Last year, when Dale Torok started thinking about building an addition on the back of his house, he didn't have a design in mind. He just knew he didn't want a big box slapped on the back. He wanted it to be unique and fun.
What Torok ended up building, he said, was more beautiful and architecturally stunning than he could have imagined.
The addition comes to a point off the back of his traditional two-story brick house, like the bow of a ship. Its exterior is clad in California redwood and features large expanses of glass.
It was adapted from a house designed in 1948 in Altadena, Calif., by Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. — not to be confused with his more famous father, Frank Lloyd Wright.
Never miss a local story.
The inspiration came from Torok's aunt, Ila Wareham, a real estate agent in Glendale, Calif., who sent her nephew a photograph of the Altadena house. It immediately captured his imagination.
Torok hired designer Melody Farris Jackson of Winchester, whose firm, Metafour Designs, specializes in sm all-scale residential and commercial projects.
Torok and his late wife, Kathleen, who was killed in an automobile accident in 2006, often had talked about adding an entertainment space to their house at 1105 North Broadway.
The home was built in 1951 by Elmer Sandusky, owner of Savage Lumber. The 4,400-square-foot house was built with the second floor divided into two apartments, so when Sandusky's two daughters went to college at the University of Kentucky, they could live at home but each have their own private space. The first floor is one apartment. Now, Torok has his living space on the first floor. The office of his business, a payroll-processing company, is upstairs.
Jackson said, "We took a lot of the look and feel (of the Altadena house), but adapted it to Dale's house. As a designer, you don't want to copy directly. Very rarely do you have a situation where you can do that anyway. Size and scale are always so different."
That began a remarkable 14-month collaboration among Torok, Jackson and a crew of skilled carpenters, stonemasons, woodworkers, electricians and a blacksmith. They hand-crafted every element of the addition, including the 52-foot beam that spans the room, the rough-hewn limestone window sills, the mahogany cabinets and custom windows, and the wrought-iron cabinet and door pulls.
"Everything in this addition is custom. Nothing came from Home Depot or Lowe's," said Jackson, who taught at the University of Kentucky College of Design for 11 years and now teaches a course on interior design at Eastern Kentucky University.
"At an initial glance, the addition looks simple because it is just one big room. But it was very complex," Jackson said.
"We had to employ a structural engineer because that center beam is over 50 feet long. The city wanted to make sure of the integrity of the beam, and that the walls would support that weight." The beam weighed 11/2 tons.
Problems were solved on the spot, she said. "To make something so complex look simple is not easy. But everybody on site had such a can-do attitude."
Many of the workmen were well into their senior years.
The framing carpenter, Rocky Hall, 74, his grandson Joe and crew "looked at the crazy plans and brought them to life," Jackson said. They set the long beam in place and framed the entire structure.
Torok said, "Terry Craycraft did the amazing custom woodworking: The window frames, the raised wood paneling and all the cabinets, crown molding, bathroom vanities — everything was custom made in his shop."
Each stone for the fireplace and foundation was shaped by Stanley Kelly, 78, of Harrodsburg and his grandson, Clay. Stanley Kelley had done the restoration stone work at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill 50 years ago.
Blacksmith David Shadwick, 62, a retired Lexmark engineer, designed and made the cabinet pulls. The electrical work was by Roger Bailey, 76. And the woman who inspired the addition, Torok's aunt Ila Wareham, is 90.
"Design is a team sport," Jackson said. "I just drew up the plans. But the men whose hands made this were very impressive."
She added, chuckling, "You work with a crew that's twentysomething, they give you so many reasons why something can't be done. How can I now go back to working with a younger generation and not roll my eyes?"
Torok was an active participant in the design process.
"Dale is very creative and imaginative," Jackson said. "He offered up his ideas. He did his homework when I gave him things to do."
She drew up numerous designs. Three times she built models on a computer. "We scooted the addition 5 feet to the right, 6 feet to the left. How does it touch the house? How does it fit into the yard?" Jackson said.
One goal was to preserve Torok's 1-acre yard and garden, designed by Jon Carloftis. A two-tier pond has 25 colorful koi, some weighing 25 pounds. Torok shows the koi in competitions.
The exterior, California redwood with Douglas fir beams, came from Buffalo Lumber Co., a specialty company in Woodbury, Tenn.
The interior wood is mahogany. Window frames were custom made to hold glass panes about 7 feet by 6 feet. The 16-inch square saltillo floor tiles were made to order in Mexico.
Construction started in May 2011. It was a push to finish in time for a big party Torok threw over Memorial Day weekend this year for family, friends and everyone who worked on the project. "We were running hellbent for leather, but we made it," Torok said.
The 1,200-square-foot room with a 161/2-foot ceiling achieved Torok's goal as an ideal space for entertaining. There's a baby grand piano, a pool table and a bar with a pass-through window to the outdoor grill next to a granite counter.
Torok's sculpture collection is on display, including a brass eagle on the bar and a 7-foot carved mahogany panel of galloping horses.
As guests mingled in the large room and walked into the yard, Torok looked plenty pleased. "It came out even better than I ever anticipated," he said.