‘Home of year’ draws from Kent State lines

Tim Jacobs


Four faculty members in the College of Architecture and Environmental Design received Architect Magazine’s Home of the Year honor for outstanding residential architecture.

Professor Thom Stauffer, associate professor Gregory Stroh and assistant professors Kathryn Strand and Jason Turnidge received one of nine awards given yearly by the magazine. The award recognizes their work with Stauffer’s firm, Thom Stauffer Architect[s], on Ceruti House, a recent design project in Cleveland Heights. The building was “one of around 300 entries” for the competition, Stauffer said.

This is not the first design award Thom Stauffer Architect[s] has received for the house in Cleveland Heights. According to the American Institute of Architects Ohio’s Web site, the house won the organization’s Design Award for a New Building in 2005.

Strand said the design team also won an AIA Cleveland Chapter Honor Award in 2004.

Ceruti House is named after owner and lifelong Cleveland-area resident Dorothy Ceruti, a metalsmith and linen artist, and her late husband, Joseph, a well-known Cleveland architect, who died in 1993.

“He did a group of dormitories at Case Western Reserve,” Ceruti said. “He did some apartment buildings (around Cleveland, such as) Shaker Towers.”

Part of the late Ceruti’s legacy is still at Kent State, thought it takes some searching for.

A quick search for his name on the university Web site’s home page brings a well-hidden article he wrote for an electronic university architecture publication, Architronic, which ran from 1992 until 1999.

“My daughter put his name in a search engine, and a KSU Web site shows up,” Ceruti said. “He did an article for KSU, and people are still reading it 13 years later.”

Ceruti said she was born in a different part of Cleveland from where she lives now, and she moved into the neighborhood after she married. She lived in the same house on a double lot until 2001.

“The project started in 1997, although Dorothy says ’98, and (construction) was finished completely in 2004,” Stauffer said. “She lived in the house next door, and her kids played ball in the lot. Where the house is now, was an empty lot they acquired.”

Stauffer isn’t new to the neighborhood either. According to a list provided by Stroh, the firm has either designed from scratch or renovated several other residents in the area. Ceruti house is the firm’s most recent project there.

One striking aspect about Ceruti House’s design is the high ceilings, which stand out even in pictures.

“A lot of the houses are three floors . Thom designed it to have higher ceilings to help it fit in with these taller houses,” Ceruti said. “They help make it less of a dwarf.”

Building the house took about two years, with a year each for design and construction, Strand said.

Ceruti House has an open, loft-style interior further amplified by the high ceilings. The entire house is designed around a metal central staircase, which leads to a ramp to the library and master bedroom. The staircase was custom-made by a business in Kent.

“The library space — where Dorothy could sit and watch her grandchildren below — is a private space that allows her to see throughout the house,” Strand said. “It is the terminating point of the house.”

The design never remained set in stone. Strand, who did much of the interior design while the house was in its construction phase, said there were constant changes in the plans as the house was built.

“Since this is such original architecture . some ideas cannot be conveyed in a typical set of construction documents,” Strand said.

The structure has built-in furniture elements, such as drawers, cabinets and bookshelves, and given the constantly changing plans as the building is constructed, the firm “purposefully waits to make these things,” Strand said. She designed most of the built-in furniture around the house, including the bookshelves and the bed in the master bedroom.

“I love this house,” she said. “It gives me a sense of openness as I walk through it every day.”

Contact School of Architecture and Environmental Design/Interior Design/School of Art and Visual Communications Design reporter Tim Jacobs at [email protected].