By Candice Graham • Photos by Philip Slowiak
This Cleveland home is part of the National Register of Historic Places and will soon celebrate its 100th birthday. But to the Griffins, it’s the place they’ve called home for the past four years.
Picturesque houses with manicured lawns line the streets of downtown Cleveland, and each decades-old home has its own unique story to tell. The Griffins’ home on Centenary Avenue was built in the early 1900s for a family who owned a mill. A few years later, the first baby was born in the upstairs bedroom. Its sister house next door was built from the same Sears kit, and only minor details, like the Griffins’ wraparound front porch, set each charming home apart.
Sitting on the front porch you hear church bells and the train downtown,” explains Mike. “It’s Mayberry. You’ll see Lee students walking by, or neighbors out jogging or strolling babies.”
Four years ago, the Griffins moved here from Signal Mountain. Since then they’ve found a strong sense of community in the character-packed neighborhood and have made lasting friendships with neighbors thanks to gatherings like porch parties.
“Different houses in the historic district host parties and everyone comes for a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon,” says Kim, who adds that everyone brings an appetizer to share. “If we’d moved to a subdivision where you don’t see your neighbors as much, it would be a lot different for us.”
Bright pink and verdant green potted plants line the front porch entry to the house. Inside, the foyer is home to a fireplace that was once the original heating source for the home.
The wall color in the foyer was kept the same sandy neutral shade, and artwork and accessories reminiscent of the couple’s South African travels make the room special. The lion painting above the fireplace was admired by Mike and Kim on their trip to South Africa, and then later was given to them as a gift from friends who introduced them to the artist.
“He and his wife came over for dinner two nights later. As he was leaving he said ‘No matter where you go, the lion’s eyes follow you,’” recalls Mike. “I think about that each time I go up the stairs.”
Next to the foyer, the front family room features original wavy glass windows and a front porch view. A plush brown leather sofa and loveseat create the ideal place to read or entertain guests, although Kim admits if the weather is warm, her preference is to read on the front porch rocking chairs. Furniture in the room and throughout the rest of the home made a seamless transition from their house on Signal Mountain, making for an easy change between the two. An original pocket door sanctions this room off from the rest of the house, creating a quiet, tranquil space.
Through the pocket door is the dining room, which is characterized by spicy orange walls and family heirloom furniture. “With wide doorways, I knew looking from the front to the back that all the rooms had to blend,” Kim says. “This color has a bit of cheer to it and brightens the space.” Thick white moldings add an additional light touch, while a window above a built-in bench lets sunlight in. Accessorized with matching orange pillows and chair upholstery, the room has a cohesive hue throughout.
Nearby, the kitchen is one of the only spaces that was updated by the Griffins. “Just last spring I changed all the counters out and replaced the sink,” says Kim, who opted for natural-colored quartz counters. The custom-made cabinetry was kept the same and features pull-out shelving for simple storage. A picture window above the sink lets in charming views of the side yard, complete with a white hydrangea tree. “The kitchen has a great layout so it’s open and airy,” explains Kim. Open to the living room, it allows conversation to easily flow between the spaces.
Upstairs is the master bedroom which was added on to the home in ’92, but even with the update, the home’s origins were kept in mind. Hardwood floors were chosen for historical accuracy, and
antique stores were scoured throughout the country, which led to the discovery of the perfect fireplace mantle and surrounding tiles. “I took the antique tiles as inspiration for the wall color,” says Kim, who chose a subdued periwinkle shade.
Attached to the bedroom is the master bath, which is blanketed in sandy-toned porcelain tile. A clawfoot tub, the room’s focal point, keeps with the antique feel of the house. A travertine countertop carries the neutral shade through and rests atop furniture-inspired cabinetry.
Although this isn’t the first older home for the Griffins, who previously lived in a 1940s house before moving to Signal Mountain, Kim says it’s their favorite house by far. From perfect details to sharable stories (the house was used to board Olympics coaches during the 1996 Atlanta games) the Griffins look forward to keeping their historic home a shining downtown fixture for decades to come.