A Sweet Home on Southside

A designer’s eye creates an enchanted Victorian home in Columbus

Story Jan Swoope | Photographs Matt Garner

Home Sweet Home” is no cliché for the Gina and Hunter McShan family. It’s the name of their pale peach Colonial Revival Victorian in a quiet Southside Columbus neighborhood. From the porch gracefully enveloping the entrance to an inviting warren of conversation areas inside, the 1902 dwelling honors its past, but with contemporary flair.

“It’s filled with things that matter,” says Gina, condensing the home’s character to essentials. “Most every little thing came from somewhere, or from somebody’s grandmother, aunt or children.” Those things, those details — a grandparent’s last letter behind glass, a sepia photograph, an occasional table that was a treasured wedding gift — foster personality.

Gina recalls an occasion when she was asked to decorate another couple’s home. “We want it to look like yours,” the homeowners told her.

“I realized that everything in my house had happened gradually, that every small thing came on its own, and that to make something look a certain way instantly wouldn’t be the same,” she says.

The home’s appealing color palette developed by degrees. After the McShans moved in in 1993, they painted the interior a neutral cream. Every room then “became a color by itself,” explains the lady of the house. “They’ve taken on their own personalities.”

Modest about her obvious eye for interior design, Gina says she’s always wondered if she would ever have a “grown-up” house, a “pristine showplace.” “We could probably use a little less stuff, but I’ve decided it’s always going to be a little bit ‘crooked,’ just like it is.” And the kids, Katie, Hunter and Stella, don’t want their parents to change a thing.

It is quickly apparent in conversation that the structure’s lineage is important, as if each person who lived there and loved it left something of themselves. The McShans know of almost every family in residence there in the past century. Some have called on visits to Columbus, asking to walk through once more. Others have passed on personal momentos of the home.

“There’s something about this house,” Gina says. “Once you’ve lived in it, it means something to you.”