Atop a hill at the end of a windy, wooded Goshen street sits a house that looks nothing like the neighboring horse farms and country homes. With its rustic wood and glass exterior, the home blends seamlessly into its environment to create a breathtaking composition of architecture and nature rather than a jarring juxtaposition. It’s a masterful design achievement by architect David Biagi and a couple who were driven to create a dwelling designed to meet their modern aesthetic and the needs of Rolf’s twenty-two-year-old son Lawrence who has autism and cerebral palsy.
Completing the home was a 17-year odyssey that began before the couple even met. “Rolf had commissioned David to draw up plans 17 years ago,” says Yamilca. “At that time, Lawrence couldn’t walk. So Rolf (and Lawrence’s mother, Leonor) wanted to create a house which was completely accessible. Rolf is also very into design, so he would research everything online and in magazines and he had inspiration photos for everything in the home.” Years later, Yamilca was drawing up her own plans. “Before I had moved to Louisville from Cincinnati (where she had been a packaging designer with Procter & Gamble), I was thinking about the home I’d like to live in. I kept looking and couldn’t find anything. So I was renting and sketching ideas. After Rolf and I started dating, I saw the model of his home and it looked almost exactly like my sketches.”
The aesthetic coincidences began even earlier. “On one of our first dates, he walked into my apartment and saw that we had the same random West Elm bookshelf,” she laughs. “We knew it was meant to be.” The house, however didn’t come together as easily as the relationship. When the two met, Rolf first found a location 16 years earlier. He had actually purchased a piece of property in Prospect only to have to sell it again when his plans for the home couldn’t get approved on that site. Life intervened. Yamilca left a job at Scoppechio and started the local fashion collective Louisville Bespoke. Rolf left a marketing job at a major corporation to start a new venture. “We still talked about the plans, but we also started looking for homes,” says Yamilca. “Then Rolf found a piece of property in Goshen.”
For Yamilca, who had moved from another city, Goshen seemed like another world. “When he told me about the land, my first reaction was ‘Where is that? It sounded so far out from everything.’” He drove her out to see it. “I didn’t fall for it right away. We kept looking but he kept working on me. Eventually, I saw the potential. It was a perfect piece of land at the end of a street. There was a stream and a hill and a beautiful view. I realized it could work.”
The two decided to go for it. The plans for their dream home were resurrected but Biagi had to tweak them for the new location and their new needs. Now it was a home for three, not two. And Lawrence was twenty-one and miraculously had been walking for years but still wasn’t confident negotiating steps. Both had come up with some new ideas in the interim and all of those had to be folded into the refreshed design. “I needed a bigger closet,” laughs Yamilca. “And I also wanted to incorporate more wood into the exterior to reflect the surroundings.” Since Rolf had lived through the disappointment of buying a piece of land only to have to resell it, the pair bought the property on contingency: They would buy the land once the full plans were approved. This time, they were.
Their shared dream started to become a reality—although not without some of the typical surprises that occur with new construction. At David’s recommendation, they hired UK School of Design colleague Bruce Swetnam to build the house. “The original plans had no basement, but the house that had been there before did, so David felt we had to dig the old one out to make sure the house was stable,” says Yamilca. As the building progressed, they also decided to make the home as green as possible and solar panels and geo-thermal heating and cooling were added to the project. A wrap-around deck was added to the plans then enlarged; a two-sided fireplace became a one sided fireplace with a custom-designed media center on the backside. Throughout the process, the couple, Biagi and builder Swetnam worked closely together. “We would sketch things— like our island. David would draw up plans and Bruce would provide his input. There was a lot of collaboration,” says Yamilca.
While many materials were local, Rolf also spent hours on line sourcing fixtures and materials both to meet their specific taste and their straining budget. “We added solar panels and a basement and things start to add up,” says Yamilca. “Rolf found opportunities to offset the costs and he was also very passionate about the details. He picked out every light fixture and every faucet.” The look and feel of the home was very much a matter of design give-and-take. Yamilca decided where every drawer in the kitchen would go; Rolf suggested the pop out outlets in the island; Yamilca added fuchsia bathroom walls and a royal blue accent wall to their otherwise all-white paint palette and Rolf suggested the white silestone rather than Yamilca’s preferred marble for their countertops.
When the home was completed in October, it was the happy culmination of many years of dreaming and planning. “It had evolved from the original blueprint but we have been involved in every step, so it felt very personal,” says Yamilca.
“It was almost surreal to walk through the front door.”
Life in their glass and wood home on a hill has fulfilled their dream. “Lawrence is very happy here and so are we,” says Yamilca. There have been some unexpected surprises. “Rolf has learned to use a chainsaw,” she says. “He has cleared the property along the stream so you can see it from the deck. The green features have been a smart investment. I think our summer utility bill is around twenty dollars. The house is always cool in the summer and warm in the winter. And with all of the windows, we rarely turn on a light even at night because we’ve found that moonlight is brighter than you think.” And that drive out to Goshen from Bespoke’s offices in Germantown? “It’s not as long as I thought,” laughs Yamilca. “It feels more like a retreat.” The commute, like the journey from dream to dwelling are time well spent. As the couple’s sparkling showplace of a home suggests, some things are clearly worth the wait.
Architect: David Biagi
Builder: Bruce Swetnam
Mahogany Front door: Bill Hamilton
Fireplace: Fireplace Distributors, 5810 Fern Valley Road, 502-964-5996
Geothermal HVAC: Allgeier Air
Countertops and stonework: Silestone White Zeus Extreme from Roberts Stone, Shelbyville
Downdraft Range Hood and internal blower: Faber Scirocco
Induction Range: Samsung
Floors: Carrell Rogers Carpet One Hillshire 5” Hickory Hardwood
EVOline pop-up outlets: Schulte Electro Systems Corporation IL 60554
Master walk-in closet: Closets by design, 1301 Herr Lane, Louisville, 502-425-4728
Master Bathroom white wall tile: Daltile 12x24 CP01 Gesso Gloss from Daltile Sales Service Center, 4621 Proximity Dr., Louisville, 502-968-0558
Master bath tub: Americh Wright WR7232T