March 29, 2014 10:41:45 PM
Jan Swoope - firstname.lastname@example.org
Spring Pilgrimage means many of Columbus' antebellum mansions open their doors to visitors. But those aren't the only homes inviting the community in for a look. The Columbus Girlchoir's Kitchen and Home Tour Saturday, April 5 features three destinations of a more contemporary era: the homes of Chip and Maureen Gerber, 1553 Hickory Lane; Kyle and Neva McConnell, 602 Briarbend Drive; and Greg and Susan Vaquero, 507 Seventh St. S.
The annual event, traditionally a tour of kitchens, has been expanded to encompass the homes. Tour-goers will also enjoy another new feature, mini-concerts by Girlchoir members at each location. Local caterers and florists return this year, preparing complimentary hors d'oeuvres and spring floral arrangements for all three settings.
"These homes are absolutely beautiful," said Alicia Harper, chair of the 2014 tour and a member of the Girlchoir board. "We greatly appreciate the Gerbers, McConnells and Vaqueros opening their homes. We're pleased to be focusing not just on the kitchens this year, but on the homes as well. And the small performances are an added bonus."
The non-profit choral arts program offers girls ages 9 to 18 training in vocal technique, choral style, vocal health and music fundamentals. The mission is two-fold: a commitment to performing traditional music with understanding and excellence, while offering its members the opportunity to develop friendships with girls from varied backgrounds, and build self-esteem and self-discipline through hard work and dedication.
"The Girlchoir members work very hard to provide classical music for the community as they perform here and travel representing Columbus," remarked Harper. "We hope everyone will come out to support them and enjoy these lovely homes."
A taste of the tour
Maureen Gerber loves to cook, and she emphasizes the "love."
"It's my passion," she said. So Gerber revels in the kitchen recently remodeled by Kenny Frye of Frye Tile and Exterior Coating of Columbus. "Our kitchen was so small, you could never have everybody in it. We gutted the entire thing."
The updated version -- designed by Maureen's father, a builder in New Jersey -- celebrates the clean, contemporary look of white walls and fixtures, stainless steel and wood floors.
Original artwork by Maureen's friend and botanical watercolorist Hillary Parker accents the kitchen and elsewhere, as do tables Chip Gerber hand-crafted himself from re-purposed wood from an old barn.
In place of a traditional breakfast nook table and chairs many would expect to find, the Gerbers have a comfortable sofa and bench, where early morning coffee and easy conversation go together.
"We're very casual people, and it's just so relaxing. Relaxing is important."
Table of Plenty provides hors d'oeuvres at the Gerber home. Floral arrangements are by Ivy Cottage.
The McConnell's kitchen is a true gathering place, especially on Sunday evenings when the couple's grown daughters and their families come home for supper. Dinner for 10 is a regular occasion.
"I've always wanted a big kitchen because I do a lot of cooking and I cook from scratch," said Neva, whose custom-built home was constructed nine years ago. Penny Bowen designed the kitchen, and Wayne Ellis did the cabinetry and woodwork, she noted.
"It's very comfortable, very livable -- a family-oriented home.
Appetizers at the McConnell home are by Harding Catering. Joy's Flowers provides floral arrangements.
Susan Vaquero was immediately taken with the older home on Seventh Street South when the couple moved to Columbus in 2008. She is from Germany; her husband is from Spain.
"I just fell in love with the house the very first time I walked in -- the layout is so family friendly ... 12-foot ceilings, very open and big ... it's all that I ever wanted," she said. Her husband wasn't quite so enamored at first, Vaquero added, but she had a vision.
It took a while, but the couple eventually acquired the house and went to work making it their own. The interior sometimes takes visitors by surprise.
"From the outside it looks the way it's supposed to, but inside there's a lot of European influence," Vaquero said. Black and white is the dominant theme, with a mix of antiques and very contemporary furniture.
"Now my husband agrees it's perfect, too," she smiled.
Lion Hills Golf Club prepares hors d'oeuvres for the Vaquero home. Floral designs are by Bokays.
How to go
Tour tickets are $20, in Columbus at the Rosenzweig Arts Center, Columbus Convention and Visitors Center, Ivy Cottage, Military Hardware and Pizazz. Tickets may also be purchased at any of the homes April 5. For more information, contact Alicia Harper, 662-386-1203.
For more about the Girlchoir, go to columbusgirlchoir.net.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.