Columbus, Ohio USA
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Cocoa Manor: A Corner with Class
By Linda Rose Thornburg
Cocoa Manor, the aptly named home of Greg Zanetos, of Anthony Thomas Candy, at the corner of Buttles and Park is a Short North landmark. The neighborhood watched in wonder during its three year construction. The stately residence, reminiscent of the splendor of the grand old mansions that once circled Goodale park, is the fulfillment of Zanetos' lifelong dream. He was sitting in his favorite spot, the corner patio, talking on the phone and watching passers by when I arrived.
Despite its imposing exterior and size, the interior is warm, open and inviting. It is partly the layout, partly the deep cherry wood of the woodwork and cabinets, and partly the lovely light from the mostly uncovered leaded and beveled glass windows. From the two-story foyer one can see the music room, the great room, the pool room, the dining room, the paneled office and up the graceful, curved dark cherry staircase to the loft.
We sat in the great room. It's colors of cream, forest green and cherry carried throughout the house. The design, the materials, the art glass windows, the furnishings, all are Zanetos'. He was designer, general contractor, and decorator.
SNG: I think the Gazette's readers are interested in why you chose the neighborhood. What attracted you to build here? Why you stay?
Greg Zanetos: Oh, that's easy. I've always wanted to live down in this neighborhood, even before it became as popular as it is, now. I purchased the first piece of property back in 1991. Actually, I have five lots here. It took me about a year and a half to purchase all five lots. Personally, I think it's the most desirable place in the city to live. There is no place in the city of Columbus or the suburbs that I would prefer to live. I enjoy the atmosphere. I have an absolutely gorgeous view out every window in the front of the house. That's why I put the terraces and the balcony facing the park and the pond. It's a beautiful view and I have a view of downtown. There's always activity. I love to go out andwalk, and I love the fact that there are always people out and about walking, jogging, skating whatever. I find the people all very friendly no matter what walk of life they come from. I think the most exciting thing about the area is the mix of people down in this area. You have just about everything and everyone down here. I enjoy that, and I get along with everybody down here. Even if I don't know them if you're walking down the streets it's "Hi. How ya doin?" You may or may not know them but it's a pleasure to be out andwalking about and meeting people that're friendly, and I don't think you have that in the suburbs. It's just a different feel down here.
GZ: Now that the short north is developed so much there are so many restaurants and galleries there's always something to do around here. And since I've moved down here, this is the center of my friends' activities. We always meet here it's convenient for everyone even for my friends who don't li ve in this area. You know, if we're going to go out to dinner or whatever we're doing to everyone meets down at my house.
SNG: Do you have favorite spots in the short north?
SNG: Oh, I don't want to put you on the spot.
GZ: I wouldn't want to leave any out. There's a lot of enjoyable spots, and I go to all of them. I don't know that there's a restaurant in the area that I haven't been to. I enjoy them all. They all have something to offer.
SNG: Do you eat out alot?
GZ: Almost every night. He laughed again. I have an absolutely gorgeous kitchen and I cook about five times a year. His laugh is contageous. Living alone why cook? There are so many choices down here, and there's a price range down here. So it's not that you have to go out and have an expensive gourmet meal every evening. You can go out and grab a sandwich someplace. So you have everything you want right down here.
We talked about other places to live like New York, where he did shop for some furnishings, but it brought him back to the reason he built his house in the Short North. He likes New York for about three days, as opposed to the Short North which he could like for a lifetime.
GZ: I designed the house to live here for a lifetime. I even put an elevator in so. . . . Hopefully nothing will happen, but who knows down the road? Sometime along the line when I get into my elderly years if I can't do stairs, I put an elevator in so that hopefully I can enjoy the house for a good long time.
SNG: How did you come about the design of the house?
GZ: The design. I've always wanted to design and build a house. And, I've always studied houses where ever I was. Whether it be New York or Boston. I think I picked up a lot of ideas in Europe--England especially. And I think this area fit exactly what I was looking for. I wanted a house that had all modern conveniences but had the appearance of an old, stately home. I just stole ideas from here and there, looking at homes and magazines, and I just put it all together. I basically designed the house. I jused an architectural firm to put everything together. Um but I basicallly laid out the house the way I wanted, the size of the rooms I wanted, the flow of the house. I wanted a house that was easy to entertain in. In this house you can go from room to room to room and not get trapped anywhere. So it's very very easy to entertain in this home.
SNG: Do you enter tain much?
GZ: Not a great deal, but usually when I entertain it's a fairly large crowd. (His last party was for 350 people.) And I love the look of the brick and stone. I think it gives a classic look to the house, and I noticed in Europe and older homes around the country that they used a lot of leaded and beveled windows. Franklin Art Glass did all the windows in the house. They did just an absolutely superb job and were extremely easy to work with.
SNG: Did you design the windows as well?
GZ: I told them what I wanted, and they drew it up. Then if we didn't like, it we redrew it. I know a lot of old homes in this area used a lot of beveled glass, and I wanted that look. I know this is a large house for the area, but I wanted it to fit as much as it possibly could.
SNG: There are some very large homes down here. Some of the old Victorians were quite large.
GZ: Yes, yes they were quite large. Unfortunately I only have a picture of one house that was on one of the lots here. That a gentleman brought over while I was in construction. It was a beautiful old home that was sitting on this property. I don't know what happened to it. I think over the years it just wasn't taken care of. I understand a couple of the houses burned down a couple were just weren't taken care of and were finally demolished for one reason or another. But there were some beautiful homes in this area. There still are some beautiful homes in this area.
