Built Upon Love

Contributing Writer

A sign in Robert and Stephanie Falks’ living room reads, “Once in a While, Right in the Middle of an Ordinary Life, Love Gives You a Fairy Tale.”

No one knows this adage more than the Falks, whose love for their home helped them through a nightmare remodeling to transpire into their very own “happily ever after.”

The Falks’ three-story, red brick, classic Victorian home was built in 1893. Robert and Stephanie became its sixth set of owners after they purchased it in 2007. Before that, it had been a historical museum and home to a series of single families.
Robert and Stephanie were eager to move from their modern, upscale Indiana condominium overlooking the Ohio River into a more practical place. Both work at Jewish Hospital – Robert as a radiologist, and Stephanie as a vascular technologist – and they wanted to live closer to work.

They looked everywhere for a home, including Cherokee Park and the Highlands. But it was love at first sight when they saw the Old Louisville beauty on South Third Street.

“We wanted something with charm and character,” said Stephanie. “It was definitely a draw that this house was downtown. Now work, Fourth Street and so many places are just five minutes away.”

The Falks knew the 119-year-old home would require major remodeling, so they set their move-in date for 2008 when the most grueling of renovations would be complete.

The Falk fairy tale isn’t too much unlike Cinderella’s. She had to be cleaned up and her wardrobe had to be changed for her true magnificence to be revealed. The Falks’ home, in essence, needed the same.

It’s obvious Robert and Stephanie have made modifications to the house. But they’ve managed to preserve many of its authentic fixtures, too.

“This is a historical home, so we wanted to keep some things that are original,” said Robert, “but we didn’t want the house to feel like a museum either.”

The home’s foyer flaunts an original built-in bench typical of Victorian style below its bay windows. In addition to the seating area, Robert and Stephanie also preserved an exquisite array of large, baroque mirrors; the home’s original windows, three of which are stained-glass; seven coal-burning fireplaces; a black claw bathtub with a white rim; a pot filler above the stove; oak hardwood floors; and elaborate woodwork.

Some renovations were large-scale. The entire kitchen had to be gutted and redone before Robert and Stephanie could move in. Jerry Robinson of Jerry Robinson Design oversaw the remodeling feat. With his help, the Falks constructed a kitchen that subtly blends the old with the new.

“We wanted to keep the oldness of the Victorian look,” said Robert. “But we wanted to add modern touches, too.”

The kitchen’s sand-colored tiles look like they’re made of stone from a long-ago era, but really they’re heated – and evidence that new age innovations can make even the oldest of homes exceptionally comfortable and up to date. In the same vein, the eton blue cabinets, designed by Robbie Walters of Walters Cabinets in Hodgenville, Ky., seem to merely be cabinets. But encompassed in them are the refrigerator, freezer and dishwasher. No modern appliances are readily visible in the kitchen, lending to its old-fashioned feel.

Robert was keen on keeping the home’s original windows because of their historicity. But not only were they too thin to withstand Louisville’s stormy weather, they also weren’t energy-efficient. So instead of completely discarding them, Robert had them refinished. He also added storm windows to their outsides for fortification.

If the Falks’ home were Cinderella, Jennifer Stetzler of Palazzina Interiors would be its fairy godmother. She helped Rob and Stephanie transform the home’s antiquated appearance into classic elegance.

“We have a thimble of design talent,” confessed Robert. “We knew what we liked, but we didn’t have the ability to put it all together.”

Before Robert and Stephanie had the whole house repainted, it was a murky mess of dark blues and reds. Now the colors are soft and mellow.

“We picked the color scheme: teal and cream,” said Stephanie. “Jennifer helped us pick matching furniture and draperies.”
The living room is a flawless fusion of modern and classical style. The plush, walnut-colored sofa and chairs are perfect accents to the sky-blue ceiling, which is adorned with a silver-finish crystal chandelier from Palazzina Interiors.

“My favorite room is the living room. It’s a very comfortable room. It’s not too formal or too casual,” said Robert. “It’s just right.”

The dining room pays homage to much history. Most of the woodwork is original, and the chandelier from Drexel Heritage Interiors appears so traditionally ornate, it seems like it should be original, too. But the real history is contained in one of the home’s original glass-display cabinets.

Franz Falk was the first member of the Falk family to travel from Germany to America. He settled in Wisconsin during the mid 1800s and opened the Falk Brewery, which he sold to Pabst Brewing Co. in 1892. Robert displays glasses and other rare memorabilia from the Falk Brewery in the aforementioned cabinet. He even possesses the brewery’s original mortgage papers.
It might seem like this is where Robert and Stephanie’s Cinderella story ends, but no fairy tale is complete without a Prince Charming.

Stephanie gave birth to Leo Franz Falk 16 months ago. He has a nursery that incidentally connects to the master bedroom. Its sea green walls are adorned with artistic black and white photographs of his mother and him, many of which Robert took himself.
The Falks’ newest addition Leo has placed further home additions on the backburner for now.  Within the next two years, Robert hopes to complete the unfinished third-floor bathroom, construct a garage and landscape the backyard. Nevertheless, with Leo as Prince Charming, the Falk fairy tale still ends happily ever after.

Photos By BILL WINE | Contributing Photographer