The Lake Effect
Pat and Jennifer Shurmur fell in love with Lake Erie during the middle of a northeast Ohio winter, right after Pat was named head coach of the Cleveland Browns in January 2011.
“Even in February, we thought it was beautiful,” Jennifer remembers.
Living by the water wasn’t initially a priority. But as the former St. Louis residents’ affection for the lake deepened, their house-hunting shifted to the city’s suburban shores on the West Side of Cleveland.
They finally found a 4,500-square-foot modified colonial on a deep, shady lot with the features needed to accommodate a couple with four older children: a first-floor master suite, three second-story bedrooms with adjoining baths, and a finished walk-out basement with the space and full bath needed to create summer digs for their daughter Allyson, now a junior at Boston College.
“I think we looked at every house along the lake,” Jennifer says as she sits in the family room with Pat and Allyson, younger daughters Erica and Claire, and a bulldog puppy named Penny. “We felt our family fit here.”
The interiors, however, were more formal than the Shurmurs’ busy lifestyle required. Jennifer describes rooms wrapped in wallpaper and windows outfitted in elaborate treatments. While Pat prepared for his first Browns training camp, Jennifer tackled the challenge of completely redecorating the place before the team’s Sept. 11, 2011, home opener. Only the kitchen would remain as-is. Her goa1: to create a décor that acknowledged the house’s proximity to the lake, yet didn’t look like the stereotypical lake-house getaway. She and Libby Palmieri of the Cleveland-based interior-design firm House of L, who also acted as general contractor, accomplished the feat in a mere eight weeks, primarily with a palette of watery colors ranging from sun-warmed sand to storm-tossed grayish blue.
“We didn’t need anchors and shells all over the house to make it feel like the water element was brought into the home,” Libby declares.
The color scheme was inspired by linear tile — a mix of polished aqua, celadon and taupe glass and polished and matte travertine marbles -- that Jennifer and Libby chose for the wall shared by the family and music rooms. Ironically, Jennifer initially saw the wall, which now serves as a focal point in the open first-floor plan, as a major obstacle to making the home her own. Anchored by built-in bookshelves, it extended three quarters of the way into the space, ending in a three-sided fireplace. “I am such a linear person -- I like things symmetrical,” Jennifer explains. Libby suggested remedying the situation by knocking out the bookshelves and closing the fireplace opening at the end of the wall, then extending the wall beyond the firebox to better center it.
“It’s brilliant,” Pat says of the idea. “It opened (the music room) up.”
The women then turned their attention to revamping the interiors. Workers replaced carpeting throughout the first floor with an oak like that in the kitchen, then stained the floors a medium walnut. “It really helped this floor plan feel more contiguous,” Libby explains. The walls were painted sea green in the music room and varying shades of sand in the family room, sitting room, foyer and halls. The only piece of wallpaper in the house is a large rectangle framed by molding in the pale-blue dining room, an alternative to the obligatory art hung on big, empty walls. The grillwork pattern in the metallic silver paper replicates that in a screen stationed in front of a fireplace on the opposite wall.
“As you’ll notice, there are no window treatments on the back (windows),” Pat points out. Jennifer and Libby went so far as to remove the mutton bars so the family could enjoy fully unobstructed views of the lake.
Jennifer and Libby augmented furnishings from the Shurmurs’ St. Louis home with pieces upholstered in neutral fabrics that provide the textural interest needed in a décor devoid of saturated color. Wood-frame chairs boasting geometric-patterned exterior panels and oyster antique-velvet cushions hold court in the sitting room, while a glass-topped cast-bronze coffee table on a flower-strewn camel rug in the family room shares space with sofas in a corduroy-like caramel chenille and English armchairs in a damask-patterned pale-aqua chenille. A linen-like synthetic covers two cream-colored chaises in a bay-window sitting area opposite the fireplace wall shared by the family and music rooms.
“It has a linen look to it without the maintenance of linen and all the wrinkles that come along with it,” Libby says.
Exceptions to the women’s interior-design strategy abound in the first- floor master suite. The windows were outfitted with blinds, the floor carpeted in a light wheat frise. And although the women chose a natural linen-like fabric for the bed’s upholstered headboard and light-gray cotton sateen for the duvet, they opted to paint the walls a deep grayish blue and cover the sitting-area furnishings in shades of blue chenille and velvet.
“We thought those colors were more restful and soothing, more enveloping,” Jennifer explains.
Jennifer concedes that the master bath, now tiled in a maintenance-free porcelain version of Calcutta Gold marble, was a Hail Mary project. At the last minute, she asked Libby to reconfigure the space, an effort that involved removing the whirlpool tub to make way for a spacious shower. A built-in vanity replaced the old stall shower on the other side of the room.
“I polled all my friends, and everyone said, ‘We never use the tub,’” Jennifer explains. “The house was torn up. And I knew that if I put (the project) on the back burner, it may not have happened.”
The master-bath cabinetry was painted and glazed to resemble the color of driftwood, then topped with quartz counters and his-and-hers glass-vessel sinks – fixtures chosen, Libby says, because of their resemblance to beach glass. The house has its share of other nautical- and beach-themed touches, items that rely on materials rather than motifs to create a waterside vibe. Libby notes the huge free-form driftwood bowl in the kitchen – another nod to the driftwood Jennifer has collected from waters near every city she’s lived in during her married life – and a woven-seagrass table in the sitting room.
But the most innovative accents are the lighting fixtures. A chandelier of classic design, the entire wrought-iron frame of which is wrapped in abaca rope, illuminates the foyer, while a two-tier counterpart boasting pendants of opaque, translucent, clear and mirrored glass hangs from an octagonal tray ceiling in a bay housing the kitchen table. Like the vessel sinks, the translucent pieces remind Jennifer of beach glass.
“It’s my favorite thing in the house,” she says as she admires the fixture.
The colors Jennifer and Libby chose for the home turned out to be an accurate reflection of their inspiration. Jennifer points to the linear tile on the fireplace as a prime example.
“The lake has been every single color of glass,” she marvels. “It changes color every single day.”