Love at First Sight

Lanée and Jay Lucarelli had no intention of buying a more than 100-year-old mansion on Lake Erie — that is, until they set foot in it. 
 After years of living in old homes, Lanée and Jason “Jay” Lucarelli decided to try living in a new one. So they bought a property on the Chagrin River in the exclusive Cleveland suburb of Hunting Valley and tore down the existing house to make way for a custom residence.

But before they started building, Lanée cousin called and urged them to check out a house that had just gone on the market: a red-brick-and-stone Jacobean Revival mansion completed in 1910 for iron-ore magnate Howard M. Hanna Jr. The three-story, 20,000-square-foot structure, designed by prominent New York City architecture firm McKim, Mead & White, was set on three lush acres overlooking Lake Erie.     

Lanée remembers the moment her husband, president and CEO of Minute Men Inc., walked through the front door into the center entrance hall. The handsome walnut-paneled space stretches past the library and dining room on the right, the parlor-turned-family room, marble fireplace, and music room-turned-living room to the left, to two sets of French doors at the back of the house. On the other side is a sunroom with views of a swimming pool and the lake.

“This is where I’m living,” she recalls Jay saying. “I’m like, ‘Oh, my God! We have just spent over a year designing and doing landscape architecture!’ We had everything! And my husband was like, ‘For what we’re going to spend, we won’t have anything like this.’”

Since the Lucarellis moved in just over three years ago, they’ve been living with contractors underfoot almost daily. Their collective mission: to skillfully combine the house’s stunning architectural features with every modern convenience. Lanée admits that the couple’s taste in homes is a paradox — one that’s made finding the perfect place for themselves and their 11 children, six of whom still live with them, seem like an exercise in futility.

“We like new houses, but we want everything to look old,” she says.

The couple’s first task was converting the 10-bedroom, two-bath third floor, which once accommodated 18 servants, into quarters for their three college-age daughters. Walls between two tiny bedrooms were removed to create a spacious sleeping area for each girl. Lanée solved the problem of limited closet space by turning an originally sized bedroom next to each doubled counterpart into a dressing room. One room outfitted as an office now serves as a guest room; another has been pressed into service as a gift-wrapping center. 

Contractors then gutted the kitchen. Lanée opted to retain some of the original 1910 features. Built-ins lining the entrance from the dining room display her collection of MacKenzie-Childs Courtly Check-patterned tableware, along with multiple sets of china and crystal. A painter turned the defunct cast-iron range (which they are keeping for its beauty and history) that stretches along an entire wall into a focal point by creating what looks like a limestone arch above and a red-brick wall behind it. And the refrigeration units built into one wall of an adjoining white-tiled room actually still work. 

"I have them serviced all the time,” Lanée says as she unlatches one of five doors to reveal cases of sparkling water and soft drinks.
But the rest of the 1980s décor was removed to make way for banks of cabinetry painted black and topped with gray quartzite. Everything is supersized to feed a large family and legions of guests. One of the two stainless-steel galley sinks is 6 feet long. Lanée cooks at an island equipped with a 6-foot-long La Cornue range, four-burner cooktop, Japanese teppanyaki and French plaque. Eight black-leather stools surround it so people can sit down and watch. (A separate La Cornue Flamberge Rôtisserie was built in next to the original range. Lanée  worked with La Cornue representative Amy Colosia to have all of their appliances made in France.) A neighboring island surrounded by six chairs and lit by an antique wrought-iron-and-brass fixture replaces the usual kitchen table. 

 In the gold-colored dining room, painters stenciled the damask pattern on panels of glazed ochre wallpaper so they could replicate it in water-damaged areas. One half of the room is dominated by a granite-topped African-mahogany bar, complete with refrigerator-sized wine cooler regally topped in large gilded finials, and a quartet of sleek black-leather club chairs with burled-wood frames arranged around a brass tray-style cocktail table.

The grouping contrasts nicely with the traditional burled-wood dining table for eight lit by a chandelier that would be at home in a medieval castle and two gilded throne chairs upholstered in tufted black leather that flank a granite-topped buffet. The large gilt-framed mirror is actually a television, which comes in handy when entertaining sports-loving guests.

With the exception of the fringed bottle-green sectional in the family room, Lanée generally furnished the first floor with large, lavishly trimmed pieces from the family’s previous homes. She eschewed the sunroom’s usual light-and-airy décor with an antique Jacobean court cupboard, game table and black-leather sling chairs, all repainted with black-and-white-check inserts inspired by her Mackenzie-Childs tableware collection. Black area rugs — one emblazoned with a bold gold floral, the other latticed in gold and dotted in little maroon flowers — soften a limestone-tiled floor. 

