Home Tour: The kitchen in this Over-the-Rhine house will dazzle you

You can tour it and others on Saturday
Home Tour: The kitchen in this Over-the-Rhine house will dazzle you
Posted at 5:00 AM, Nov 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-03 14:29:16-04

CINCINNATI -- Ted and Vicky Leavitt's brand new, sparkling white kitchen surely will be a big star at Saturday's Junior League of Cincinnati Tour of Kitchens in Over-the-Rhine.

So will the two fourth-floor decks that flank it.

And so will the pair of double-master, short-stay rental units two and three floors below it.

Those who take the Junior League's seventh annual kitchen tour will experience a building like no other in Greater Cincinnati. The Leavitts -- both career marketing specialists -- created it from scratch with architect Terry Bolling and builder Damon Long on an empty double lot they bought from 3CDC at 1514 Race St.

They call their creation Stannary Place, and there's an important story behind that name.

The Leavitts -- he's from Washington, D.C.; she's from suburban Detroit -- met at the recommendation of a dean while attending the University of Michigan. They came to Cincinnati in 1981 when Vicky landed a job with Procter & Gamble, and they married in 1983. The first of several traditional homes they owned was a 1932 house in Hyde Park.

With three sons in tow in 1999, the couple moved to London, where Ted had joined a start-up company and moved into a new 1,100-square-foot, 3-bedroom, 2 1/2-bathroom flat with terraces on three sides at 4 Stannary St.

The Stannary flat featured floor-to-ceiling glass and views of Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster, as well as Canary Wharf.

"It was the only modern place we had ever lived in, and it is what inspired this building," said Ted of their place in London.

After a short stint with an international branding company in New York, Vicky, who has been involved with the Junior League for 30 years, accepted an executive position with Interbrand Corp. in Cincinnati in 2015.

"Of all the places on the planet, we never thought we'd be back here," Vicky said.

The Cincinnati that the Leavitts knew in the 1980s was not the Cincinnati they rediscovered in 2015. The now-empty-nesters found themselves drawn to neighborhoods where urban renewal was hot and wanted to be part of it. The renovated properties they toured had great views, but usually they were a floor or two above the living area.

The Leavitts were determined to have views in accessible, useable spaces both inside and out.

Guided by Realtor and former Cincinnati mayor Roxanne Qualls, they discovered four contiguous empty lots a half block from Taft's Ale House that used to be the Prince of Peace Church's community garden.

The Leavitts purchased two 25-foot by 90-foot lots from 3CDC in June 2015. They realized the lots would allow them to create a new home with living-space views and two rental units that made the deal financially doable.

The building Boling designed and Long built has it all: Secure parking for four vehicles, an elevator with industrial-steel door, two 1,650-square-foot rental apartments with double master suites and private outdoor spaces, and a two-floor, 3,000-square-foot home for the Leavitts that features 3 bedrooms and 3 1/2 bathrooms.

There is continuity in materials throughout the building: the windows are steel and efficient; the walls are white; the flooring is mock-wood vinyl and off-white tile; the Aya cabinets from Cooknee Euro Style Cabinets in Oakley are white with brushed-steel pulls; the lighting is recessed; and the artwork is big and colorful.

The sameness of the units allowed the Leavitts to buy in bulk, sometimes from affordable big-box stores such as IKEA, Watson's and Home Depot, and sometimes from high-end retailers such as Panda Windows & Doors in Los Angeles and Modani Furniture in Manhattan near where Vicky used to work.

Master suite

Before getting to the fourth-floor kitchen and decks, the Leavitts' master-bedroom suite is a worthy stop on our tour.

First of all, it's big and bright. The sleeping area is almost 300 square feet and has large inset windows that are partially coated with 3M Fasara film for privacy but open enough to capture plenty of the sun as it sets over the buildings across Race Street.

The suite is at the end of a hall that accesses the other two bedrooms at the east end of the house and the public powder room and laundry room in the middle. A 10-foot, 4-inch headboard wall divides the suite in two, creating a path that loops around the entire space.

There are no dressers in the bedroom; a four-sliding-door closet just inside the suite is equipped with enough baskets and racks for the couple's clothes.

The bathroom itself is unusual in that its shower is set right up next to the soaking tub with no glass walls enclosing it. It's big enough, however, that water splashing into the room isn't an issue.

Vicky said that in the seven months she and Ted have lived at Stannary Place, she has used the tub only twice. She said they added it to the plan for resale purposes, knowing that bath tubs seem to be more important to homeowners in Cincinnati than they are in other cities they have lived.

"It's our little homage to Cincinnati," she said.

Two features in the suite the couple said are important to them are the private toilet room, which features a sink, and a pocket door that closes it and the bedroom off from the bathroom along the west wall of the building.

Top-floor living

In addition to the elevator, there are steps with concrete treads and a glossy white steel railing that lead up to the fourth floor. Right at the top is a coat closet, placed there for dinner guests who likely will take the elevator to the top and need a storage space close to the door.

Unlike most homes in OTR, the highest ceilings in the building -- 12 feet -- are on the top floor. The 570-square-foot interior space is a cube with glass sides on the east and west ends. Everything in the room is white, other than the artwork, glass tables, black quartz countertops and stainless-steel appliances.

That look, Vicky said, was inspired by a restaurant they frequented in their college town of Ann Arbor, Mich.

Another design choice made by Vicky was to eschew the trend of installing a tile backsplash. Hers is a single sheet of painted-back glass with a string of LED dot lights twinkling across the top. Working with Boling, she went with European cabinets similar to those they had in their London flat. They hide a small TV and appliances, such as their microwave. Even the flat-top induction stove is practically invisible.

Vicky also chose to off-center the sink to create a large serving space at one end of the island, which is long enough to accommodate four people on stools.

Probably the most unique feature of the room is the glass wall on the west end. Four 12-foot by 6-foot windows slide to create an 18-foot-wide, screen-less opening to the main deck.

"To me, that was a great find," Vicky said of the system they bought from Panda in L.A. "It's great. It slides open like butter."

The fourth-floor space, the couple said, has everything they need inside and outside. They love to have their morning coffee on their 200-square-foot deck that overlooks historical Over-the-Rhine to the east. Then there's the west-facing deck, which is 1,000 square feet in size with seating for eight and standing room for many more.

The couple's other units, which they rent through Airbnb and HomeAway websites for $250-$320 a night, have much smaller outdoor spaces.

"If you need a deck room, you don't rent our houses," said Ted, laughing. But they're perfect for two couples in town to enjoy the symphony, opera or theater productions held in OTR and Downtown.

'Kind of went nuts'

Although Stannary Place is new and unlike old-stock housing in OTR, the construction of new-build apartments and condominiums north of Washington Park helps it blend into the rapidly developing historic district.

The real surprise is that it's both a rental and a single-family property with ultra-modern amenities and a high-end look.

"In hindsight, we kind of went nuts at times, but it was worth it," Ted said.

One construction consideration that was a little over the top was Vicky's desire to put a plunge pool on the big deck.

Even though the building is steel-framed and sits on 30 piers dug 34 feet into the ground, Stannary Place wasn't built to support a heavy pool.


The Leavitts' kitchen and 10 others will be part of the Junior League of Cincinnati's Tour of Kitchens from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Tickets have already sold out, but there will be a limited number of tickets available for $40 at 10 a.m. Saturday at Memorial Hall, where the tour begins. The League also sold out its 400 tickets last year.