Jan Hoffman has fond memories of attending dinner parties at 3631 Salisbury Drive as a friend and former employee of the hostess, Joan Schwartz.
Two decades later, he stopped by to see the property, which was to be sold at auction, even though he had just put a contract on a condo. In a whirlwind of events, Hoffman cast the winning bid, and the transformation of the neglected property began. He still scratches his head at the irony.
“I was a horse-crazy kid,” he says, recalling how he first met Schwartz, who had owned and trained American Saddlebred horses at her farm in Champaign, Ill.
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“When I was in junior high school (in Champaign), I worked at her show stable for a dollar an hour or something like that,” Hoffman said. “I would have worked for free if they had asked me. I rode my bike out there every day.”
As fate would have it, both Illinois natives eventually migrated to Lexington, the center of the American Saddlebred industry. Schwartz owned and operated a broodmare farm for a time in Versailles.
In 1988, Hoffman started Pegasus Travel Inc. in downtown Lexington.
At about the same time, his former employer decided to exit the horse business but stay in Lexington. The sole heir of a wealthy family, Schwartz bought a 1-acre lot in Westmorland and hired an architect to design a single-story home in the sprawling subdivision off Versailles Road.
“She had real specific ideas about what she wanted,” Hoffman said. “The house had to have high ceilings. She loved roaring fires, so there are two fireplaces. She liked the outdoors, so the architect put in lots of windows and doors.”
The architect also designed two owners’ suites. They sit at opposite corners of the 2,150-square-foot house and open to twin screened porches linked by a 32-foot-wide brick porch.
Now semi-retired, Hoffman’s home office and a third bathroom are located off the sunny hallway gallery that spans the front of the house. But the screened porches may be his favorite part of the house.
“I spend a lot of time out here,” he said. “People have tried to convince me to enclose the space and make it a four-season room, but I like it the way it is.” (So do his cats — Mom, Lil Bear and Lilly.)
Both porches offer panoramic views of the carefully designed and tended back yard.
“The previous owner took very good care of everything for a long time,” Hoffman said. But as her health and finances declined, the property fell into disrepair.
The epic makeover of the landscape began as soon as weather allowed.
“I worked on the inside over the winter, while my house on South Hanover was on the market,” Hoffman said. “I moved in May and started on the outside and yard with vigor as soon as I moved in. My therapy is working in the yard. I spent a lot of time, effort and money on it.”
The exterior renovation began with removing overgrown or dead plantings — which was nearly everything.
Hoffman planted a variety of non-deciduous and deciduous trees, including a dozen Japanese maples, and a mix of hostas, ferns, ornamental grasses and about 1,500 flower bulbs to achieve the pleasing combination of texture and color he favors.
“I’m a plant junkie,” Hoffman admits. “When I go to a nursery and see a new or unusual plant, I’m interested.”
Like the yard, the home’s interior had succumbed to years of neglect when its former owner had to move to a nursing home.
Unfazed, Hoffman continued with the restoration by installing hardwood and ceramic tile floors and adding to the crown molding.
Chris Russell, owner of Cucina Kitchen and Bath, redesigned the compact galley kitchen with Amish-made cabinets to give it maximum pizzazz.
“Initially, the kitchen was nothing more than a plain row of cabinets down each side,” Hoffman said. “Chris came in here and did things here and in other parts of the house I never would have thought of doing.”
Classic gray-beige walls throughout the house put the focus on Hoffman’s collection of clocks and art bought on travels around the world.
Some of the most striking pieces are watercolor renderings of zebras that he bought on a trip to Africa and a large, red folding screen in his bedroom that he bought at a yard sale some 30 years ago.
A restored 120-year-old Chickering grand piano that is a work of art in itself commands center stage in the living room.
It’s now been five years since Hoffman took two months off work to finish painting and to move from his 5,000-square-foot house on South Hanover.
“I thought I’d never move again because of all the hassle,” he recalled. “I thought they would have to wheel me out of here someday.”
However, curiosity led him to a neighbor’s open house, and he recently decided to move.
“I’ve loved living here, so no one could be more surprised that I’m doing something else. It’s kind of a fluke.”
As Hoffman ponders how he will put his personal touch on his next house, one thing remains constant: his passion for American Saddlebred horses and his devotion to the mission of Central Kentucky Riding for Hope, a non-profit that provides therapeutic activities with horses for adults and children with special needs.
“It’s a big part of my life,” said Hoffman, who has been a member of the hay crew for 10 years.
This week’s featured home is listed with Realtor Kate Imhoff of Rector Hayden Realtors. To see more images of this week’s featured home, visit the Homeseller photo gallery at Kentucky.com.