SNG: So when you started to buy the property. . .
GZ: When I bought these, they were all vacant lots. I think a lot of them were just sitting in estates, and they were just sitting on them waiting to see what would happen. I don't think any of them had any plans to do anything with the property.
SNG: How many rooms are there in the house?
GZ: Everyone asks that question. I don't know why I don't stop to count. There aren't a lot of rooms in the house. The rooms are fairly large. Let's see I have a music room, a great room, office, dining room , kitchen, loft upstairs, pool room, three bedrooms, and four and a half baths in the house. Above the garage I have a two bedroom, two bathroom, living room, dining room, kitchen guest apartment. It comes in handy when you have guests. They can have their own space and you can have your own space and it works well.
He chuckles. He's a very private man. Initially he lived in the guest apartment while he finished construction of the main house.
SNG: Everyone is interested in the pool room.
GZ: Yes everyone asks about it.
SNG: Why did you build an indoor pool?
GZ: I built the pool not so much for exercise, although I enjoy swimming, and it is probably the most relaxing thing I can think to do. It's wonderful to come home from a stressful day at work and jump in the pool. You can just feel the stress come right out of your body. But I also built it so that I could entertain around it. With the weather in Columbus, you really only have maybe three four months at the most that you can enjoy an outdoor pool. This way I can enjoy it twelve months out of the year. And maintenance is much much less with an indoor pool.
SNG: Where did you live before?
GZ: I lived in the German Village area
SNG: Why didn't you build down there.
GZ: Quite frankly I enjoy this area more than the German Village Area. And I'm not putting German Village Area down it's a beautiful, beautiful area and it's a very comfortable area to live in but I enjoy this area more. Why I don't know if I can pinpoint a reason. That's a tuffy. It just seems more comfortable down here.
SNG: I'll help you out with this. High street down here seems more friendly and I think that the mix is different down here--a little bit more of everybody down here, as you said. Though there are pockets of commerce and restaurants and it has a sort of walking feel, it (German Village) doesn't have, for me the same sort of city feel. And there's theatre and art down here. There's actually more to do in the Short North.
GZ: Yes, I agree. There is more down here. The area does offer more.
SNG: And now more food, though initially not. The area has changed a lot.
GZ: Yes it has. In the nine years since I've been working on this project, the area has changed tremendously. Victoria Gate wasn't here when I started. Many, many, many of the shops and galleries weren't here when I first started. In fact most of my friends thought I was crazy. He has an engaging laugh. But I didn't build this as an investment. I didn't build it thinking well I'll live here a few years and sell it for a profit. I built it because this is were I wanted to live.
SNG: What was it that initially that attracted you to the area? Was it the park? The area has changed so much from your initial experience of it.
GZ: I belong to the Greek Orthodox church and we spent a lot of time down in this area when I was a youngster. We came to the church. We played in the park, so I was comfortable with the area. I was familiar with the area and spent a lot of time down here. My father grew up in the area, so. . .
SNG: So there's a family history to the area. What do you think about the new church?
GZ: Oh I love it. It's great. It almost didn't happen, you know. They almost moved out close to Westerville. Then they decided to stay down here, and I think it's a big assett to the community.
SNG: It's gorgeous. It is a beautiful church.
GZ: It is a beautiful church. Actually the same architect that did the plans for this house designed the Greek church. . . a member of the community and the church.
SNG: What are some of your memories of being a boy and being down in the community then?
GZ: Hmm. That's a good one, too. I don't know. It was just a good feeling. It was all my young friends going through church down here, and like I said, we just played in the park. and were always down in the area. It was just a good time, I guess.
Zanetos is the third of four boys and grew up in the family candy business doing just about everything. The business is still family run and includes three generations of Zanetos. Greg loves to host the family holiday gathering. It's one of the five or so times a year he actually uses both ovens in his well appointed kitchen. There was a small toaster and a small electric coffee maker on the counter, so I chided him about having toast and coffee in the morning. He changed the subject.
GZ: I know a lot of people are curious as to why it took me so long to build this house. The main reason is that not only did I design most of the house, but I was the General Contractor. It was my first venture into building anything, actually. And I kind of did it in my free time. As well as working full time, I was overseeing the construction of this house. So when I had time, we worked on the house; and when I didn't, we didn't. But it did take a long time to build the house. I was very very particular. I went through a lot of people building the house. My carpenters in particular did an absolutely wonderful job in the house. Set up shop in this room right here. (the foyer) They were here for nine months doing the woodwork in the house. So everything took a long time, but it was because I'm awfully particular. Everything had to be just so; and if it wasn't, we redid it until it was.
SNG: How long did it take?
GZ: It took me three and a half years.
SNG: That's not bad for such a big house.
GZ: It's about 8400 square feet not counting the basement which has 3000 square feet. I haven't finished it yet, but it was designed to be finished. I want to have game rooms down there, a pool table and a bar and a kitchen. Just a fun game room.
SNG: Did you like being the General Contractor?
GZ: I did. It wasn't easy.
SNG: Would you do it again?
GZ: Not and work full time. There're still a lot of things not quite finished, like the landscaping. But I'll get around to it. I intend to live here a long time.
He showed me the rest of the house. I loved the sitting alcove on the second floor, the early evening summer sun streaming through the beveled glass window, creating a cozy corner outside the master bedroom. Zanetos seemed like his house: ecclectic in style, warm, generous and open, able to host graciously three hundred-fifty guests, a family holiday, and yet comfortable and cozy enough to shelter a singular, personable, private man.