CINCINNATI -- The influence of the Art Academy of Cincinnati is everywhere in the décor of Theresa Chiodi and Tim Burke’s 2014 remodel of their two-family home in Hyde Park.
Not only did the couple meet there in the late 1980s, the school instilled in them a deep appreciation for Cincinnati artists -- many of them also AAC graduates -- and images others produced of their beloved hometown.
The artwork hanging on their once-compartmentalized but now-open walls is signed by Cincinnatians such as James McLaughlin , Paul Chidlaw , E.T. Hurley , Baron Krody , Stan Stenten, Ron Durham and Mary Lynn Chiodi Kalbli.
The latter would be Theresa Chiodi’s younger sister, who 21 years ago drew an image of two girls walking off into the distance that hangs on a wall just inside the top of her older sister’s stairwell.
“It reminds me of my two nieces (Kalbli’s daughters) going to the tire swing at our family’s farm,” said Theresa, who works as a graphic designer in Covington.
Designing Their Own Space
Chiodi worked out much of the layout of their 1910 brick home’s second floor (they rent the first floor unit), and then Burke took over as general contractor of the remodel. The second floor had been two bedrooms, kitchen, a recreation room and a bathroom, which the couple converted to their living space after buying the house in 2002.
The 2014 remodel had been a long time in the making.
"We had sat here and looked at those walls for 10 years thinking ‘What if we took them down?’ We had a vision and it’s come true," said Burke, founder and owner of Electronic Art, a digital design and services agency in Over-the-Rhine.
The couple bought the 2½-story, two-family house at a time when it was being used as a rental for Xavier University students.
"It had wall-to-wall carpeting, and the front room (on the second floor) had a Ping-Pong table in it which came with the house," Burke said. "It smelled like a bourbon factory when we tore the carpet up."
The couple remodeled the second-floor bathroom in 2005. Then they redid the third floor in 2009, turning what was an awkward set-up with multiple alcoves and slanted ceilings into a master suite with a television lounge, walk-in closet, full bathroom and laundry room.
Working Side by Side
Chiodi and Burke started phase three of the renovation with the demolition of second-floor walls in March 2014. Their goal was to finish in time to host their extended family for dinner on Thanksgiving.
They did the majority of the work themselves, this being the sixth home they have remodeled since they married 25 years ago. Professionals helped to do some of rewiring, set a load-bearing steel beam, reinforce joists and drywall the ceiling.
The couple worked side-by-side to do most of the rest of the construction and installation. Burke said they ate most of their meals out for six months. But they kept access to the kitchen sink, which at one point was propped up only by 2 by 4 wood.
Burke’s advice to those setting a budget for a remodeling project: Factor in the cost of restaurant meals.
Although Burke admitted that they “had to pour it on at the end,” the couple made their deadline and hosted Thanksgiving dinner.
Their DIY experience and planning made the difference.
“My favorite part is doing the space planning and decorating,” said Theresa, whose husband pointed out that she is also a fierce demolisher, excellent tile setter and assistant plumber and hardwood floor installer.
"She could have her own HGTV show,” he joked.
Kitchen Is Winner
Chiodi is most proud of the new kitchen. Her first layout was unsatisfactory, so she consulted with a designer at Home Depot, and using the store’s software, came up with a second layout. Using tape, she outlined where cabinets, appliances and an island would be, but she still wasn’t satisfied.
Her third design was a winner. It features dark-stained maple cabinetry with bubble glass cubbyholes across the top, brown and black mottled granite, stainless steel sink, faucet and appliances and a gray glass subway tile backsplash. In the middle is an eight-foot by four-foot island with stovetop.
Like the couple’s dining and living rooms, the kitchen is painted a grayish-green color dubbed “High Tea” by Sherwin Williams.
Directional track and small can lights in the ceiling are consistent throughout, and the teardrop glass chandelier over the sink is a smaller version of the two that light the dining room table, a 16-seater they bought at Pottery Barn.
The lights are controlled with centralized switches on a wall that divides the living room from a short hallway at the top of the stairwell. Branching off it are a full bathroom and a studio room that is halfway done.
What Stays and Goes
Taking down walls reduced space for artwork as well as furniture in the living and dining rooms. It forced Chiodi and Burke, whose father was an antiques dealer, to whittle down the old stuff they had acquired in more than two decades of collecting
“When we opened it up, I already knew which antiques to keep and where they were going to go,” Chiodi said.
They crammed what they kept into their master bedroom suite and covered porch and filled their studio from floor to ceiling. Then they started selling, something Burke had no problem with because of what he learned from his father.
“We had a couple of yard sales, and there’s our eternal Craigslist ad that keeps on going,” Burke said.
The house is furnished with antique cabinets in which Chiodi and Burke display their curated collections of old Mauser rifles from Germany, Roseville Pottery and Fostoria glass from Ohio, chintz china and historical books.
A prized piece is a French Colonial style curio cabinet with rococo inlay that was made in Italy. Chiodi bought it at a local auction.
“There was this bidding war with what turned out to be my aunt on the opposite side of the room,” Chiodi said. “I didn’t know she was there.”
Burke is proud of his gun cabinet, a “random find” he made in Asheville, North Carolina. It is temperature- and humidity-controlled to prevent rusting and features a wooden appliqué of two hunting dogs’ heads above the glass door.
The flooring Chiodi and Burke laid during the remodel is hand-scraped maple with a warm walnut finish. It’s covered in part in the living and dining rooms by Persian rugs they purchased at auction in Lexington.
A home for life
The original artwork in the house is a mix of map, prints, etchings and paintings they’ve been given or purchased at antiques shops and shows throughout the region.
A favorite is part of a grouping of Cincinnati scenes in the kitchen: the original drawing by Cincinnati architect James McLaughlin depicting his vision of the Art Academy of Cincinnati building in Eden Park that’s now part of the Cincinnati Art Museum. It came out of a McLaughlin family estate purchased by Burke’s father.
Unless the couple wins the lottery, Burke said, they’ll stay in their brick beauty. If they get arthritis or can’t make the steps in their 70s, he said, they can move downstairs.
Staying put makes economic sense as well, Burke said.
"Having a two-family figures into our retirement, knowing that we’re going to have a house in a good neighborhood that generates income," he said.
This is part of the series, called Home Tour, where WCPO contributor Brent Coleman opens the front door to historic, unique, luxurious or just darned interesting homes in the Tri-State. Join him on the tour every Friday.