A Home to Roam

For the Almeida family of five, a nearly 7,000-square-foot Tudor set on 2 acres of waterfront land means plenty of space to explore and play.
It’s good that February is the shortest month of the year, at least in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Erie winters are notoriously long and hard, and you could certainly argue February is the worst of the winter months in this snow belt city. It is cold and snowy, and there is no sign yet of those hopeful spring March days when the occasional warmth of the sun can change the mood almost instantly — and bundled up kids turn their faces upward like eager sunflowers.

It was one of those dreary gray February days in 2019 when Jasmine Almeida first came to Erie and visited what would become a new home for her; her husband, Dr. David Almeida; and their three children, Max, 9; Leo, 6; and Paloma, 5. 

The beautiful seven-bedroom, 6,800-square-foot Tudor she toured is built on nearly 2 acres in the sought-after Frontier Park neighborhood of Erie.
But what really captured her heart? The views of Presque Isle Bay from the home’s backyard.
Jasmine knew, even on a gray day in February, she would never tire of seeing it.

“How could I not fall in love with that view?” Jasmine asks.

The majesty of the house wasn’t lost on Jasmine and David either. Built in 1932, the house retains much of its original grand architectural integrity. The fireplace, flanked by French doors, is rumored to have come from descendants of Napoleon Bonaparte’s family in France. The marble-tiled foyer is complete with a dramatic staircase. It leads to a landing, where a window seat looks out on the front lawn. There, an oak tree — planted when the house was built — stands tall. A swing sways gently from the tree’s massive branches, a sign the house is now a home to children.
“We love living in a bit of Erie history, and filling an old house with a young family,” David says.

A Comfortable Grandeur
The Almeida family’s mix of bohemian and casual style makes even this grand house feel like a home. 

“We definitely don’t have a formal lifestyle,” Jasmine says. “It’s just not who we are as a younger couple with three kids under 10.”

Comfy couches abound — sometimes two to a room. Each floor has dedicated play spaces, for both the adults and the kids. Downstairs, the sunroom, bright with natural light, is the kids’ technology-free, nature-based play area, which Jasmine has named the “Discovery Room.” 

Jasmine opens the door of a built-in cabinet to reveal a collection of nuts, pinecones and other treasures found on their property..

“Leo calls this his museum,” she says. “He’s our nature boy.”

Upstairs, one wall of Max’s room is painted a cheerful Lego red, and every shelf is filled with Lego figurines and his favorite completed Lego kits. In another bedroom, Jasmine has created a yoga studio for herself. In the basement is a full home gym, while David’s home office includes guitars and a drum set.

On a recent afternoon, Paloma plays on a window seat in the kitchen overlooking the backyard while her mom gives a tour of the house. The family’s two dogs, Teddy and Daisy, loll nearby. The 13-by-20-foot kitchen is one of the rooms the family most frequently occupies, Jasmine says.

Her favorite spot, however, is the back stone patio where she enjoys her morning coffee each day. She also does much of her work from this spot. Jasmine runs a small company called Yogalastics, for which she designs Vinyasa-inspired hair and wrist accessories imprinted with positive, empowering phrases like “I am calm” and “I am a warrior” meant to help yogis stay focused throughout a session. (yogalastics.com) She is in the process of becoming a yoga instructor.

“In yoga we often set an intention during our yoga class. I wanted to create a way for yogis to keep that intention with them throughout the day,” she says, noting that physical postures are just one aspect of yoga, and quieting the mind is an important aspect of a yogic lifestyle.

The business also has allowed her to meld her interests in a way that inspires her. “I have a business degree in marketing and 300 hours of training in yoga,” says Jasmine, who has practiced yoga for more than 15 years in studios from Montreal to California. “So Yogalastics is a perfect way to express myself both entrepreneurially and spiritually.”

Her husband, a retina surgeon in Erie, also finds time for fitness. He ran 50 miles in one 8-hour outing to raise $5,300 for the Second Harvest Food Bank in Erie this summer. Starting and ending at his home, the run looped through parts of western Erie County and Presque Isle State Park. His effort was recognized by the Pennsylvania Medical Society, which named him one of its “Everyday Heroes.”

Both David and Jasmine are passionate about Erie, despite being transplants. David was born in Portugal but immigrated to Canada as a child. He grew up in Toronto and has earned degrees from schools in Canada, the United States and Hungary. A top doctor in his field, he has more than 200 peer-reviewed publications and more than 150 national and international conference and keynote presentations. He now practices at Erie Retinal Surgery. 

