Etta and Dave Nelson had thought of selling their Groton home, situated on a sharply sliced hill with expansive vistas of the Thames River, because they had erosion from water runoff in their back yard. No one, it seemed, would come and offer suggestions, much less brave the hill with their equipment.
“They were all afraid their bulldozer would tip over going down the hill,” explains Etta.
That’s when they found Ken Berg of Tormberg Landscaping. He came up with the idea to stave the water flow with a stone wall. Although he did tip over a few times, he remained undaunted and built the wall, removing some boulders and another wall that had stretched across the back yard.
Old World effect
Now the back yard has the ordered elegance of a European garden, with a maze of neatly manicured hedges, perennial plantings and flower beds adorned with pink carnation stones. But the visible mark of Tormberg Landscaping is found in the driveway, which is a made of pavers in a symmetrical design, which has an Old World cobblestone effect. The landscapers also laid down a similar design on the back patio.
The Nelsons bought the property 17 years ago and had their home built on the lot. In the last seven years, they have overseen a host of renovation projects.
“We would take out a home equity loan, pay it off, get another,’’ says Dave.
The home is a three-level ranch with three bedrooms and two baths.
“We had it built and realized nothing had quality. We went through and redid every room,” says Etta.
Every window in the home has been redone, as have the wood floors in the upstairs and downstairs. Lavish renovations include granite in the kitchen and marble in the upstairs bathroom. The Nelsons just can’t seem to help themselves when it comes to fixing up their home, and Etta, a petite woman bustling with energy, often refrains, “It’s only a ranch house, but...”
Quality is a theme in everything the Nelsons have tackled; they use the best materials and most well-reputed installers. The second level of the home has had a facelift with new doors, which open to the first level deck, installed by Yost Home Improvement. The hinged atrium doors possess an elegant, cut glass design.
In the open floor plan on the second level, the living room, dining room and entranceway flow into each other and the cathedral ceilings heighten the open space. The floors have been redone in a red oak.
The kitchen renovation included black, milky white and salmon granite countertops by Scribner Kitchen and Bath. And the champagne maple cupboards are in harmony with the soft ripples of color in the granite and are accented with black granite knobs.
As a practical touch, the countertops were done in rounded, ‘‘bullnosed’’ edges using a special technique. The kitchen is more than show, however, and Etta, who is a serious cook, has an array of stainless steel cooking ware organized with flair in steel containers. A lush fruit bowl spilling with grapes and peppered with an array of fruits, centered by a pineapple, makes a beautiful kitchen bouquet. Touches of humor are perched above the countertops with a menagerie of whimsical wooden animals — Etta herself is never serious for long.
The understated, elegant feel is carried into the living room, which is decorated with large, comfortable chairs covered in a peacock-inspired fabric of blues, greens and a touch of rust.
The upstairs bathroom was also redone by Scribner, and again the Nelsons would have only the best. Marble gleams in a dark background of gray and is swirled with a salmon color. The sink, toilet and Jacuzzi is a blush color. The Jacuzzi is raised invitingly upon a platform, and a radio system has been installed in the wall.
Upstairs, as in down, curios are ever present. Etta has nine curio cabinets in the house altogether, and they display her collections of things like Department 56 lighthouses and a blue Swedish plate collection.
More changes below decks
The lower level is set up to care for Etta’s father, and recent renovations include tongue-and-groove wainscoting and four-inch white oak flooring, the latter installed by Aarsand Floor Sanding of Niantic. The area is spacious, and a living area accommodates a handsome green leather sofa and white leather chair, as well as a small sink and refrigerator. The bedroom area also has a small alcove with a wooden rocking boat and Raggedy Ann doll, which, like the outside of the home and in other rooms, reflects the whimsical side of Etta’s nature.
In the basement, Dave has fashioned a workout room with weights, and has widened the narrow space with a row of mirrors. In the spring and summer, he says, he abandons the weights because the outdoors keeps him in top shape.
Typically, Dave works on the property about 24 hours a week, hauling the 50-pound bags of pink carnation stones, trimming the hedges, mowing the lawn and doing other maintenance chores. From the top deck of the house, a view of his efforts is an impressive sight. The expanse blooms with blue spruce, rhodendrons, miniature lilacs, and Colorodo pines, to name a few. A recent vacation found Dave hauling more rocks for his labor of love, from which he, like Etta, never strays far.
“People say, ‘You’re crazy, putting all this money into your home,’ but we love it, we’re here all the time,” says Etta.
Time enough, anyway, to look toward the next project. The couple peer at the wall upstairs, the one blight in a perfect space.
‘‘Now that we have stopped smoking, we can do wallpaper.... We’re going to do a heavy-duty, commercial grade,’’ Etta trails off.
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