Sophisticated Living July/Aug 2015

Sophisticated Living July/Aug 2015

Happily ensconced in a craftsman-style bungalow in Hyde Park, this energetic and entrepreneurial husband and wife team had no intentions of moving, until they got wind of the covetable Carl Strauss-designed home getting ready to hit the market.  Offer accepted and deal done, the couple enlisted the services of interior designer Brian Gibson of DIGS to make the residence more conducive to their lifestyle while remaining cognizant of and true to Strauss' design.

Architect Carl Strauss is credited with some 100 contemporary homes (save one traditional example designed for his mother) throughout Greater Cincinnati over the course of his prolific career, which began in the 1930's (Strauss died in 2002). This example, tucked amidst more imposing Gothics and Tudor examples on bluff above the Ohio River, displays a palpable Frank Lloyd Wright bent (Strauss was a fan of his work), but with distinctive Strauss hallmarks, such as a deep respect for nature that blurs the lines between inside and out, rectilinear forms, the use of striated plywood, oversized sliding doors and ample walls of glass.  The home's pitched roof is cited as being atypical for Strauss.

Not entirely original in its present state, the footprint and significant design elements remain largely the same, with subsequent alterations enhancing the livability of the residence in accordance with 21st century standards.  Prior owners linked the previously detached garage to the home by enclosing a breezeway at the entry and adding pyramidal skylight.  The resulting atrium creates a feeling of arrival , and for the current owners, the opportunity to introduce their distinct aesthetic. Read More.......

Sophisticated Living July/August 2014

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 9.53.12 AM.png

The Antithesis of Antiquated

Interior designer Brian Gibson of DIGS melds fun with formality to offer the best of both worlds in an East Walnut Hills home.

Interior Designer Brian Gibson of DIGS melds fun with formality to offer the best of both worlds in an East Walnut Hills Home.  "Why settle for ordinary when you can have unusual and extraordinary?" asked interior designer Brain Gibson of DIGS when questioned about his design philosophy for a historic home in East Walnut Hills.  Formal and decidedly French in style when acquired by the current homeowner, Gibson was given carte blanche and a clean slate to create spaces suitable for frequent and sometimes formal entertaining, yet able to keep pace with the demands o a youthful and active family.

Perched at the edge of a steep hillside with Ohio River views and discreetly tucked amongst grandly proportioned estates from a bygone era, the home's multi-level layout means that its seemingly relatively modest exterior belies a quote spacious interior.  "the home is very much surrounded by its neighbors, but it is laid out to turn in on itself and towards the view.  So, there is a great feeling of privacy." said Gibson. 

Chinese, French, Japanese and English influences are palpable in most rooms, and each boasts its fair share of fine antiques.  here Gibson's tur talent lies is in his ability to keep everything from feeling too precious . Read More.....


Venue 2014

John Harrison: 50 Years of Fabulous

When John Harrison came to the United States, there was no way for him to know the way his career and life would change. A native of New Zealand, Harrison left for Australia at the age of 18, popping one island over to study design. 

“I always wanted to be a decorator, but I didn’t know what that was at the time,” says Harrison, who still hasn’t shed his New Zealand ac­cent even after so many years in Cincinnati. After five years in Australia, Harrison decided on another change of scenery and packed for England; but that didn’t last long. Harrison soon packed once more to move to the United States, finally landing in Cincinnati. Read More.....

Sophisticated Living - Jan/Feb 2012

Its Easy Being Green

The renovation of a 1920s home in Hyde Park accentuates its arcadia

"The gardens are absolutely legendary," said interior designer John Harrison of DIGS when describing the 1920s-era Hyde Park home of his longtime friends and clients. Equal parts urban and Eden, the premises boasts an enviable level of privacy, courtesy of its placement on a bluff, and carefully manicured grounds dotted with majestic specimen trees. Harrison's involvement with the property spans nearly two decades, and he was ecstatic that for the most recent renovation and redesign his deft interior design skills were once again called upon in collaboration with architect Don Beck. 

Each room is a repository of treasured items, often with an interesting provenance. In the dining room for example, the 19th century French chandelier was procured from a shop in New Orleans.  "Hunting for period antiques of appropriate scale was a fun aspect of this project, " said Harrison.  Hanging above the sideboard is a mixed media piece by Judy Paff selected from the Carl Solway Gallery.  part of the wife's burgeoning collection of Majolica is found in the dining room, and Harrison remarked that she is prone to frequently rearrange their presentation.  Drapery is ombre silk with heavy fringe.  The deep windowsills are topped with granite to provide additional serving space.

