By Design

A hands-on homeowner brings the wow-factor to this Columbus home

Story Jan Swoope | Photograph Matt Garner & Luisa Porter

When Richard and Jean Ferguson were faced with an awkward, hillside corner lot in one of north Columbus’ wooded neighborhoods, Richard set about doing what he does best — conquer challenges. The result is a home rich in innovative design and wow-factor details.

Richard is “in the wood business,” you might say. As president of Associated Architectural Products Inc., a full-scale millwork company, he is immersed in the world of design and manufacturing day in and day out. He relished putting his creativity to work on his own family’s home.

It was not a fast process. Work began with cutting into the steep slope in late 1999; the Fergusons took up residence in January 2004. The years in between were dedicated to painstaking thought and inventive craftsmanship.

A visitor stepping into the foyer would be forgiven for instantly assuming a top-tier architectural designer had been called in from New York or the West Coast. The visionary on this project, however, calls Columbus home and always has. He was guided, in essence, by three primary elements — curves, angles and openness.

“I really think that is the crux, the absolute basis if you want to really, really do something that’s different,” Richard said. “You’ve got to bring those things into it.”

The house is a showcase of all three principles, largely interpreted in wood grain and Corian.

The Fergusons approached the design one room at a time.

“I tried to think what I could do with each area to make it the very best it could be,” said Richard.

Centering the main level is a gracious area crowned by an atrium that towers 30 feet to a skylight. It clearly illustrates the designing mind at work.

Richard did not want to use sheet rock on the feature’s interior surface. Instead, he created ascending sections or motifs using horizontal and vertical wood grains as his medium. Each section is inset a few inches more than the one below it, changing planes and adding textures to panels that depict a rising sun on the east atrium wall and a setting sun on the west.

“I wanted to show something different … to show how light makes wood veneer change,” Richard said.

Lighting is everything, he stressed. The house has more than 230 recessed lights throughout, 30 or more of them in the master bath. “Bath” is something of a misnomer. The expansive space includes a dressing area and numerous wardrobe sections, including a cabinet containing a rollout desk for Jean’s sewing machine. His and her vanities are marvels of Richard’s innovation — hidden power strips, concealed compartments, a clever built-in sock drawer that doubles as a seat and a control panel that commands everything from lights in other rooms to a coffee maker.

In the master bedroom, the bed is flanked on each side by cylindrical features that may, at first, appear simply aesthetically pleasing. But in a fashion that might bring to mind the inventor “Q,” of James Bond fame, Richard created them to house an array of controls and pullout conveniences, from a phone niche to a bedside tray. 

“I love our bedroom,” said Jean. “Everything is so handy. … Richard didn’t waste any space.”

That holds true for every room, particularly the spacious kitchen. It’s Jean’s favorite room. Out-of-sight nooks keep workspaces clutter-free. “Four or five people could work in the kitchen without getting in each other’s way,” Jean added.

The nearby butler’s pantry serves as a staging area for entertaining. A concealed panel there can be opened to access a built-in sideboard in the dining room, while another cabinet conceals the controls for the living area’s media center.

A floating staircase — also Richard’s design — descends from the sunken living area, following the hillside slope to a lower level that contains a billiards room, exercise room, bedrooms and the home theater, with its 4-by-8-foot high-definition screen (Richard’s favorite room). This is the recreation hub of the house. Walls are accented with photographs of the couple’s grown children, Katie and Thomas, and SEC prints that boast maroon and white. Here, too, every room reflects Richard’s expertise in functional design.

“It’s comfortable,” he said, about the overall feel of the home. “It has a lot of openness, a lot of light.”

The Fergusons’ house still has a room or two in the evolution stage. It should come as no surprise that what Richard has in mind for them is something extraordinary.