Rolling hills, daily horseback rides and a custom-built dream home provide the perfect retreat for busy cosmetic surgeon Dr. Julene Samuels and her family.
When their family of four began to outgrow their home in the Highlands, Julene and Tom Samuels didn’t just start looking for a bigger house; they looked for a lifestyle change. “We love many things about the Highlands,” says Julene. “And it was close to my work, close to the twins’ school, but our yard had no privacy and we could lie in bed and look into our neighbors’ bedrooms,” And while the Highlands was close to her Dutchmans Lane practice and Tom’s downtown office, it presented a different kind of commute for this equestrian family with two young girls in competitive three-day eventing. “I was spending half my time driving to and from farms,” she says. Once they added their third horse to their family, the driving to visit their equine family members on the outside of town only increased. The family’s time in the car started really adding up—a burden for two working parents with long hours and early mornings.
The couple considered moving further out, but couldn’t decide how far. “We visited Homearamas and open houses and drove around looking at property,” says Julene. “We considered splitting the distance and living someplace in between. We looked at a lot of homes. Nothing felt right.” A solution presented itself when builder Carl Baker with Sterling Development Group found a beautiful piece of land out in the far reaches of Prospect… with a stable across the street. She says, “I remember driving out there to see it with the girls in the back seat and I had him on the phone and I kept saying, ‘Am I there yet? I think I’m lost!’” But the curvy country roads she was navigating led to a delightful surprise: At the end of a quiet road sat a beautiful piece of land with a sweeping vista of the river. Across the street was a barn. Says Julene,
“We both knew that’s where we could build our dream house.”
Designing and building the house that would occupy this idyllic location was a creative collaboration between themselves, Carl Baker and architect Viorel Florea. “We had gone to a Homerama at Lake Forest and saw a home with a kitchen that we could just see ourselves in,” says Julene. “Carl, who was the builder, walked up in a white coat that looked like a doctor’s coat and introduced himself. We told him we were considering building our dream home. He said, ‘I can do this for you.’” The Samuels had a vision beyond the beautiful country French kitchen: “Our goal with the house was to make it elegant and spacious but still comfortable and livable and not too stuffy or formal,” says Julene. “And we wanted to let the outdoors in; we wanted to incorporate the river view and the equestrian farm feel into the interior of the home.”
Baker’s attention to detail was the perfect match for a surgeon. “When we started talking about the plans, he said, what time do you get up? Where do you dry your hair?’” says Julene. “He got that detailed about creating a house that met up with our needs.” Florea was similarly obsessive about optimizing the livability of their home. “He looked at the lot and said, we’re going to have to turn the house this way,” she says. “He built it around the view. I can lie in bed in the morning and watch barges go down the river.” She can also walk across the street and visit her horses. “The barn actually belongs to a wonderful neighbor, but they let us keep our horses there,” she says. It’s just another serendipitous perk that makes this house a completely perfect fit.
Throughout the interior and exterior, other custom touches make the home uniquely theirs. The bannister on the sweeping circular staircase and upstairs balcony that encompass the marble foyer are accented with hand-forged iron horse head medallions. “I love that each one is a little different because they’re handmade,” says Julene. “On prom night, we had thirty couples on that staircase.” A cornerstone near the front door is engraved with the words, “Notre nid sur la riviere,” (Our nest by the river.) Gigantic square custom windows in the family room and upstairs master literally frame the picturesque river view. And a comfy sunken den is part of a teen suite that includes two bathrooms and bedrooms for the twins: “This is definitely a house for teenagers,” says Julene. “Their friends hung out here all the time. And we’d rather have them all upstairs than in the basement.” Now that the girls are at the University of Kentucky, their parents are about to enter the next phase of construction— finishing the basement and adding a pool and a second garage for horse equipment.
“We’re creating a bourbon bar and we’ll have an infinity pool out back,” says Julene. “The house is evolving with our lives. It was a great home to raise the girls in and the next phase of construction will be great for the next stage of our lives. We want this to be a home we will never want to leave and that the girls will always want to return to.”
Julene's TOP 5; Here are some of the local resources Julene and Tom Samuels used when creating their home.
Carl Baker with Sterling Development Group
Domain Interiors, Tassels and Interiors by Carrie
Yorkshire House from Bittners
the tall secretary and chair in the foyer
Ferguson Copeland Limited from Tassels
mirror and buffet table in the foyer
At Home with Her Horses
It’s no wonder Julene Samuels is so excited to have a barn— and her two thoroughbreds and a quarter horse— right across the street. As a solo practitioner in a thriving cosmetic surgery practice, her days routinely start before 8:00 a.m. and end twelve to fourteen hours later: “It’s often dark when I get up and getting dark when I drive home,” she laughs. Add to that the travel she does as an educator and consultant for several medical device companies and as a clinical investigator for Allergan, Syneron Candela, BTL and InMode and her enthusiasm over having daily access to her horses makes sense. “I still remember how excited I was when we first moved out here and I could get up in the morning, walk across the street and feed the horses,” she says.
“There’s something magical about mornings in a barn.... It makes the balance of my life work.”
Balancing her busy life includes juggling not just surgical and non-surgical patients, but also the time she spends traveling and educating other medical practitioners as a consultant and clinical investigator. She is adamant, though, that she make time for the research and educational roles that give her national exposure and involvement.
“One of the biggest reasons that I have devoted so much time to working with product and device manufacturers was that I wanted to be a part of shaping the future of my specialty,” she says. Julene has been a key opinion leader and consultant on body-sculpting technology, a leader in vaginal rejuvenation techniques and an innovator in laser facial rejuvenation.
While some surgeons bristle at the thought of a surgeon spearheading nonsurgical research and technology, she adamantly disagrees with that thinking: “Part of the rapid increase in non-surgical technologies is due to the fact that patients themselves demanded it,” she says. “They quite frankly insisted that doctors and device manufacturers come up with new and less invasive solutions to common problems,” she says. “Since surgeons have the most knowledge of many different parts of the body, it’s my opinion that we should be leaders in the aesthetic industry.”
In between all of the studies, speaking engagements, surgeries and procedures, she also makes time to sneak over to the barn just about every day. And, this year, she decided she would go back for more education of a different kind: “I decided to take riding lessons again,” she says. “I decided it was something I needed to do for myself. It’s been such a treat.”
She is currently involved in several clinical trials, one on a non-surgical urinary incontinence procedure for women and men which is about to be published; she is also presenting a paper at this year’s annual meeting of American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons. It’s a bold move to be a surgeon speaking about the importance of nonsurgical technology, but she doesn’t shy away from it. “I’m also still a little bit of an anomaly,” she says. “There aren’t a lot of other women out in that audience. It’s still a sea of men.”
While some people would be crushed by a schedule so demanding, Julene has carefully cultivated the balance she needs to make it all work. “All of these relationships we have with manufacturers and medical experts keep my mind fresh and my creative juices flowing,” she says. “They also provide me with endless new options I can then present to my patients. As an aging woman myself, I certainly understand how they feel in their own aging bodies and I am constantly seeking better solutions for my life and for theirs.”