CINCINNATI -- Cathy and Tom Crain were done spending nights at "the museum." That's what Cathy calls the sprawling Adams Place penthouse they shared with their extensive collection of Barbizon school paintings and Asian antiquities for 17 years.
She wanted to shed a lot of their art and buy "a little house with a garden," but he said "absolutely no house." When their luxury condo sold in just one week last summer, the Crains were thrust into a time bind.
Theirs was a rush-rush, hurry-hurry adventure steered by realtor Julie Back, who recommended they consider the new condo complex going up at Observatory and Shaw avenues in Hyde Park. The Crains chose a second-floor, 2-bedroom, 2 1/2-bathroom unit that was nothing but walls at the time of purchase in September.
It was half the size of their old 6,000-square-foot penthouse and provided Cathy the opportunity to trim and decorate it in her personal style, but she only had two days to make her decisions about flooring, molding and -- toughest of all -- the kitchen design.
Fortunately, she found the perfect solution to the latter at Auer Kitchens in Finneytown.
"The first kitchen we saw when we went in was so gorgeous," Cathy recalled. She looked around at others before announcing that "I want the kitchen we saw when we walked in the door. And I wanted the lighted glass shelves" over the sink.
The Cleveland native and socially responsible investment counselor met her Christmas move-in deadline with the help of the complex builders, the Greiwe Development Group, and Jen Huber of Homan Interiors in Fairfax.
"I give Jen full credit for the house coming together. It's just fabulous," Cathy said. "It was stressful, but for us we feel like kids. ... We actually live in all the rooms, which we never did before. It's so happy."
The Crains had lived in houses in East Walnut Hills and Walnut Hills prior to moving to Adams Place in 1999. All three homes gave Cathy a place to garden, and she said she really wanted that again. Instead, she has formed a group of green thumbs called the Botanical Belles that volunteers at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.
"So now I garden at the zoo, and it's perfect," she said.
So is their Hyde Park place.
"It's so easy living here," she said after Tom stepped out to take a power walk around their new neighborhood. "We can walk up for dinner. We go to Carl's (Food Shop on Observatory) three times a week."
The Crains, who are deeply involved in the city's cultural and charitable communities, no longer throw large parties that once drew senators, a president (Bill Clinton), fine artists, musicians and opera singers. But the naturally lighted, 700-square-foot room Cathy calls "the salon" -- it houses the kitchen, dining area and gathering space -- is large enough to accommodate crowds of up to 30 people.
The lights in the secure complex's hallways come on automatically as guests wind their way to the Crains' front door. They enter an 8-by-10-foot foyer that features a coat closet and large Asian artwork on a wall across from the powder room.
Guests turn left to enter the salon or step a little to the right to enter retired investment counselor Tom's bookshelf-laden library. Both spaces have sliding glass doors to a 200-square-foot balcony that offers views of Hyde Park beyond Shaw Avenue and the calming effect of a vertical water feature.
The dining area in the salon features a traditional couch and tables as well as a gilt-framed mirror surrounded by a half dozen samples of what was a large collection of European landscapes painted in the style of the Barbizon school (1830-70). A seventh romantic Barbizon painting of a woman tending a cow done by Julien Dupre hangs over the gas fireplace's white wood mantel. Built-in cubbies to its left are filled with books and pots and figurines purchased in countries such as Cambodia, China, Vietnam and Bhutan.
Light streams into the salon's gathering area from three sides, and it's big enough for a Steinway & Sons baby grand piano, which Cathy said she "plays badly, but it's my baby"
Across the room from all the windows is the kitchen, an all white cabinet and veined marble design with stainless steel appliances and a 3 1/2-by-6-foot island that's just big enough for breakfast for two.
Around the corner from the kitchen are a boldly wallpapered bathroom, a guest room with a poster bed and a closet large enough for Cathy to use as an office and a 200-square-foot laundry room where an ankle-high fountain keep the Crains' two cats hydrated around the clock.
The master bedroom suite at the opposite side of the home is what every retiree dreams of having, especially a female one. The bedroom is nearly 300 square feet in size and the bathroom features a tub, a large glassed-in shower and a double-sink vanity.
But it's Cathy's closet that elicits wows.
At 115-plus square feet, it's more than three times as big as Tom's closet across the hall and about the size of an average children's room in an old Hyde Park house. There's even enough space for a stuffed reading chair in what Cathy calls her "zen room."
Though the Crains have less than half the space they had at Adams Place, that which they have is just right.
She said their old 3,000-square-foot, three-side penthouse deck only saw use when they hosted parties, but now they find themselves out on their deck with their cats all the time.
"I really don't miss anything," she said, seven months into living in their smaller digs. "We truly enjoy living in this very gentle space. We actually sit in our living room and talk. And it offers a suite in case we need someone to help us when we get older."
An added bonus is that the condo complex has been certified LEED Platinum by the U.S. Green Building Council, which earns it a 15-year City of Cincinnati tax abatement.
"That was very important to us," Cathy said of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design status. "If we had to move into a building, we wanted it to be efficient."