Newly wed in 1986, Mike and Felicia Rudolph were happy to accept the offer made by Mike’s mother, June, to live in the house he grew up in as they looked for a permanent home for married life.
Located on a knob just east of Evansville Regional Airport, between U.S. Highway 41, St. George Road, and Oak Hill Road, Mike’s parents built the house on Knob Hill in 1957, when Mike was in first grade. His father, Marlin, died in 1983, and his mother lived part of the year in Florida. When Mike and Felicia married in 1987, “she suggested we stay in the house until we found a home on the East Side,” Mike says.
They did look at homes, says Felicia, who is now a real estate broker for F.C. Tucker Emge Realtors. At the time, she worked for Peabody Coal Co. (now Peabody Energy), where she was recruited upon graduation from the University of Kentucky with a degree in civil engineering. Mike, retired from the asphalt paving company his grandfather founded, J.H. Rudolph & Co., now assists Felicia, who is from Independence, Ky., with her real estate practice.
The Rudolph family home was very appealing. “The neighborhood is quiet and very stable,” says Mike. Especially attractive to him was the 2 1/2-acre Knob Hill Lake where he grew up swimming.
“I’d come home every day from work,” Felicia says, “and Mike would be swimming in the lake behind the house, and I knew he would never leave.”
He couldn’t, Mike says. “This was home to me.”
A deal was struck with Mike’s mother, and again, she was happy they would be in the house.
Renovations began in 1990 to accommodate their growing family, which includes two daughters, Carrie and Morgan. Randy Elpers of Elpers & Sons Custom Home Builders, Inc., along with H.G. McCullough Designers, were hired to enlarge the residence and put a new facade on the mid-century ranch with a basement. “I played practically no role in the design or construction,” Mike says. “Because Felicia has a civil engineering background, the builder would wait until she showed up with any questions. She made all the critical decisions.”
During the renovation, the couple moved out for nine months. When the makeover was complete, more than 18 feet had been added to the front of the house, creating a dramatic entry, and nearly every room was enlarged. The moment of truth, Mike says, was when his mom, who died in 1995, saw the completed renovations.
“She gasped,” Mike says. “She was in love with it. It felt really good to have her approval.”
With the couple’s daughters out of the home, today their space is shared with their Tonkinese cat, Sagwau, and furnishings and art that encourage conversation and enjoyment.
Proving that engineers are creative (What is more inventive than engineering?), Felicia has curated an extraordinary blend of richness and clean aesthetic in the home.
“In the past, we have focused on acquiring antiques including French and Biedermeier,” Felicia says, “but our interests have evolved to modern, retro, and contemporary art and furnishings.
Over the years, the Rudolphs have worked with interior designers Tay Ruthenberg, owner of Evaline Karges Interiors, and Kip Farmer of Kip Farmer Design.
“It’s a real treat to work with Mike and Felicia,” says Farmer. “Everyone says they are eclectic, and the Rudolphs truly are. They have layered together an amazing ‘collected chic’ vibe to their home over the years. It is always fun to collaborate with them to see where we take the space next.”
Though they enjoy traveling, the Rudolphs appreciate returning to Evansville and the home Mike grew up in. “It’s been a real source of satisfaction to have lived my whole life in Evansville and to live in this home as a kid and an adult,” Mike says. “Felicia and I were married in this house, and we raised our daughters here. Our past has been here and our future will remain here.”
• Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville www.antiquesandgardenshow.com
• American & European Antiques 706 N. Main Street• 812-421-1720
• Wally Findlay Galleries www.wallyfindlay.com
• Kip Farmer www.kipfarmer.com