A Colorful Couple - Nov / Dec 11

Old Towne Property
Painter Michael Jewell took a month to complete the jewel–toned exterior. Every inch was sanded and hand–painted, not sprayed, just as it would have been done in 1900.

“People think it’s purple, but it’s actually blue,” says Michelle Carder of the colorful and historic home at 238 East Palmyra.

Featured on this year’s Old Towne Preservation Association’s Home Tour taking place on Nov. 5 and 6, the landmark house, built in 1900, has attracted a lot of attention since the formerly dull–grey exterior was transformed with vibrant, jewel–tone hues.

“I’ve always liked rich, beautiful colors,” says Michelle, an attorney specializing in business and insurance litigation. “Our friend, Kathleen Jewell, is a color consultant, and when she asked me what color we wanted to paint the house, I showed her a favorite lamp. Amazingly, she had already pulled the exact same color chips from her palette. It was meant to be.”

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The kitchen is as much a workplace as it is a showplace. The couple frequently cook for friends and family.

Talented artist Kathleen Jewell hand–painted the master bedroom trompe l’oeil in 2010 as a wedding gift for the couple.

Setting her sights on buying an older home, Michelle searched the Floral Park neighborhood before finding the Palmyra property in 2006. The house was in excellent condition, having recently been restored by the previous owner, Gary Crawford. A woodworker by trade, Gary spent an entire year working on the house and the existing two–story apartment in the back.

It turned out to be the ideal historic home for Michelle, considering she was single at the time and wasn’t exactly handy with a hammer.

“The house was in perfect shape when I bought it, including the plumbing, the electrical and the woodworking,” Michelle says. “The last owner, Gary, brought it closer to its original historic look and resolved changes made by prior owners that weren’t consistent with the history of the house.”

According to public records, a railroad man named Leroy Potter bought the property as an investment in 1899. After building the house, he sold it the following year, and it became a rental for several decades. It appears that only one of the home’s owners actually lived there before World War II.

With three bedrooms and two baths, the 1,450–square–foot residence includes a second story devoted entirely to the master bedroom. The home still maintains many of its original architectural features, such as the floors, baseboards, windows, and the front dormer that extends from the top of the house. A dormer that overlooks the backyard was added in the 1980s.

And speaking of backyards, Michelle first met her future husband, Mike Ochs, when she hosted a Street Fair party in her backyard on Palmyra. A longtime resident of Orange, Michael is the general manager of Pioneer Broach, a machine shop located in Commerce that builds cutting tools. He is one of a long line of family members who have worked there, including his grandfather, father and brothers.

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Mike shook his head with disbelief when Michelle showed him the color she chose for the office. Now it’s Mike’s favorite room.

Mike’s contribution to the house began in the kitchen, where he and his brother Greg installed an impressive tin ceiling from American Tin in candy–apple red. They also added mirrored panels to some of the cabinets, transforming the previously generic kitchen into an absolute showplace. Kathleen Jewell hand–painted flowers and details on the cabinets.

Collectors of fine art, Mike and Michelle outfitted the interior with stunning examples of art and antiques. Some of the color choices inside evolved from the art, such as in the office where the festive orange walls are regally trimmed in metallic gold paint. Most of the furniture was purchased from antique shops in Old Towne.

“We’ve picked up pieces here and there with no grand interior design plan in mind, just what strikes our interest,” Michelle says. “I chose the orange color for the office against everybody’s judgment. Once it went on the walls – I painted it myself – everybody said, ‘wow, this color is actually relaxing. It’s unexpected.”

Outside, the gardens are equally relaxing, designed entirely by Mike and his mother, Eileen. They planted trees, bushes and flowers, including plumeria, roses, heather, gardenias, camellias and rosemary, as well as the flowering Palo Verde tree that rises above the whimsical picket fence in the front yard designed and built by Mike.

The backyard functions as a gathering place for family and friends. During winter months, the fire pit provides warmth on cool evenings. The back porch was artfully painted in a plaid design by Kathleen Jewel, who also painted the stunning image of a koi pond on the wood floor in the bedroom, as well as the checkerboard pattern on the front porch.

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Mike selected the whimsical Murano chandelier and installed elegant crown molding in the den.

Butterflies suspended from the entry ceiling come from Copal, a folk art shop in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico.

Vladimir Kush’s work “Chess” hangs over a velvet fainting couch and was framed uniquely by Newport Beach frame shop, Nottingham.

“She’s an artist, and we’re lucky she’s a friend,“ Michelle says. “She loves color as much as we do.”

Both Mike and Michelle serve on the board of the Old Towne Preservation Association. Mike takes the train every day to and from work, another advantage of living in Old Towne.

“He gets to decompress from work when he rides home on the train,” Michelle says. “I decompress the minute I see the sign when I enter Old Towne. That’s when I can relax and let everything go. There’s a sense of history here that lets you connect to a slower, simpler time.”

Michelle and Mike enjoy their easy–going lifestyle in Old Towne. Active in the community, they feel fortunate to live here.

“We love to walk the neighborhood and go bike riding,” Michelle says. “We put our dogs in the bicycle trailer and they go biking with us. We really feel connected to the community.”

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Mike (right) and Michelle enjoy time with friend Mauricio (Mo) Brias. Mo, a talented designer whose style inspired much of the home’s dramatic and eclectic interior, introduced the couple in 2008 and was best man at their wedding.


Published in the Nov / Dec 11 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review

Article Written by Karen Anderson, photos provided by Will Hare

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