Written by Abby Jeffers | Photography by James Henthorn
It is only fitting that the Grande Dame of women’s fashion in Columbus would have the house to match: Connie Leal Ballenger lives with her husband, Mike, in a timeless property highlighting her own eye for style and her impeccable taste, much like the clothing she sells in her upscale, high-fashion boutique, Leal, in Upper Arlington.
Interiors at the french country-inspired property in Arlington are best described as bohemian, combining an original design by David Berg with the contents and design of two houses the Ballengers sold when they moved to this home: a large, old Arlington residence and a charming Naples retreat. Berg’s penchant for sophisticated colors, traditional craftsmanship, and quality products provided the perfect backdrop for the Ballengers’ favorite pieces. The result seems effortless –– and possibly kismet.
Ballenger’s style is a neat blend of old and new: upholstered furniture from Centner’s (a former Columbus staple) sits on top of rugs sourced from an old-school rug store on 5th Avenue (K.A. Menendian) and ABC Carpet & Home in New York. Artwork from the Muse Gallery adorns the walls. It is all very feminine without the fussiness –– a cool, comfortable chic.
A history of living in old houses had dampened their interest in “new builds” because most seemed to generally lack character and quality. But the Ballengers were pleasantly surprised by the quality and detail in the acclaimed architectural designs and specs of Brian Kent Jones, who is tapped by the most discerning homeowners across and outside of central Ohio. Every inch of the space features purposeful design, modern architectural detail, and exceptional style culminating in a luxurious polish across the home. “I have always liked the mild juxtaposition of tamed modern elements within the classical DNA of the overall home,” said Kent Jones. “Like the steel canopy at the front door and the steel and glass window moments.”
Upon entering, visitors see some of that blend of modern and classical: two steel and glass patterned panels frame the front door, and the entry hall (flanked by a cozy den on one side and formal dining on the other) leads to a generous window looking out at the backyard, providing plenty of natural light and a certain airiness to the space. Steps away, the modern, open-concept chef’s kitchen and great room, perfect for hosting friends and family, includes gorgeous vaulted ceilings, custom built-ins, and a gas fireplace with a detailed mantel.
Additional first-floor living space includes a sun-soaked owner’s suite with french doors leading out to the backyard and patio. The bath feels like a luxury spa with striking marble everywhere –– from the extra-large soaking tub to the oversized shower, and from the double vanity down to heated floors. A pillowed ceiling and an oculus leading to the dressing room offer unique architectural detail.
Two of the remaining bedrooms retain the personal characteristics of the Ballengers’ young adult sons, ensuring they both have a space of their own when they come home. Though their sons are grown and flown, the house is segmented in such a way as to make it infinitely livable, no matter how many family members are around. And when extended relatives visit (Connie’s mom is a regular, hopping in whenever possible to watch the youngest Ballenger play football at nearby Denison), the loft apartment over the garage provides the perfect spot with a bit of privacy.
A fenced-in backyard, complete with a beautifully paved raised patio provides a natural solution to socializing during warmer months. Both of Connie’s sons and her husband are accomplished athletes, and the yard holds plenty of grassy space for tossing a ball while adoring fans watch from the patio.
If Ballenger’s high-end boutique on Arlington Avenue was not enough of a testament to her timeless, upscale style, her house certainly drives the point home.