INDIAN HILL, Ohio -- His posture, his expression and the softness of his voice speak to the fact that retired Indian Hill obstetrician Hari Budev's heart is aching. It's because he and his wife, retired pediatrician Rekha Budev, have decided to sell the custom-built, contemporary home that has been a family member for 28 years.
It's where they built a gazebo above the bank of the Little Miami River so their daughter could marry in front of 300 people on their football field-sized lawn. It's where they hosted grand parties in their sunken living room and on their wrap-around porch. It's where Rekha cooked for friends and family who came for extended visits from far-away places such as their homelands of Kenya and India.
And it's where they read for hours in the shade of their private woodlands and hung unique artwork collected during the 40 years they traveled the globe.
Although Hari seems sad, Rekha acts as excited at the prospect of moving to a smaller house as she is to show off the 9,000-square-foot home they designed and built with Montgomery architect Larry Norris in 1989. The five-bedroom, 6 1/2-bathroom house on five acres at the very east end of Camargo Road is on the market for $1.489 million.
The Budevs met while attending medical school in the Indian state of Gujarat. They came to the United States in 1963 and married the next year in New York. Following a five-year stint in Kenya, where Hari was born to Indian parents, the couple returned to the U.S. in 1974 and were invited by a physician friend to visit him in Cincinnati.
"We talked on the phone, and he said to come see him first and look around here before we decided where to go," Hari recalled. "We came to Cincinnati for a few days with him and ended up staying."
The Budevs and their two preschool-age children lived in an apartment while they set up their practices. Then they shopped for a new house but didn't find what they wanted. That's when Norris came into their lives and built them a 3,500-square-foot traditional home on Bridgewater Lane in Indian Hill.
The nature-loving couple reared their children there. When the opportunity to buy five wooded acres on the Little Miami came up, they jumped at the chance to live in the woods and hired Norris to be their architect again.
"He knows what we like," said Rekha. "I still like him. If I had to build again, I'd go with him."
She presented Norris with a single photograph of an unusual, contemporary house she spotted in Architectural Digest that was mostly windows. Whatever Norris designed, it had to have a lot of big windows, she said.
The Budevs got what they asked for and much, much more.
"Larry said, 'If you're going to build a new house, you might as well build a big one,'" Rekha said.
The Great Room
The front and garage sides of the house that visitors see first seem to be inspired by the International Style of the 1930s and 1940s: blocky and all white. A closer look reveals curved walls on either side of the front door that set the tone for what's to come inside.
Norris orchestrated a symphony of curved features: 4-foot-wide, floating staircase; walls of windows; bathroom mirror, vanity and glass-block wall; triple-tray ceilings; porch railings; and even the bath house next to their swimming pool.
Complementing these curves are round dining tables and an elongated S-curve couch in the great room that Rekha picked out. She decorated with an overall color scheme of white, gray and black to emphasize the colors in their artwork, much of which has been sold, given away or moved out of the house.
A heavy double door of sculpted wood swings open into an 18-foot-high foyer that features a sun-catching crystal chandelier and Absolute Black marble flooring. Straight ahead, the grand staircase sweeps right to a landing overlooking the great room, which is a gleaming example of collaboration between owner and architect.
Originally, Norris planned for the great room's ceiling to be 9 feet high. Above it was to be a sixth bedroom. The Budevs, however, thought the view out the curved wall of windows at the far end of the room was too good to be limited to that height, so they agreed to eliminate the bedroom and vault the ceiling.
They also negotiated the removal of a bar area that would have bridged the great room and the kitchen, choosing instead to close off that space so that Rekha could cook in private.
No shortcuts were made in the materials used in the great room, which is slightly sunken and features a richly stained hardwood floor that fans out to meet the curvature of the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Although the view of the woods and river from the great room is stunning, the Budevs spend the majority of their time in their kitchen and breakfast nook. Large enough to accommodate a party of 25, the kitchen is a sunny spot with a skylighted corner, wrap-around banquette, sliding door to the back deck and seating for four at the black-and-white island made by Kinsella Kitchens of Madeira.
Rekha, who cooks up to two hours a day and plays bridge on her iPad while sitting in the sunny nook, said that even though the kitchen is 28 years old, it's still perfect for her. Almost.
"The only regret I have is the pantry is small. Still, it's plenty big, but I wanted a walk-in room," she said.
About a third of the house's square footage is in the basement. Its showcase space is a carpeted bar room with built-in glass display shelves, fireplace and three mirrored posts that support the great room above. The room features a second curved wall of windows with a sliding door that leads to a flagstone patio under the main deck. A Kinsella-made wet bar with a refrigerator is nestled in the corner.
The space lends itself to many uses, Rekha said. It's great for parties but could be converted into a theater room or romper room for young children.
The basement includes a fireproof storage room that doubles as a safe room, three bedroom suites with large windows and closets, a suitcase closet, a second laundry room and a utility room with four HVAC units.
- The 27-foot-by-16-foot master bedroom takes complete advantage of the riverside and woodland setting. The bed faces a 14-foot-by-6-foot picture window through which the Budevs watch kayakers pass by, and there's a railed deck facing south that's private and perfect for an afternoon read.
- All bathrooms have marble floors, Corian countertops and foot-washing nozzles in the showers.
- Across the hall from the master bedroom is a cedar-lined closet the size of a small bedroom that has two windows facing the front yard.
- The three marble fireplaces in the house have screens made of different metals: brass, copper and steel.
- A four-car garage with three doors is attached to the house.
- The 40-foot-by-20-foot swimming pool is attached to an in-ground hot tub, and its bath house includes a bathroom with a shower.