware. Gracious and comfortable, the George Acock-designed custom home has hosted innumerable holidays and Sunday dinners across all seasons.


Before I ever type the first sentence of a story, hours have been spent visiting a site, researching the history of the property, identifying key design elements and materials, and interviewing homeowners and professionals involved in the planning and construction of a residence. Notes are made, compiled and reviewed, with a hope for identifying the hook of the story - that one element that will draw a reader in and compel them to keep reading.

The preppy interiors are cheerful but sophisticated. Photo, James Henthorn.

Sometimes, the hook is so good that I am irresistibly drawn into the story before it is written, and words tumble onto the screen as if someone else has taken control of the keyboard. Meeting Lisa Benson Meuse at the dock of Buckeye Lake for the short ride to her family’s private island and lake house, I had no idea of the history and historical character to whom I was about to be introduced. Lisa and her husband, Peter, had bought the island when it was placed for sale after the death of the grandmother she adored, Nancy Casto Benson - a high-profile Columbus socialite. For those who knew her, Nancy had been a walking dichotomy. She had a house full of recipe books, but couldn’t boil water. Her spirit of adventure ran deep, but she never left her room in the morning without being fully “made up.” She insisted on maintaining a proper decorum, but confessed to her grandchildren that it was “fun to cuss sometimes.” Nancy’s doctors recommended that she needed to get regular exercise, but she argued that tennis shoes were uncomfortable. Relenting, she developed a routine that involved walking laps in the pool - in her high heels.

Columbus socialite hired the "Prince of Chintz", nationally known Mario Buatta to design a timeless New England coastal interior. Photo, James Henthorn.

But, Nancy didn’t waiver on the topic of entertaining and connecting with friends and family. When she took over management of the family’s retreat (known fondly as Cast-oWay Island, but formally recorded as Elm Island), Nancy hired a close friend who had helped with the Bensons’ other homes in Columbus, Michigan and Florida: New York designer and “Prince of Chintz,” Mario Buatta. Buatta was tasked with creating a welcoming, relaxed, but sophisticated interior, reminiscent of New England coastal communities. The interiors of the charming cottage remain largely unchanged today, speaking to the effortless style created by the dynamic duo. Bright red floors are offset with preppy needlepoint rugs and painted wicker furniture. Striped, soft cotton rag rugs pair with dressy chintz, and whimsical majolica rules the day. Whenever possible, views of the water are maximized with spare window treatments and white walls that give way to the scenic surroundings. The vibe is definitely chic and relaxed, with nine comfortable bedrooms and ample kitchen prep for the large parties the Casto-Benson-Meuse clans have come to love.

EASTGATE Nov/Dec 2014

I admit to loving anything associated with noted Interior Designer Mark Huffman. As warm and kind as he is talented, Mark has been a generous supporter of Sophisticated Living Columbus from day one. We could cover every one of his projects and never repay his kind encouragement, but the truth is Mark’s designs stand on their own, and his fabulous project featured in the eponymous article “Eastgate” is no exception. Designed for Columbus based political advertising powerhouse Rex Elsass, the historic townhouse is situated in a tony neighborhood just seven blocks from the Capitol in Washington D.C. The perfect backdrop for important strategic meetings with Elsass’s clients and special events, the home has hosted a veritable “Who’s Who” on the political scene.

Eastgate is the lovely pied-à-terre of Columbus-based political media powerhouse Rex Elsass. Photo by Gordon Beall.

From the private and elegant formal dining room to the comfortable and chic garden level lounge, Mark’s keen vision for refined entertaining has touched every surface. Perfectly-patinated burnished silver leaf is offset by painstakingly brushed handstriated walls to provide a texturally rich backdrop for restrained and modern custom furnishings from Washington D.C. designer, Thomas Pheasant - an international force in the design world who famously styled the interiors of Blair House, the President’s guest house on Pennsylvania Avenue across from the White House. Overnight guests are treated to luxurious accommodations on the second floor. Audio visual systems are state of the art, and while the home boasts an impressive number of televisions in every room, one never feels at the center of a media empire.



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