By STEVE KAUFMAN
You almost think that if Teri Wells Cullinan had her way, sheâ€™d have recreated her Mockingbird Valley house to be a replica of Rupp Arena.
The Wildcatsâ€™ former undefeated number one singles tennis player still attends every home football and basketball game and all her UK memorabilia could turn the house into a blue and white shrine if she were not restrained.
â€œEvery once in a while, Keith has to say to me, â€˜Whoa, thatâ€™s enough, itâ€™s getting a little tacky,â€™â€ she says about her husband, a Louisville attorney and investment manager who attended Yale University but indulges Teriâ€™s passion â€“ up to a point.
Teri and Keith bought the home in 1997. They loved the winding, tree-lined street. In fact, Keith had lived for a while right up the block. But they knew they were going to have to remodel and enlarge it. When they bought it, Teriâ€™s two high school age sons were living with them. Keith has four children and an extended family.
And Teri is a Tafel, which means that at any time (such as Christmas) she can have as many as 75 or 80 people in her house for dinner.
So that meant expanding the living space and opening it up, making rooms larger and brighter and the gathering space less cramped. Working with architect Larry Leis, a boyhood friend of Keithâ€™s, Teri divided the project into three phases.
â€œI love projects and I love remodeling and decorating,â€ she said.
The first phase was to knock down some interior walls and enlarge and update everything, making it airier and brighter. They extended the entryway into a two-story floor-through and upgraded the bathrooms.
The basement was given over to her younger son, then a student at Ballard High School, as â€œBillyâ€™s cave.â€ (It has since been converted into an entire living space, with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen.)
â€œWe love to entertain and so we needed the room and we also needed to upgrade the kitchen,â€ she said. â€œKeith wanted room to have all our friends, or everyone from both families, over for Thanksgiving or Christmas.â€
All her furniture and accessories are from Colonial Designs.
The second stage came a little later â€“ breaking out the back of the house, creating a sunny rear room with a wall full of windows that overlooks a sloping back yard with a creek running through the trees (all yellow, red and orange during a recent visit) and putting in a negative edge swimming pool. A walnut-backed bar area with plenty of seating and tables (and a special edition Maker’s Mark bottle for Kentuckyâ€™s 2012 national championship) serves as the central point for the entertaining they do.
A large piece of art on the wall â€“ â€œA Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatteâ€ by Georges Seurat â€“ is actually the wallpaper on a state-of-the-art Sharp 70-inch flat-screen TV. (Teri demonstrated how the wallpaper rotates automatically â€“ now itâ€™s Claude Monetâ€™s â€œWater Lilies.â€)
From the outside, the gracefully curving colonnade looks almost like the White House in Washington.
The final stage was the piece de resistance of the project, a media room modeled after a movie theatre â€“ right up to the star-twinkling ceiling.
The room, built by Rode Construction & Remodeling, was inspired by one she saw in the home of Susan and Denny Crum, but it has been amended to display as much UK blue and white as Keith would permit. (Clearly, that was not part of the Crumsâ€™ dÃ©cor.)
Crawford Entertainment Systems installed everything one could want for a mid-winter Wildcat basketball game: custom digital screen with eight cushioned, reclining theater seats plus four stools along a bar in the rear. The blue and white (naturally) marble bar top is from Mikeâ€™s Kitchen Cabinet.
Thereâ€™s a theater-type candy stand and popcorn machine and some Louisville-appropriate movie posters: â€œSilver Lining Playbook,â€ signed for Teri by Jennifer Lawrence; â€œDeliverance,â€ featuring Ned Beatty, an Eastern High School chum of Keithâ€™s; and â€œHear My Song,â€ one of St. Matthews-bred Beattyâ€™s starring roles.
As Teri and Keith enlarged the house, they kept adding a dining room without removing the previous one. So there are now at least three distinct formal and informal dining areas and a total of, by our count, 65 chairs in the house.
Sounds like a lot for most people, but barely enough when the Tafels all congregate.
â€œWe have everyone over to watch UK when Iâ€™m not at the games. But I go whenever I can. Iâ€™m a rabid fan. Want to see my picture with John Calipari?â€
Photos by CHRIS HUMHREYS | The Voice-Tribune