Lexington, KY – Nestled on Forest Avenue, in a historic neighborhood characterized by its mature trees and turn-of-the-century architecture, Wyn Morris and Vicki Sword’s home may have a more decorated past than most.
In the late ’60s and early ’70s, it was rented by a group that was reportedly making the most of communal living. Later in the ’70s, it could be sighted on a curious local television series wherein bygone Lexington pop-culture icon “Happy the Clown” bumbled up the front porch with his cohort, Froggy. And through the ’80s, a mother and daughter inhabited the house, letting it deteriorate to a condition reminiscent of Grey Gardens by the time they both died, at which point the home was sold in a family auction.
Morris’ family purchased the home in that auction, not entirely sure what they were going to do with it. He and his sister lived there briefly, doing much of the original fix-up grunt work (lots of scraping and cleaning) before their parents moved in.
When Morris and his wife, Vicki, decided to move their family into the home in 2007, they knew they had some hurdles to cross. Perhaps the largest and most looming was to find a way for their family to exist in the longtime home of Morris’ father and stepmother, who both passed away in 2006, without being constantly overwhelmed by the sadness of their loss.
“At first, the boys thought, ‘Are we always going to be sad, because it reminds us so much of Grandad and Kaye’s house?’” said Sword, referring to the couple’s two children (Max, 12, and Owen, 6). “That’s why we wanted to [add] the new parts to the house.”
The other hurdles were secondary – how to import some color, along with Sword’s eclectic modern taste, into the 1890s American Queen Anne style home, for example. To help address all of these obstacles, the couple enlisted Montgomery Construction, Suburban Painting, Henkel Denmark for landscaping and architect Graham Pohl of Pohl Rosa Pohl. According to Pohl, working out the various kinks and the disconnect between what the homeowners want, and what they think is possible, is often a real challenge.
“A lot of people have a lot of anxiety about how to solve the problems,” Pohl said. “And while I want to get as much feedback as I possibly can, I know from experience that it’s better for them to let us sketch some potential solutions and reflect on them, rather than sweat it out themselves.”
Both Pohl and Sword, who was heavily involved in the details of the design, describe their designer-homeowner relationship as a “perfectly matched” team. “It doesn’t always happen like that,” Pohl admitted. “I think without exception, the choices that [Vicki and Wyn] have made have been what I would recommend.”