“I like dark colors,” Lanée says. “I just feel that it’s more inviting.”

The paneled library boasts the requisite antique leather-topped partner’s desk, the foyer a grandfather clock and baby grand piano that Jay plays. “He’s a drummer, but he can play any instrument,” Lanée says proudly. A lush dark floral reminiscent of a Manet still life covers the bench bolsters and seats of antique side chairs placed on either side of an antique Jacobean buffet. In one corner is a Mackenzie-Childs bench with a frame eclectically finished in a mix of faux marbling, checks, gold leaf, Scottish tartan and glass-beaded fringe, its feet formed by multiple ceramic rings in different colors and patterns. Lanée collaborated with interior designer Shelley Lutz to commission Nicolette Capuano to paint the portrait of a woman in profile that hangs over the fireplace. She is actually a composite of features gleaned from photos of Lanée, her mother and daughters.

 “It’s a picture of nobody, but it has a little bit of a resemblance of everybody,” she says.

 The living room — paneled like the foyer but with walls painted a creamy white — houses another baby grand piano and two areas of black, taupe and gold seating, each gathered around an ottoman specially made for their 12-year-old.

One of two armoires purchased from the previous owner is a replica of a Danish antique that conceals a bar. The ivory-inlaid burled-wood game table and chairs imported from Capri, Italy, gifted to the couple by Lanée’s parents, occupy one corner along with a bronze bust of Caesar displayed on a columned pedestal that belonged to Jay’s father. Other family pieces on display include a bust of Lanée’s mother and Jay’s mother’s Victrola.  

 A massive oak staircase with a landing overlooking a pergola-framed terrace and new koi pond leads to the second floor. Workers have renovated three bedrooms, all with in-suite baths and fireplaces, to each of the Lucarellis’ three school-age children’s liking and added a bath to the guest bedroom so the occupant doesn’t have to share. Once the children’s TV room is done, they’ll move to the owner’s suite and exercise room. 

 Lanee believes she and her husband will then have the forever home they’ve always wanted, a place where they can graciously welcome their large extended families and circle of friends. They’ve already hosted a wedding, three wedding receptions and a benefit for the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland on the back lawn. As she stands by the pool, she points out steps that lead down to the beach. “You can walk right over to the Shoreby,” she says, referring to a nearby yacht club housed in yet another early 20th-century mansion. Such amenities have eliminated her family’s desire to travel once the weather warms.

 “Why are we doing summer vacation when it’s so beautiful here?” she asks. “We don’t do summer vacations anymore.”

Expert Tips on Color Trends

In the world of home décor, things continue to get dark.

While classic white remains popular — “It never goes out of style,” says Jennifer Neese of Wayne Homes — it’s now being paired with navy blue or gray, both inside and out.
“People wanted to be safe with choices, but they’re getting darker — and more adventurous,” Neese said, noting that the most popular grays are on the dark end of the spectrum, like charcoal or cast-iron.

Clare Opfer of S&H Blinds says that the rustic farmhouse look that had been in recently is being supplanted by what she calls “modern farmhouse,” featuring vertical siding or shiplap on the exterior with dark-framed windows. 

Interior design trends include accents of dark or “masculine” colors like mahogany for backsplashes or fixtures to contrast with lighter colors like white or natural woods, reflective of a Norwegian influence on interior design, Opfer says. Also, people are starting to experiment with colors and textures for indoor window treatments, she says.
Neese said darker colors are also finding a home in the kitchen, with a trend toward an island that’s darker-colored than the rest of the kitchen. Neese says interior doors are being painted dark with white trim as well.

Also popular this year are jewel tones like turquoise. PPG’s paint color palette of the year is Transcend, a sort of beige; Misty Aqua; and Big Cypress, a dusty orange. Julianne Lee, owner of Catawba Interiors, notes that aqua colors pair well with navy blue.

The PPG palette is also evocative of the 1950s, demonstrating another trend: The return of Midcentury Modern. “Midcentury Modern is a big look that’s coming back,” says Lee. “It’s popular again, but in a new way.”

Another popular interior touch is shiplap, but no longer just in natural wood colors. It can be painted light or dark, depending on the rest of the décor.
“Shiplap looks great and is super easy to maintain,” Opfer says.

Above all, Opfer says, don’t be afraid to ask for advice from local experts, not to change your mind but to help refine your plans.
“Everyone wants to have an HGTV home,” she says, “and I don’t think it’s out of the question as long as you can find somebody who understands your vision.”