Home Tour: This Westwood Tudor has lived for a century; its contents many centuries more

Natural History Museum VP's collection adds spice

CINCINNATI -- Denise Guiducci became a fourth-generation Westwoodian in 1993 -- by accident. She and her late husband, Alan, had been house-hunting in Hyde Park for a year, hoping to find a home with the charm of the Covington Riverside Historic District house they had owned for 11 years.

Then one day she got lost driving on the West Side.

"I came down the wrong street and saw a For Sale sign with 'Open House' on it. 'Wow,' I said. 'I like that house,'" Guiducci recalled. And, pretty much, that was that.

"This house is so much cheaper than Hyde Park," she said. "Oh my god, the price was so inexpensive, and it was a beautiful home, so we bought it."

Twenty-three years later, Guiducci still feels strongly about her choice, and it's apparent as she leads a tour through the 3,400-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bathroom 1927 Tudor Revival that has taken on a soul mate-like role since her husband died earlier this year.

Reminders of Alan Guiducci -- improvement projects he completed, photographs etc. -- are visible throughout the house, as are those of another man who was all-important to Guiducci at one time: her grandfather, Nelson Knaggs.

Antiquities collected worldwide by the explorer, writer and one-time vice president of the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History are displayed prominently in almost every room in Guiducci's house. To list them all would be impossible, and to identify them in detail would require Guiducci to dig deep into family records.

Among the pieces she pointed out on our tour were three large rubbings Knaggs made at Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple, two of which flank French doors leading from the dining room to one of two covered decks on the house. A pair of 200-year-old ochre-colored, ceramic jardinieres from China are tucked in on either side of the opening to the kitchen where they can't be knocked over. A gold-guilded Buddha figure made in Thailand in the 1700s occupies a safe corner of the living room across from a "wicked looking" Chinese mask hanging on the wall.

Mixed in are modern pieces of art that include a brightly colored landscape painting of San Miguel de Allende where Knaggs spent his winters and which Guiducci visited on several occasions.

Many of the house's original features are intact and in good shape. They include oak floors, six English wall sconces, four-panel folding doors with leaded glass, custom radiant heat covers, textured-plaster walls, a 40-inch screen door to a covered side deck with bead-board ceiling, a carved-wood telephone nook and classic concrete fireplaces.

The house's decor is a complex blend of ancient, vintage and modern that Guiducci and her husband balanced with plenty of personal touches that fit the mix. Yes, she said, some of the artifacts are museum quality, but the effect is not intimidating.

"It's a comfortable house, a lived-in home," she said. "I don't have to worry if someone spills red wine on the floors."

Take the tour

Visitors enter the brick, stone, stucco and wood-cladded home through it's original leaded-glass door and pass through a small vestibule into the living room, then turn right into the dining room. Right away, they will notice the house's original rooms haven't been changed -- no HGTV-style open floor plan here.

Guiducci, who became a real estate agent after working for years in the chemical industry, said they gently remodeled the honey pine kitchen to modern standards, installing a countertop-to-ceiling tile back splash and stainless-steel appliances. Her husband also built shelves for their orchids and floor-level cabinetry for books into a triple-bay window in the room's breakfast nook. But she refused to open the kitchen up to the dining room. She said she likes to keep guests away from the clutter that's cooked up during dinner parties.

"It would be cool to do this," she said, gesturing to where some people would have taken down a wall between the kitchen and dining room. "I just didn't want to do it."

The formal dining room between the kitchen and living room features a single-board, mahogany dining room table Guiducci purchased locally and an antique, five-panel silk screen with white egrets from Japan that Knaggs bought in New York about 60 years ago. An ancient Buddha Sutra from Thailand resides in one corner and a clay model of the Last Supper from Guatemala sits on top of a radiator in front of a window to the front yard.

Through French doors at the kitchen end of the dining room are French doors that lead out to a deck the Guiduccis expanded from which they can enjoy a good part of the 1-acre property, its gardens and mature gingko and elm trees.

Through wood and leaded-glass doors that fold into the dining room is the living room, whose dominant feature is a baby grand piano. The decor also includes an unusual "pillow," a 7-inch-high piece of wood carved centuries ago in Japan, as well as a painted trunk made by a Pennsylvania Dutch craftsman in 1805 that Guiducci inherited from her grandfather's second wife.

The back side of the first floor branches off the living room and features a full bathroom, a bedroom/study and a family room filled with Mesoamerican artifacts and a wall of old photographs Knaggs took on his many globetrotting adventures. Included in the mix is a wooden reclining chair made for an African king and a "good voodoo" doll Guiducci found on a visit to Ghana.

"It looks creepy, so I bought it," she said of the protection fetish.

Up a wide staircase between the living room and its side porch are two more bedrooms, a second full bathroom and the master-bedroom suite. It comes with a fireplace that matches the one in the living room, a walk-in closet -- all the bedrooms have one -- a sunny sitting room and bathroom with a sunken tub over which hangs a "merman" used in pole parades in San Miguel de Allende.

The bathroom, which features an elevated tub and outdated tile Guiducci intends to replace, has the same bay window as the kitchen, which makes sense, Guiducci said, because it originally was a kitchen. The house, she said, was built with separate kitchens for two brothers, although one got married and never moved in.

One room in the house Guiducci did not share is on its third floor -- an unfinished, vaulted room with exposed beams that support a roof that peaks at 18 feet.

"One of the reasons I bought this house was the third floor, and then I never did anything with it," she said. "I always wanted to have it as a library or media room."

Guiducci said it's likely she will feel the need to downsize and pass her treasured antiquities and artwork on to her daughter, but for now, she said, she can't fathom leaving her Westwood home and moving into a condominium farther out in the suburbs.

"I like the charm of my home. I like the architecture. It has good bones," she said. "And I love this neighborhood, how diverse it is. My neighbors are all wonderful people. You can't beat it, you just can't."

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