From House to Home

Eight years ago, Tom and Alexandra (Alex) O’Niones returned closer to their roots and made the move from Fishers, Ind., to Fort Branch. Tom, who grew up as a Southern Indiana native in Freelandville, just north of Vincennes, and Alex, a native of Princeton, each wanted to be closer to their families. Fort Branch seemed like a natural fit. Having already lived in Fort Branch once, Alex says, “We like it here, it feels like home.”

Tom owns multiple companies that manage post-acute care with diversified service lines, including long-term care, in- and out-patient rehabilitation, Alzheimer’s, and dementia care specialty programmed services.

The couple was not sure just how long they would be living in the area, so for the first three years, they rented a duplex. Five years ago, Tom and Alex bought their present-day home. They were attracted to the 5,300-square-foot residence because of the physical structure of the house and the private lake in the backyard — one of seven houses situated on the lake. From the moment they moved in, the couple has worked diligently with a variety of contractors to shape the property into a Southern Indiana dream home, pulling up old carpet, putting down wood flooring, stripping wallpaper, painting walls, and ordering furniture.

When the O’Niones moved into the home, they brought with them only a few pieces of furniture. An instant concern for the couple, according to Alex, was “filling the great room. We had only three rooms worth of furniture.” To make this house a home, Tom and Alex worked with Alex’s sister, Melissa Lankford, an interior designer at BJ’s Home Accents in Newburgh. The two sisters began by finding fabrics Alex liked and then made a floor plan for the furniture; only then did Melissa and Alex get busy searching for and selecting pieces to fill the available space. The only furniture that came with the house was a large entertainment center, which was redesigned to maintain the integrity of the interior design. Alex, not a fan of the previous color scheme, had it faux painted antique white with gold, crackled accents.

The expansive basement perhaps best illustrates the couples’ design sense. “The basement was just concrete,” Alex says, adding that it was inspired by a layout in a magazine. “That was the cool part. We got to design it. It was something we got to do from scratch.” This also added 1,800 additional square feet, increasing the home’s value.

Now, guests can find a gargantuan-sized bar, more than enough seating, and even a workout and tanning room.

Melissa found the experience of working with her sister, who has a “traditional and elegant style,” to be a positive one. “I’ve really enjoyed it. I treat her like any other client,” she adds. “Well, maybe I do a little more for her.”

Melissa says working with Alex and Tom was a rewarding experience for all parties. “When we start a design project, we always strive to learn the clients’ personalities and how they want to feel comfortable in their home,” she says. “I already knew Alex’s and Tom’s personal tastes and how they wanted their home to reflect their busy lifestyles. They lead very busy, professional lives and wanted the upstairs to be a peaceful, elegant escape from the busy day. This look was carried out from throughout from living quarters to bedrooms.”

The lower level was designed to accommodate friends and family during the fun times of entertaining at home on weekends and holidays. 

“Many people might back off from designing for a family member, but my experience was great, and there was never a misunderstanding or question during the complete process,” Melissa says. “The added reward is I will also enjoy the home during family gatherings.”

Meanwhile, Tom initially asked the two to run all decisions by him, but soon found himself inundated with requests. He decided to trust Alex and Melissa.

Trust has played a vital role in the relationship between the O’Niones and their landscape designer, Dallas Foster of Landscapes by Dallas Foster. Alex recalls saying to Tom, “Wouldn’t it be a dream come true to get Dallas out here,” and that dream became reality. Dallas has been able to gain the trust of the couple because of his outstanding vision and foresight. One of the concerns of the couple was the location of the new Vincennes University Gibson County Center for Advanced Manufacturing at U.S. 41 and Coal Mine Road. It was very visible from the O’Niones’ home. Dallas and his crew set to work planting trees between the house and the view of the building in a staggered fashion. Tom recalls questioning this initially, but once all the trees went up and the building became nearly impossible to see, Tom and Alex had learned their lesson: trust Dallas.

“That’s what’s been great about the O’Niones,” says Brian Wildeman, a landscape designer with Landscapes by Dallas Foster. “They have very nice taste, and it has allowed us to go out to find all the pieces and accents to add on to the job. It reflects their style and their personality.”

As for the couple’s favorite part of the home, Tom’s favorite is the sunroom. Alex is inclined to say the dining room.  When asked about how this room came together and how she made her furnishing selections, Alex says, “It was the first time I felt really inspired.”

For more information on BJ’s Home Accents Inc., call 812-853-7381. For more information on Landscapes by Dallas Foster, call 812-882-0719.

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