Historical integrity honored in Hills and Dales estate

The fine details and craftsmanship found in a vintage home often give it a unique character, a sense that there is no other quite like it. For Judy Cebulko, it was one such detail that sold her and her husband, Ed, on their Georgian Baronial estate at 2601 Fox Hill Dr. NW in Hills and Dales.

The fine details and craftsmanship found in a vintage home often give it a unique character, a sense that there is no other quite like it. For Judy Cebulko, it was one such detail that sold her and her husband, Ed, on their Georgian Baronial estate at 2601 Fox Hill Dr. NW in Hills and Dales.

“I fell in love with this home as a result of a single picture,” Judy said, pointing out the carved pattern in the wood molding that outlines the foyer staircase.

The detailed carpentry throughout the home, she has been told, took years to complete, with the actual completion date in 1930, in the Great Depression.

“To have the wherewithal to continue to build a house of this stature at this time (in history) is pretty incredible,” Judy mused.

The house was the third and last home built by Hills and Dales developer T.K. Harris. It was one of many designed in the village by architect Herman Albrecht.

The 12-bedroom, 12-bathroom estate is on 4.3 acres and has seven fireplaces, a six-car garage, and a finished lower level, making it about 15,000 square feet.

According to Hills and Dales resident Fred Gray, an ancestor of Albrecht and the grandson of a carpenter who worked on the home, most of the lumber came from the property. It was taken to Schneider Lumber, which was owned by Gray’s great uncle, to be processed.

“My mother remembered playing at the Fox Hill home when it was being built, and the heavy dies that my grandfather used to make the egg-and-dart molding used in the dining room,” Gray said.

When the Cebulkos negotiated the purchase of the home from the family of its second owner (longtime Diebold president and CEO Raymond Koontz), she said the requirements went far beyond financial, as the Koontz grandchildren had a strong emotional attachment to the house.

“We committed our intent to respect and honor the architectural and historical integrity of the house and assured them we shared their appreciation for it being a wonderful place for gathering of family and friends,” Judy said.

She believes they have done that, while at the same time “dressing” the house to make it their own.

As the tour begins in the foyer, one almost can see dozens of party guests milling about the two-story area 70 years ago, as the household staff, dressed in crisp uniforms, served cocktails in what was a distinctly formal home.

It is here that Ed and Judy’s extended families gather each year to decorate the biggest of their 14 Christmas trees. It was the Christmas decorating that made Ed and Judy’s daughter, Lexie, feel like the big house was a “home.”

With direction from Dan West of Dan West Interiors, the foyer’s white walls were hand-striped in golden hues to “make the architecture pop,” Judy said, still marveling at the perfection of the painter’s stripes as they continue up the stairs and down the two major hallways.

Ceiling lighting was another major enhancement. Judy explained that lighting was not as important in 1929 but a challenge to add in 2004. Ed directed the installation of about five miles of wiring to accommodate lights, security, music and other technology. The Cebulkos installed air conditioning as well.

To each side of the front door in the foyer is another sign of modern times: his and hers formal powder rooms, a theme that continues upstairs with his and hers master bedrooms, connected by a sitting room.

Carpeting was a luxury in the house’s heyday, so many areas, such as the library and formal dining room, are carpeted, as are the main stairs. Judy said it would be a gamble to pull up carpeting and expect to find fine wood floors.

Upstairs, the four main “Harris” family bedrooms are connected by an inner hallway, just inside the wall of the “public” main hallway. Judy believes this was for security and privacy, allowing the family to go from room to room without being seen by guests downstairs or the staff.

Closets and built-in dressers display more intricate details of the era and are deep and surprisingly large.

The Cebulkos use the guest master suite as their bedroom; it’s larger and has a beautiful view of the gardens. Their master bathroom was one of many architectural achievments by the Cebulkos’ general contractor, Denny Baughman, whom Judy calls an expert in bringing older homes back to their original luster.

While on a trip to Switzerland, the couple had a small hotel bathroom that was beautiful and functional.

They sent Baughman a photo, and he replicated every detail in their home. The walls and floor are Italian marble. There are two pedestal sinks and a walk-in shower.

In the east wing of the house, there is an outdoor balcony, which once was considered the servants’ porch.

Servants who were smoking or out of uniform, said Judy, would have to pull a blind so anyone passing by could not see them.

The elevation changes in the servant’s quarters, and steps lead down to these smaller bedrooms, some of which have functional sinks, a luxury to the domestic help in that era.

While decorating these rooms for the many family members who come to visit, the couple came up with themes, based on the people and places they love. For example, a garden-themed room overlooks the potting shed outside and is decorated with garden photos from Ed and Judy’s Las Vegas home. A Moroccan room incorporates photos and decor from a wedding they attended in Casablanca, while “Uncle Mike’s Cabin,” an outdoorsman-themed room, has photos of the family salmon-fishing in Alaska.

Ed’s “Risky Business”-themed room is in the works and will feature photos from his many adventures, such as motorcycle excursions and climbing some of the tallest mountains in the world.

Steps from the east wing lead to the kitchen, where Baughman was able to open load-bearing walls to turn a separate eating area once used by the servants into a large informal dining area incorporated into the kitchen.

“He recaptured the look of a kitchen consistent with a residence of this stature in the 1930s,” Judy said, pointing out granite countertops selected to mimic marble typically found in a traditional or confectioner’s kitchen.

The entire wall and backsplash are made up of white subway tiles.

“There are lots of beautiful and colorful tiles out there, but Denny is an absolute purist, and he consistently and respectfully guided us to timeless choices and has yet to steer us wrong,” Judy said.

At the front of the house, below the servants’ balcony, is an enclosed breezeway, called a loggia, that has its original tile-and-granite floor. A staircase off the loggia leads to the lower level, which has been transformed to an art-deco style nightclub, with rooms reminiscent of the Chicago jazz district.