Twinsburg: Naomi and Doyle Stutzman’s house honors the past while accommodating the present.
The house has the feel and open layout of a newer home, yet it was created by renovating and expanding a house built in 1876.
“We combined the old with the new to live in the present,” Naomi Stutzman said.
The public can get a glimpse next weekend, when the Stutzmans’ home and garden are featured on the Twinsburg Garden Tour. The tour, a fundraiser for the Twinsburg Garden Club’s scholarship fund and other local charities, is scheduled for June 16, with a rain date of June 17.
It’s almost as though Naomi Stutzman wanted a house that bridges past and present in a way her family could not. Her parents were shunned when they left their Amish community before she was born, an event that cooled their relationship with her father’s side of the family for a time and almost completely severed their ties with her mother’s side.
Naomi Stutzman chronicled her parents’ struggles and the new life they built together in A Basketful of Broken Dishes, a book published last year by Christian publisher Ambassador International. She will sign copies of the book during the tour.
The Stutzmans bought the farmhouse in 2002 and spent four years restoring and expanding it to about 4,000 square feet before they moved in. Ax-scarred posts and beams from the original structure are still visible in a stairway and also mark the point in the laundry room where the original house ends and the addition begins.
The couple took pains to match new window and door casings to the original in an effort to retain the old-house charm. It was no small undertaking: Doyle Stutzman had a knife specially fabricated for the job, and then he planed, sanded and milled the lumber with the help of Joe Mullet, the carpenter they hired for the construction. He is also Naomi Stutzman’s cousin.
Mullet even contributed his stamp to the project. When the Stutzmans came up just short on lumber, Mullet volunteered a piece of root wood he’d been saving since he was 8 years old. “He said, ‘I really feel this is the place this needs to be,’ ” Naomi Stutzman recalled.
All through the house are elements of the past — antique furniture turned into bathroom vanities, old doors from the house reused in new places, a staircase banister scarred and spattered with pink paint from a long-ago painting project. The banister was missing four spindles, but Doyle Stutzman managed to dig up matching replacements in an antique store in Cleveland.
The importance of the couple’s three children and 10 grandchildren is also apparent. The family room was designed with a loft above that serves as a toy room, so kids and adults can stay within view. The linen closet doubles as a dress-up room, and a feminine guest room was designed for the girls in the family.
“Each one of my granddaughters claims it’s their room,” Naomi Stutzman said with a smile.
The house is set among gardens the Stutzmans created on the five-acre property, including a woodland garden carved out of a grove of locusts, an herb garden off a stone patio and a food garden in the circular foundation of one of two silos that once stood next to the barn. In the other silo, they used pieces of concrete from the structures to raise the floor and create a round patio inside.
The Stutzmans’ home contains few reminders of Naomi Stutzman’s family history, because her shunned parents were denied heirlooms. One keepsake she does have is an oak captain’s chair, one of the chairs that surrounded her paternal grandparents’ kitchen table. It was at that table that her grandfather announced an end to the shunning and welcomed her father back fully into his family.
The room also holds more painful reminders of the past in the form of three small dishes adorned with intricate blue-and-white designs, their rims marred by chips.
They were among the chipped and broken dishes her mother received from her family after she was shunned, which inspired Naomi Stutzman’s book title. They were meant to underscore her mother’s worthlessness to her family, but her mother kept them as a reminder that grace can mend a broken life.
Despite the family’s intentions, they have become treasures.
Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or email@example.com. You can also become a fan on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @MBBreckenridge and read her blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/mary-beth.