By Emma Bowen Meyer
For The Herald Bulletin
MIDDLETOWN, Ind. —
When Paula Nevins walked into the family room of a home on the edge of the county, she fell in love.
“I always liked this area, but this house is a sanctuary,” said Paula, retired from furniture sales, including Ethan Allen and Kittle’s in Anderson. “There are birds, butterflies, red foxes and deer. I instantly felt the peace of this place.”
Double doors look out to a small lake while tranquility seeps inside.
Although the setting of the home is perfection, the décor left a lot to be desired. Built in 1974, the home had not been updated in any way in over 30 years. Paula and her late husband, Michael, had a full-time project ahead of them.
Married for 28 years, the couple had refurbished one other home and, after Michael retired from GM in 2003, had traveled the United States closing high-end furniture stores. Those experiences enabled them to both redesign the floor plan to suit their needs and expertly place furnishings to accentuate the spaces.
After purchasing the home five-and-a-half years ago, the couple started on the favorite room.
“The walls in here were red and green,” said Paula. “It was like Christmas all the time. We just couldn’t handle it.”
Up came the white carpet and down came 150 pounds of Spanish-style textured plaster from the ceiling. Choosing white walls lightened the space and allows the view to take center stage.
“We wanted to lighten up the room because of the darker shade of brick on the fireplace and chimney,” said Marge Ryan Shuffitt, a close friend and former co-worker with Ethan Allen. Fifty years of experience makes Shuffitt a great ally in choosing finishes. “That is why we chose the lighter floor color.”
After finishing their showcase room, the couple moved on to practical pursuits. With a tiny bathroom (that didn’t even sport a sink) and cramped laundry room, the Nevins decided to steal some space from the garage to add elbow room in both.
Designing an office
While most people are looking for ways to add bedrooms and bathrooms to a home, Michael and Paula chose the opposite strategy. They combined three bedrooms and two baths into one large bedroom with a luxury ensuite and a small office area.
“He loved his office — he designed it,” said Paula, pointing to a desk and wood filing cabinet at the top of the stairs.
Tearing out the original banister and spools, they replaced it with elegant wrought iron. The new landing (created by removing the wall of a bedroom that butted up against the staircase) created a semi-private area that allows concentration without being shut off from the family.
The lovely oversized master bedroom is painted purple, Paula’s favorite color.
“It is hard to use purple, but they have used it very well here,” said Shuffitt, 88. “In here they wanted the bed to be the focal point of the room. It divides the space into two areas — one is a quiet sitting area and the other has a TV.”
Michael passed away Dec. 19, six days after the bedroom and bathroom were finished.
Michael was a Marine in First Reconnaissance in Vietnam, which left him with numerous health problems. Constantly under fire, as his team would be dropped by helicopter into unsafe territories to secure the area, he took to reciting a passage from Julius Caesar that he memorized for his Pendleton Heights English class.
“He had so any sleepless nights,” recalled Paula. “Agent Orange started to just cover his body. He got to where he was barely able to walk around for two or three hours. He had renal failure, congestive heart failure, and only one kidney. We buried him Christmas Eve. He loved his country and loved his God.”
In honor of finishing what was begun, Paula and Marge have plans for renovating the walk-out basement. Full of memories of Michael, the house is packed with love.
Each week, Emma Bowen Meyer features a Madison County home. If you know of a home that should be showcased, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.