EDGEWOOD, Ky. -- Clint and Kim Brown didn't hesitate to answer when asked to name their three favorite places to show off in their 8,800-square-foot Edgewood home: the kitchen, the first-floor master bedroom suite and the lower level -- a combination bar, lounge, theater, billiards room and indoor basketball court.
It's a lot of house for the near empty-nesters -- the youngest of their three children is in college. Too much in fact. The Browns have their 4-bedroom, 4-bathroom, 4 half-bathroom, cul-de-sac home on the market for $1.895 million.
The couple -- he is president and CEO of the Florence Freedom independent league baseball team and she is the club's assistant general manager of operations -- built their sprawling house in 2004 so they could live on the ground level and play on the floor below it.
It took nearly three years and many major construction detours to achieve their goal: to build an elegant house fit for grand entertaining -- they had 300 people at one holiday party -- and comfortable family living.
They drew architectural influence from Tuscany, Italy, and homes and restaurants they've seen in Scottsdale, Ariz., where they own a second home. And they blended in traditional features common in Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati homes.
Circles are everywhere in the house, from the grand entry hall's recessed dome to the dining room and breakfast nook tables, master bathroom and drop ceiling-soffit combination, and Tiffany-style chandelier above the lower-level bar. Even wall corners are rounded.
Ceilings are high --14 feet to achieve headroom the 6-foot 2-inch Clint desired -- and openings between living spaces are wide. The wood trim throughout is traditionally carved and stained a medium brown. The home's furniture leans toward traditional and its artwork, such as Clint's collection of LeRoy Neiman sports hero prints in the billiards room and bar, is modern.
The couple saw that every detail in the home met their expectations and admits to exceeding their original budget. Clint, who had sold his consumer research business and was in the midst of a three-year non-compete work situation during construction of the home, kept an eagle eye on its progress from start to finish.
"We probably set a record for change orders," Clint said.
Kim also watched construction progress closely and contributed ideas.
Not satisfied with the original kitchen plan, Kim brought in Kathy Dietz of CabitDesign in Harrison to solve the many problems she saw and create a space able to accommodate a crowd, which often included her three children and some of her 13 brothers and sisters and 37 nieces and nephews. Dietz suggested relocating a hallway that ran through the kitchen to create more space, and the Browns literally had Ashley Development builder John Yeager's crew tear down the original kitchen framing and start over.
Clint said he remembers telling the builder to "stop the presses, do it now."
Kim said she told Dietz to "just do whatever you think," but the two worked hand-in-hand to get the kitchen right for Kim, who is the family cook.
"We did it at a substantial cost, but it was worth it," Kim said.
The kitchen draws visitors in all the way down a hall-like space bridging the dining room from the foyer. Straight ahead they see a tile mural over the maple stovetop exhaust fan that Kim designed. Its tiles and copper-like accent pieces are picked up in the backsplash and an inlaid copper frieze.
The stars of the kitchen, inspired by a kitchen Kim saw in Newport's Wiedemann Hill neighborhood, are its maple cabinets. Some have back-lighted doors frosted in a grapevine motif, and others hide appliances such as side-by-side Sub-Zero refrigerators.
Taking a close second billing to the cabinets is the kitchen's massive, two-level granite-topped island with built-in sink and mini-fridge for vegetables, microwave and warming oven. The island’s rounded end and sheer size make it a natural gathering place.
"We hardly ever ate in the nook. We always ate around this island," Kim said of the days when she had three children to feed.
The couple's attention to design detail spills out of the kitchen into the dining room where small diamonds of the same dark Brazilian granite used in the kitchen are laid into the floor’s white tile squares. Faux-painted walls -- and the decorative half columns and puffy clouds in the foyer's dome -- by Gary Lord of Blue Ash tie the first-floor rooms together as well.
The master-bedroom suite
Clint said a feature he loves about the house is its Lutron lighting system, which includes customized switch stations placed strategically around the house, including the foyer, kitchen and garage. When he comes home in the dark, Clint finds his way by tapping a switch in the garage that lights up the path to the bedroom. The switch stations reduce what Clint calls "wall acne."
One of those stations lights up the bedroom. It features a double-tray ceiling in a deep red, torn-paper wall motif and sports a view of a thick stand of trees 15 feet off the back of the house. Visitors pass his-and-hers toilet rooms before entering a to-die-for master bathroom off of which are two curved-wall, 200-square-foot closets with built in dressers designed to limit the need for furniture in the master. The bathroom is 25-feet-round with a curved, 7-foot-high partial wall separating a walk-through shower and raised, round jetted tub. The wall features an imbedded painting of a Tuscan village at sunset done by Tammy Stephens of Covington.
The lower level
A winding staircase with scrolled metal fabricated by Elsmere Ironworks leads down from the foyer to a vast recreation space where the Browns’ have hung a sign that reads "Cues & Booze Est. 2004." To the left of the first landing is what they call "Main St. Hall" because of its wall imagery and storefront feel.
The first door on the left opens to a theater room with an 8-by-5-foot screen and nine plush red seats in two elevated rows. It’s where the Brown family holds family movie nights and Super Bowl parties. Its noise is dampened by a double air-pocket wall.
Across the hall is Clint’s billiards room and its signed Neiman prints of famous professional athletes: Tiger Woods, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Johnny Bench, Joe DiMaggio, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire. Planned to be a fifth bedroom, the couple decided it wasn’t needed and removed half of the wall between it and the sunken bar to create a balcony effect.
The round bar, which Clint said was inspired by the one in Mt. Adams Bar and Grill, seats about 10 and is equipped with a commercial ice machine, dishwasher, beer box and two keg taps. Behind it are a temperature-controlled wine cellar and an exercise room. In front of the bar is a lounge area with sectionals, stuffed chairs, a banquette with two bar tables and French doors that lead to an indoor lap pool where a deck was planned.
The crowning moment for sports fans who visit Clint’s man cave, however, is through a door in the corner of the lounge. It leads to a bridge that overlooks a professional-grade, half basketball court with an old-school scoreboard. Framed and signed jerseys of famous players such as Larry Bird hang on the wall.
To top it off, the court includes a bathroom, a drinking fountain and a wide, netted cubbyhole under the hoop into which Clint hits golf balls and his two boys pitched baseballs in their younger days. So he could keep an eye on his boys and their friends, Clint added a closed-circuit television system and speaker in the gym.
"I could hear and see what was going on," Clint said "I could yell out ‘Hey, no black-sole shoes in the gym!’ It’s like the voice of God coming down here."
When they look back on what came out of those three years of planning and construction of their house, the Browns feel like they hit a home run, one they hope to achieve when they eventually downsize to patio homes in Northern Kentucky and Scottsdale.
"We really broke through the entertainment and recreation barriers in 2004," Clint concluded.