Built to Entertain

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by Kristina Domitrovich // photos by Lindsay Pace

Growing up in New Albany, Ben Coleman always had his dream home in mind, even down to the exact plot of land. He even knew he wanted his lakefront property to have a basement with a walkout patio. Now, he and his high school sweetheart and wife of 20 years, have just that.

But the road home was a little winding. At first, while they were building and waiting for their old home to sell, Ben and Chrystal Coleman lived on the property, but in a 900-square foot, one-bathroom “shop house” with their four children – for four years. From blueprints to moving in, the couple said the process took about two years. Along the way, they decided they needed help achieving their vision, so they reached out to Emily Forman of Moda Designs.

“We wanted to have a house with great views of the lake all the way across, from our bedroom all the way to the kitchen and dining area,” Ben said. “We wanted to have a house where you could open it up and it becomes like a blow-through house where you get the breeze off this big hill.”

In addition to creating space for a lot of breeze, the couple knew they were going to need something to accommodate all their entertaining. They wanted their guests to have the freedom to spread out, but not have to divvy off into different zones.

“Not cramped for space,” he said, “but you don’t feel like you’re in five different parts of the house.”

Initially, the couple had planned on using more exposed brick on the inside of the house: The foyer, the archway connecting the dining room with the kitchen, the fireplace. That’s when Forman jumped in and suggested wooden elements instead to keep things lighter.

The couple joked that they found most of their design inspiration on Pinterest, brought the ideas to Forman and asked her to bring them to life. There were a few ideas Forman couldn’t imagine at first, like the second island in the kitchen, but now she can’t imagine anything else.

“You’re seeing that more now,” she said on the second island. “But when they came to me with it, I was like, ‘A double island?’ but now I’m seeing it a lot.”

For Chrystal, she “just wanted something different.” So, Forman brought in a few other elements, too: Picking a single bold color to incorporate throughout the house (the middle kitchen island, the hallway’s ceiling, the master bath), barely noticeable blue barn bedroom doors, painting the porch ceilings a faint blue to deter bugs. Along with fun pops of color, the exterior paint color, wood stains, crown molding, and cohesiveness throughout the home’s design, the three agreed that Forman played a massive role in selecting lighting.

“Lighting is really important, and I think that’s where a lot of people get it wrong,” Forman said. “(They) may like both of these fixtures, but they may not look good together, so we put a lot of thought into that; and we don’t have a lot, but I think what they have is great.”

While Ben says the home is the perfect combination of both their styles, they didn’t initially agree on the theme of the house. Ben said Chrystal wanted “this whole thing really, really country” – “rustic, not country,” Chrystal and Forman would correct; whereas Ben is more minimal and modern at heart.

“He would (make it) like modern, modern,” Chrystal joked.

But along the way and with Forman’s help, they “blended,” and settled on a contemporary farmhouse.

“I like things really crisp and clean, and not cluttered at all; and she grew up in a house where that was not the case, so she can’t help it,” he teased. “I think we both got exactly what we wanted, the contemporary, clean-line look with the country accents.”

Aside from a happy medium on the design front, the pair got exactly what they wanted out of their family home. All their kids’ rooms are on the same level, which Chrystal attributed partly due to the fact that they transitioned from being so close in their old place, but also because family is deeply important to the couple. Along the main hallway, directly after a side entryway, the wall is lined with locker-style cubbies, perfect for setting down sports equipment and backpacks upon entry.

With a soon-to-be 18 year-old, 16-, 13- and 11-year olds, the couple wanted to be able to entertain their kids’ friends, too. That’s where the basement and third story come in. With those additions, there’s enough space for a theatre, a guest room, a pool table, an air-hockey table and a ping-pong table.

“Even if (we) had 20 kids over here,” Chrystal said, “there’s something they have to do and they can run around, so it’s awesome. So it’s exactly what I wanted.”

Aside from being able to entertain guests, there are some new things the couple has been able to appreciate again in their new home. In their previous home, Chrystal said the space was too cramped to enjoy cooking.

“I hated cooking when we were at the old place,” she said. “But now, of course with this kitchen, who wouldn’t want to cook in there?”

As for Ben, he said he mostly sticks to grilling.

“I enjoy grilling,” he said. “I’ll help when I can, but she’s the boss lady.”

The Kitchen’s Specs:

The kitchen includes quite a few hidden elements that make it seamlessly easy to entertain. The first is the pantry. The walk-in pantry offers extra storage and counter space, perfect for keeping the stand mixer, coffee station and other things neatly tucked away. Chrystal says this is perfect for entertaining, as she can prepare dishes in the pantry, and bring them out to be cooked or served as needed.

“I can do it in there,” she said, “and just keep it neat for entertaining purposes.”

Another tidy feature is having two kitchen sinks, one on the extended portion of the kitchen counters and the other on the island. The one in the island offers easy access while working, and the sink closest to the dining area is perfect for swiftly moving dirty dishes off the table to be cleaned. Though, when it’s just the Colemans, they said they tend to eat at the second island rather than the table.

“I wish we had made it bigger,” Ben joked about the island.

The microwave can double as an oven of sorts with a “cook smart” feature, which Chrystal says is one of her favorite parts of the kitchen. Using this feature, she can input a dish’s information – type of meat and pounds – and it will cook it to perfection.

“It knows exactly how to cook it,” she says, “and it’s never come out underdone or dry.”

The kitchen also flaunts a hidden chopping block in the middle island, upper-lit cabinets, a full-length wine cooler and a touch-activated seal-breaking refrigerator for easier access when hands are full.

Chrystal, who has recently fallen back in love with cooking – partly because of her kitchen, and partly thanks to meal subscription boxes like Hello Fresh – grew up with “country cooking,” but now cooks mostly Italian, Japanese and Mexican cuisine.

“In that order,” Ben joked.

With all the pastas she makes, she said the pot filler over the gas stove has proved it is worth its weight in gold.

The couple’s plans for the house are still underway, as they just moved in before Christmas 2019, and they plan on tackling the landscape next. Chrystal has lots of cherry trees and rose bushes in mind to incorporate plenty of color in their yard. Ben joked that his only complaint is he wished they had put the laundry room closer to the master bath.

“That’s a long haul,” he said laughing.

Fortunately, that’s only a temporary dilemma – they will soon install an additional washer and dryer in the master suite for easier access.

In the meanwhile, they said they couldn’t be happier with their new home.

“I absolutely love my house,” Chrystal said. “It’s like coming home to a vacation.”