Jasmine is from Nova Scotia, and both she and her husband have retained their Canadian citizenship. The family has moved frequently due to David’s medical training, but Erie — where even the winters remind the Almeidas of their childhood homes in Toronto and Nova Scotia — is where they wanted to finally put down roots.

“He was raised in the city and I was raised in the country,” Jasmine says. “We feel Erie is the perfect combination of those two.”

They’ve jumped right into the community — David planned his fundraising run, Jasmine has forged friendships and helps with the Frontier Neighborhood Association, and the kids are involved in school. The family even opened up their home for the Erie Philharmonic fundraiser Holiday Tour of Homes after only living in Erie six months.

Between their career pursuits and the kids, they haven’t found much time yet to take on house projects.

They’re making a list, though. At the top of Jasmine’s: Modernize the bathrooms.

“The old stuff is charming, but I want faucets that work properly,” she says.

The Perfect Backdrop
But on a summer day, when the backyard beckons, it feels like those house projects can wait.

Stone pillars mark what the Almeidas believe was once a pergola and is now a favorite spot to hide during games. A sunken garden in the middle of the yard includes a fountain. A charming small garden, planted by the kids with the help of a local Erie business called Eat Your Yard, features an arbor walkway made of snow peas, beans and tomato plants. The kids tend to it faithfully, Jasmine says.

A steep set of 110 stone and wood stairs on the edge of the property give the Almeidas access to the water, where the kids like to skip stones and wade in Presque Isle Bay.

Jasmine invites friends for yoga sessions in her backyard during the warm months, setting up mats between the old pergola and the edge of the cliff overlooking the bay as the sun sets. She’s finishing her Hatha yoga teaching training, and she plans to hold classes there next summer; they’ll be a mix of Vinyasa and Hatha styles.

“The charm of the house and the beauty of the natural surroundings (are) just the perfect backdrop for an inspired and grounding yoga flow,” Jasmine says, noting that the peaceful surroundings have inspired many of the intentions and colors of Yogalastics. “We are so happy to call this our home.”

Color Up
It’s easy — and affordable — to refresh your space with color. Three local experts weigh in on the hues to use. 

Black is back.

When it comes to home construction and decoration, white remains the most popular color for exteriors, reflecting the desire for more rustic decoration — and for obvious reason.
“There’s so much you can do around white,” says Jennifer Neese, sales manager for Wayne Homes in Sandusky, Ohio. “The color white is never going to go out of style.”

A lot of people are looking for that farmhouse feel for their homes — incorporating touches like vertical siding, a steep pitch to the roof and a front porch, but also using black and darker colors for exteriors. “Think old coastal towns,” Neese says. Dark colors absorb sunlight more — Henry Ford famously said the Model T was available “in any color as long as it’s black” because black paint dried the fastest — so there is a concern for fading, Neese notes. But, she explains, darker siding is thicker and more durable.

Black accents also can be found indoors, she says, with doorknobs, faucets and finishes. She’s noticing less demand for stainless steel and brushed nickel fixtures. “The black finish is popular because of multiple trends: That farmhouse feel, luxury and contemporary fixtures, but it really reminds people of the timelessness of older homes. A lot of them had old dark brass finishes.”

Lighter colors remain trendy for flooring, which, combined with the popularity of open concepts, can make a room seem bigger than it is. “Dark floors used to be more popular,” Neese says. “But with lighter floors, you can take a smaller space and create the illusion of a larger one.”

Light colors also remain popular for cabinets and countertops — including mixing colors for upper and lower cabinets, she says. But even that’s changed somewhat, with gray becoming a popular option, particularly lighter shades. 

“Everyone’s been raving about gray,” says Clare Opfer, sales and marketing manager for S&H Blinds, also in Sandusky. She also notes the popularity of lighter browns and tans in interior decoration. “Natural wood colors are taking over.”

Patterns are also popular, she says, particularly subtle ones, in geometric shapes. 

“You’re seeing almost a two-tone look for carpets, cut pile with loops,” Opfer says. “There’s really a strong 1970s influence in fashion as well as interior design. I wouldn’t be surprised to see shag carpet come back at some point.”

Also hearkening back to the 1970s is the use of neutral colors and patterns, allowing people to experiment with different textures for furniture fabric and pillows, says Julianne Lee, an interior designer with Catawba Interiors in Port Clinton, Ohio. “Mixing textures is big,” she says.

Gray remains popular for interior and exterior use, Lee says, particularly when combined with shades of blue. Navy is widely used, particularly when combined with aqua. Cool greens and blues are popular for another returning trend: window treatments, which also use sunspot patterns and pastel colors.

“People want to be more comfortable in their homes, and people associate the time and the music of the 1970s as being very laid-back,” Opfer says. “These colors make their homes feel more homey.”