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Elegance inside and out
By Diane Schlindwein

If Springfield has its very own Camelot, it might just be the magnificent home and estate of Coyn and Susan Richardson. It's a place that is parklike on the outside and nothing short of spectacular on the inside.

The almost 9,200-square-foot dwelling sits on about 30 acres close to Lake Springfield on West Lake Shore Drive - a place that is meant for entertaining, relaxing and even enjoying art.

Susan Richardson says the home - which features five bedrooms, two kitchens and four full baths and one half bath - wasn't always so large. The original home, which was owned by the Lubin (of Barker-Lubin) family, was built in 1949 and was more than 4,000 square feet. 

"Coyn purchased the home in 1990," says Susan of her husband, who owns Marine Bank. She notes that some decorating was done in the 1990s, with wonderful woodwork and wainscoting added from historic East Coast mansions that were being demolished, as well as walls from an old school building.

The original areas of the home are lovely and comforting. A former dining area is now an extension of the entryway and is a great place to greet guests. The dining room was once a living room - it is more than 27 feet long and 14 feet wide and features an original fireplace and a lengthy, dignified dining set. 

The Richardsons' home boasts a huge new master suite that is light-filled and lovely with its custom cherry crown moldings and woodwork. The bath features Carrera marble floors, a 6-foot-by-5-foot shower, a whirlpool tub with a view and a private toilet and bidet area. The dressing room has cherry organizers and room for the largest of wardrobes.

The expansive guest suite - which was the original master bedroom - is nearly as large and has a private dressing area and a bath with the original Corning Glass Works tile. 

"We added the great room and the master suite in 1999 and the new kitchen in 2004," says Susan. The idea for the great room - which brings to mind a home like the White House - came from Southern Living magazine.

"We saw the article in that magazine and designed the room based on it. I knew Frank Buraski (of Buraski Builders Inc.) from working with him commercially, so we knew we wanted to work with him personally on the project. He was wonderful to deal with."

The great room is so large, lovely and awe-inspiring that visitors usually gasp when they first see it. With six huge divided-light Marvin arched windows reaching up to the 18-foot ceilings, nature steps inside with a view of the three-acre pond.

Buraski says the Richardsons' great room "is fairly unique to the area." He says much planning - and a lot of manpower - went into completing all the Richardsons' additions. "What makes that space look so good is that things are properly proportioned. Large rooms need large windows. It's all about proportion."

"Since we've added the great room, we've seen so many things outside that we had never noticed," Susan says. "We get a tremendous amount of species of birds. It is just nice to see them out there." The room also features a huge, custom-made gas fireplace and decorative molding that just suits the place. The floors are walnut with wool carpeting.

The Richardsons lived in their house while Buraski built the first addition, but the kitchen was completed while the couple was away. The kitchen, with its hand-crafted cherry cabinets, huge expanse of granite countertops, two sinks, wine refrigerator, built-ins and special lighting has room for a couple of cooks and lots of family members.

"Again, it is about proportion. The hood over the stove is so big that it had to be brought inside in two pieces," says Buraski. "That is one nice kitchen!" 

Buraski says the Richardsons were the ideal clients. "What makes a project a success is for a builder and a homeowner to work together. The Richardsons are great to work with."

The home also features a Buraski-built large walk-through gallery with a courtyard view; an original wood-paneled library with parquet wood floors, a gas fireplace and built-in shelves; a second "hobby" kitchen; and a television room with a wall-size, big-screen TV. 

No matter where one roams in the Richardsons' home, they find lessons in tasteful decorating. Walls and floors feature just the right amount of artwork or furniture. "We've traveled a lot and collected things from our travels to various spots like San Francisco and New Orleans," Susan says. "It's been a lot of fun."

Nearly every room, with the exception of a few that are meant to be particularly cozy, has yards of floor space. Because light abounds, it would be almost impossible to develop "cabin fever," even on the coldest days.  Outside the home, master gardener Charles Hagerman has worked his own special landscaping magic. There, the couple's beloved and lumbering mastiffs, Sam and Sherman, have plenty of room to roam - that is, when they aren't sleeping in the front courtyard or sunning themselves on the circle drive.

The Richardsons have always taken full advantage of the grounds, Hagerman says - some of which used to be corn fields - and he's proud of what he and his assistants have accomplished. "I've been here for 20 years - I was a young guy when I started," he says with a chuckle. "I like to tell people I've accomplished 50 years of work in 20 years' time."

Now that fall is well under way, the gardens are losing most of their glamour - but in the spring and summer they feature 200 rose bushes, mixed-color and Lord Baltimore hibiscus, beauty berry bushes, deciduous holly, ornamental grasses, bottle brush buckeyes, butterfly plants, knock-out roses and a huge cutting garden filled with giant zinnias. Life-size statues of lovely ladies, a couple of herons and even a bronze horse add even more interest to the surroundings. Two irrigation systems make watering easy.

Of course, autumn has brought a plethora of color. The Richardsons' large stocked pond reflects the orange, yellow and red of autumn's last hurrah.

"We have over 150 trees on this property - including the largest white ash tree in the state of Illinois," says Hagerman as he points to the massive piece of nature. "You can look inside. The kids love it. I call it the Keebler Elf tree." Fruit from the Richardsons' trees are donated to a food pantry, and they regularly host visitors from retirement homes to cut flowers.

This winter, Hagerman and his assistant will put the Richardsons' greenhouse to good use, planting 20,000 annuals to transplant in the spring. They will be trimming trees, too. "This is a lot to care for, and we work all year long," he says. 

Eight or nine acres of the Richardsons' land are taken up with a prairie-grass restoration project. "That's my baby," Susan says. "I like to ride over on a tractor and see the deer. If you are walking they seem to run, but if you are on the tractor they stay right there."

Coyn and Susan have recently put their one-and-a-half story "castle" up for sale - something Susan admits she never thought they'd do. But with their home on the Gulf of Mexico and perpetually warm weather calling, it's time to move there permanently, she says.

Realtor Rick Hanselman says the house, which is on the market for $1.8 million, is a nature-lover's paradise that would be great for entertaining small or large groups. Mostly, however, Susan says she and Coyn have enjoyed calling such a lovely place home and are leaving with mixed emotions. 

"We have truly loved living here," Susan says. "We have enjoyed it so much. But it's the weather. Still, we've always loved that property and we've always loved Springfield, but it's the weather, you know - and the ocean. It's time to go there to stay."


Story published Friday, November 5, 2010 ( Volume 5, Number 6 )

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