Barton Brunswick renovated his Van Aken condo over two years, and left no nook or cranny untouched.
By Diana Simeon
Barton Brunswick had no plans to move from the 1,200-square-foot Shaker Heights apartment he’d lived in for 10 years.
“I wasn’t looking,” says Brunswick. “I was in the Blair House, which was built in the 1960s and is a unique, upscale building. I had made my apartment my home and was happy there.”
But while having brunch with friends one Sunday, he agreed to look at a condominium at The Barclay, just a few doors down Van Aken Boulevard from the Blair House. Another guest at that brunch, a realtor, was trying to encourage the morning’s hosts to downsize. They agreed to take a look if he would tag along.
“I said, ‘Sure, I’ll go,’” says Brunswick. “I’d ridden my bike past that building my entire life and never been inside. I’d always wondered what it was like.”
Brunswick grew up in Shaker Heights, just around the corner from The Barclay, on Parkland Drive. His father was the founder of Brunswick Florists, on Carnegie Avenue in Cleveland, which Brunswick owned and operated for 42 years after his father’s retirement.
Stepping into the suite was a revelation. “First you saw the wide hallway, this stunning foyer, and all these wonderful architectural details,” Brunswick recalls. “Then your eye traveled toward the back of the suite, where you saw that bright, spacious living room overlooking the golf course. It was like walking into a gracious old center-hall Shaker home.”
The 3,400-square-foot suite had been created when two separate apartments were combined when The Barclay (then called Shaker Manor) converted to condominiums in 1960. The pièce de résistance: a 1,200 square-foot private back yard with two patios, overlooking the golf course of the Shaker Heights Country Club. Brunswick’s childhood home on Parkland had also overlooked the golf course.
While the suite was in pristine condition, the décor was dated. “The couple that had lived there had barred no expense, decorating it to the nines in the 1960s and ‘70s,” says Brunswick. “But it was dark and heavy and dreary.”
Still, Brunswick saw potential. “I said to my friend, ‘This is it. You’ve got to buy it,’” he says. “She said, ‘Oh no, I’m not ready to leave my house. But this is for you, Bart.’”
Over the next two days, Brunswick couldn’t get the suite out of his mind. “I’m thinking, ‘Could I be comfortable there? No way, it’s way too big.’”
He decided to take another look with his own realtor. “This visit, I looked at the space differently,” he says. “I was thinking ‘Could this be a space I’d be comfortable in? Or is my first impression correct and it’s just too big?’”
There was also the yard to consider. Brunswick had lived for many years on five acres in Pepper Pike. “I so missed having a yard,” he says.
“It was like walking into a gracious old center-hall Shaker home.”
It was also a bargain. “The selling price had been hugely reduced.” So he made an offer, closed 30 days later, and immediately began a two-year renovation project that would touch every inch of the condominium. Working closely with architect Denver Booker, Brunswick turned the original four-bedroom, three-bathroom suite into a two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom suite that is as beautiful as it is comfortable.
“Everything I design, whether it’s for me or for someone else, is always with comfort in mind,” says Brunswick. “Personal comfort is paramount in my world, but so is functionality.”
The suite’s easy one-floor living will allow Brunswick to comfortably age in place. ”At 72, I’ve got a long way to go,” he says with a smile. “I plan on enjoying being back in Shaker and amongst such luxury for the rest of my life.”