Evidence that good taste is timeless, most of the original interior doors and hardware were retained during the renovation, such as the English-inspired double doors with diamond pane leaded glass in the dining room Continue Reading »



Sophisticated Living - Sept/Oct 2011

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 10.48.03 AM.png

Hearkening History

The thoughtful renovation of an important riverfront home

A conundrum often faced by historic home enthusiasts is how to preserve the historic integrity of their residence while making it conducive to standards of living in contemporary times. Such was the task for interior designer Brian Gibson of DIGS, who partnered with the owners of an important early 1800s riverfront home for a major renovation endeavor.

Now all but obscured from street view by a canopy of deciduous trees, including a majestic elm purported to be more than 100  years old, the façade of the estate-sized home constructed in the Federal style with Gothic and Greek Revival touches boasts a recessed two-story front porch defined by slender columns with Ionic capitals on the first floor and Corinthian capitals on the second; stone-trimmed, rose-colored brickwork; recessed windows with arched lintels and Georgian tracery; a Greek Revival wing with side-galleries; silver Masonic stars in stone panels; and a Grecian side entrance porch.

Working in collaboration with the homeowners and Architects+, the team was thrilled to uncover historically significant clues to the home's original condition, namely Tudor-arched passages between the entrance hall and east parlor and an 1830's black-and-gold painted elliptical glass front transom. Continue Reading »


Sophisticated Living - July/Aug 2011

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 11.35.01 AM.png

Home is where the Art is

"When I first met [the homeowners] 11 years ago, they were in a whole other design world; very traditional with prints of soldiers in tortoise shell frames," said interior designer John Harrison of DIGS. Quick to point out that he is not adverse to such inclinations, "a designer in Cincinnati can't have 'a look' or you'll be a pauper," he laughed. Nonetheless, as their friendship progressed, Harrison gradually introduced them to new ways of thinking about design.

The baby steps became a full out sprint after Harrison introduced them to gallerist Carl Solway, who specializes in contemporary painting, sculpture, graphics and video art.  "Carl's knowledge of contemporary art is unbelievable, but he makes the process of selecting art fun and educational," Harrison pointed out.  The first painting they were drawn to? They knew for certain what it would not be.  "John said, 'No more damn landscapes' and that changed us forever," said one of the homeowners.  Incidentally, it was Stuck, The Flies Buzzed an etching, drypoint, screenprint and aquantint with embossed collage on Magnani Aquaforti paper by Nancy Graves (1990)  that made them collectors of contemporary art from then on.

One of the homeowners is an engineer and approaches collecting with scientific precision.  His partner, a professional in the financial industry, approaches the collecting process from a visceral level.  This yin and yang approach has created an extremely well curated art collection in their current residence - aptly a contemporary condominium in a landmark building designed by architect Jose Garcia. Continue Reading »


Sophisticated Living - Mar/Apr 2011


Interior Designer John Harrison of DIGS creates a gracious home in The Grassmoor bursting with personality.

"I have a reputation as a monochromatic designer, but when I do use color, I enjoy making a statement," said interior designer John Harrison, who brought his years of experience and training in New Zealand, Sydney, Australia, and London, England, to DIGS when he joined their staff of experts in October 2010. Case in point is a stylish unit in the Grassmoor where the design doyenne "stepped up the color ratio" to create a residence full of panache.

The spacious home is the result of combining three units in the Grassmoor, an elegant and classic pre-war blond brick and red barrel tile-roofed condo building oriented around a courtyard located at the corner of Madison Road and Vista Avenue in Hyde Park. According to Harrison, the building "has a lovely sense of period to it." He added that it was undoubtedly the premier address in the pre high-rise era.

Downsizing from a larger home nearby, the homeowners still wanted large rooms that would accommodate their existing collection of fine antiques and rugs and provide plenty of room for entertaining.  By gutting the units and adding modern conveniences such as central air, the homeowners did not have to forgo style or substance.

Harrison's distinct point of view begins in the small vestibule where one is greeted with striking French wallpaper featuring a repetitive small floral design on a black background. Continue Reading »