Character Builders

When Steve and Ava Rabold couldn’t find the charming cottage they wanted in Lakeside, Ohio, they took matters into their own hands. 
Ava and Steve Rabold knew exactly what they wanted — an old cottage, oozing with charm, in Lakeside, Ohio.

That dream did not work out.

Sure, they had their eye on plenty of vacation properties in the Chautauqua community located in western Ohio. But those homes either weren’t for sale or, in one case, was taken off the market right after the Rabolds made an offer. 

So they resorted to plan B. For more than a decade, they’d noticed a tree-filled lot perched on a hill on Lakeside’s easternmost street. “It was away from the hustle and bustle,” Steve says. “It was so quiet back there.”

“We didn’t want to build,” chimes in Ava. “We wanted an old cottage to restore.”

Still, building seemed to be their only option. The couple bought the wooded lot in 2016 and, in 2018, spent their first summer in Lakeside. “Lakeside is like Mayberry,” Ava says. “I love everything about being here.”

She and Steve start their day by biking to the pickleball courts. She takes at least two of the dozens of weekly arts classes offered. They shop at the farmers market and attend outdoor concerts by the lake. Evenings often end with an impromptu glass of wine at a friend’s house. 

Their 2,700-square-foot home has a master suite on the first floor, with two bedrooms and one bath upstairs. It also boasts a comfy entertainment room with a full bath in the basement, a generous front porch and a three-season room that runs the entire length of their home’s north side. The back of the house overlooks acres of trees, offering total privacy. 

And while they didn’t technically achieve their dream of living in an older home, Ava made sure they came pretty darn close. In fact, it’s not hard to make the case that their new Craftsman-style home actually has more charm than many of its older counterparts.

Ava accomplished that feat by searching out as many vintage items as she could, including doors, furniture, the kitchen island, three fireplace mantels (two of which are used as headboards), stained glass, cabinet pulls, artwork, accessories and more. She hates recessed lights, so the home is filled with interesting fixtures, including two crystal sconces from the 1800s that flank the fireplace.

“It’s my thing,” Ava says, sitting with her feet stretched out on an original forest green BarcaLounger that fronts a coffee table originally used as a factory work cart. “Older things have a story. They brought somebody joy.”

Indeed, there is no detail too small to have escaped Ava’s attention. She knew modern ceiling fans were a must but swapped out all the globes for vintage finds. You right recognize her paper towel holder, which also dispenses waxed paper, from your grandparents’ house. Even the alarm clocks are at least five decades old. 

While Steve certainly enjoys his surroundings, he also appreciates that the home has new plumbing, heating, windows and electrical. “It’s a good blend,” he notes.

Steve also was thrilled with their outdoor furniture, which both he and Ava feared would be difficult to source. But they found a 15-piece Russel Woodard set at an auction house in Columbus, Ohio. They had to paint and reupholster it, but it fits perfectly in their three-season room. “It’s really comfortable, too,” he offers. 

The Rabolds still maintain a home in Cleveland’s eastern suburbs, but only because of the draw of being close to three of their four grown children and new grandson, whom Ava watches one day a week. Still, their goal is to spend time with family and, then, hustle back to Lakeside.   

Steve, an attorney, has a 45-minute commute to work from Lakeside, but says it’s worth it, thanks to both the natural beauty and friendly people he finds there. He can feel the stress roll off him as he approaches the Sandusky Bay. “When I come across that bridge, it’s like a spell comes over me,” he says. “The water for me is just so calming.”


Make It Your Own
From window treatments to outdoor spaces, we checked in with local experts for tips on customizing your home. 

Whether you bought or built your home, it can take time to truly make it your own. But there are plenty of flourishes — both interior and exterior — you can add for that personal touch.

Farmhouse influences are the perfect example, says Jennifer Neese, sales manager for Wayne Homes in Sandusky. For people building new, porches are at the top of that list. “Even people who don’t use a front porch seem to want it for curb appeal,” she says.

People are also paying attention to backyards, for anything from a small patio to large wall-size doors that, when open, connect an open concept main floor to an outdoor entertainment center with a kitchen and/or fireplace. “Outdoor entertainment space is definitely something everyone thinks about, be it small or big,” Neese says. “From front to back, people want somewhere to sit outside and be social.”

Inside the house, Neese notes, one color doesn’t fit all in the kitchen. “We also see a lot of mixing of cabinet finishes, upper cabinets in one color and lower in another,” she notes. “Or an island in the kitchen in a different color.”

What you do with your windows is also an opportunity for individuality, says Clare Opfer, sales and marketing manager for S&H Blinds in Sandusky, Ohio. And, sometimes, patience is a virtue. There are some rooms that need window shades immediately — bathrooms and bedrooms are good examples — but she recommends taking several months to figure out what kind of light comes in through each window, and how much you actually want to come in.

“I never push anyone to make a quick decision,” she says. “I tell people to live in the space and tell me what your needs are. Once people figure out what they want, there are a lot of details in window treatments.”

The first big decision is shades or blinds. If you want shades, you have to decide if you want them to come down from the top of a window or up from the bottom. The two most popular window treatments right now are roller or Roman shades. 

“I think the nice thing about both those options is that once you determine what’s the best choice for you, they become very customizable,” Opfer says.

The other main decision for window treatments is whether they will open manually or be motorized. And, if they are motorized, will it be part of a smart home system? “Motorization has been an option for quite some time,” she says, “but everyone’s trying to be technology forward.”