869 Mohawk isn’t a house—it’s an optical illusion.
The fun part of walking around historic German Village is gazing at the variety of small, charming facades and guessing what wonder lies inside—and in the case of Darrin and Stacy Hoover’s home, it’s far more than you can imagine.
“The first time my buddy came over, he said this was the German Village experience on steroids,” Hoover laughed.
One step through the front door and it takes your eyes a few minutes to adjust to the splendor of the 1880s A-frame’s interior, an impeccable economy of space and design that Hoover envisioned just three years ago. It took him just one step to start rattling off a vision that presented itself to him almost immediately.
The self-described “hybrid”—artist, builder, painter, designer, sometimes screenwriter—pulled out a sketchbook and started plotting. That book sits on the kitchen island today, eerily accurate to its surroundings—it’s scratched measurements and angles resembling a storyboard more so than an actual blueprint.
“I do my thinking on paper,” he shrugged. “In my head, once I solve it, I just have to execute it.”
And boy, did he.
The first vision to go from sketch-to-saw is the anchoring feature of the home, which at first glance appears to be a catwalk extending over the kitchen. In reality, it was just a much better way to utilize a long attic. By removing long portions of the flooring, Hoover broke the main space wide open, not only creating a connected, clever second floor space, but also a towering kitchen with ample space for a sliding wooden ladder that accesses the top shelf.
“I knew the magic had to be involving the first floor with the second,” Hoover said, flipping through his book of tricks. “I just went for it.”
To tour the Hoover home is to also get a tour of Hoover’s hyperactive mind. His thoughts are rapid, just like the pace of his work—a quality he attributes to being born into a family of makers; his dad, a union electrician, and his mother, a nurse and an incredible seamstress. It wasn’t just a point of pride to be able to create your own things, but it’s long been an inside joke that money is only for materials, not to buy material things.
“My mom quietly thumbed her nose that people had to resort to using money,” Hoover laughed. “‘Oh, they have to buy fashion.’ [It was understood that] you just make things that are cool.”
And beyond just the design of the house, Hoover has made a cool thing or two. The walls are littered with his paintings, pieces that he bashes out in the backyard sometimes eight to ten at a time, a pace that he borrows from his dad, who would often chide his friends—and sometimes his son—by sauntering over to one of their projects and wryly questioning, you’re not done yet, are you?
“He told me once, ‘you know why I work so hard? Because I hate it. I’d rather be doing nothing. I wanna get it done, so I can do nothing. I like to go at a ridiculous pace, work freakishly fast, and I give birth to it, then it exists.’”
Which is part of the joy for Hoover, who doesn’t subscribe to constant tinkering, or succumb to the boredom that comes from some builders who are unable to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Nope, this was exactly what he wanted, and he soaks it in as much as possible.
“I like to birth it, and then I like to behold it. Just stand here with a cup of coffee and [look up] ‘ahh, this is good.’ It’s primal—you hunt, and then you celebrate the hunt,” he said.
In addition to moving the master bedroom into the original kitchen space—it’s painted white brick a cool compliment to the warm tones of the main space—Hoover converted the 1980s addition that he described as “Westerville apartment-style” into an elegant back staircase that leads to the second floor.
As is often the case in design, taking something away from the home added so much. A quiet second-floor bath sits adjacent to an open reading room, where the east end hosts an office lit by one of Hoover’s prize productions: natural skylights masquerading as dome lights. Less electricity and less potential static from the local homeowners’ association.
“I don’t like to ask for permission for innovation,” he said.
For such a small dwelling, with such flush walls and shelves, the space feels hardly stuffy. Hand-designed screen doors are often open to the sidewalk and backyard, and there’s enough room for multiple guests to stroll the premises along with Arthur, the couple’s gentle giant mastiff.
And there’s still plenty to behold.
“It’s the magic of design,” Hoover said. “It’s supposed to make you feel something.”