The place turns heads. It’s a 16-foot wide, 16- foot high, 103-foot long post and beam constructed covered bridge converted into a house.
When television crews from the Home and Garden Network caught word of the house they knew they had found ideal material for their program “Re-zoned.”
A 10-person crew from High Noon Entertainment spent an eight- hour day recently chatting with and filming local husband and wife team George Roberts and Judy Soldavini, owners of the bridge/house located on North Bloomfield Road. The footage will be used in an upcoming episode of HGTV’s half hour show devoted to reincarnated jails, gas stations, ships, and other structures getting a second life as a residence.
The covered bridge – nearly identical in dimensions as the one found on Oregon Creek near Camptonville – was built in 1990 by preservationists who used it as a storehouse for mining memorabilia. It sits on historic 19th century mining property known as Coyote Diggings located on the western slope of Sugarloaf Mountain.
There was an attempt to make the property a mining preserve and an open house was held on the bridge but the preserve was never fully realized. No one ever lived in the building that sat neglected and forlorn for more than 10 years before Roberts and Soldavini found it.
“It was kind of an eyesore. It was just really dilapidated,” said Soldavini, a designer of her own company, Designs by Giudita. “What we started out with was pretty bleak,” said her husband, local attorney George Roberts.
But once Soldavini walked the planks of the bridge and cast her eyes up at the rough-hewn timbers and span of clerestory windows under the eave, she had a vision of her future home.
Two years of hard labor and eight to 10 times the amount of money they intended to spend later, Judy and George are living in the bridge they call home. Its original rustic appeal is still there, while the interior morphed into a contemporary New York-style loft with three bedrooms and two office spaces.
The biggest challenge was creating a cozy atmosphere without the space appearing cavernous like a bowling alley. They did it without adding any dividing walls between rooms.
“It’s absolutely like an estate now,” said Roberts of the house and its expansive 1,000 square feet of decking and meticulous landscaping.
The crew from High Noon Entertainment travels the country filming homes that weren’t originally designed for living in. Scouts send notices to chambers of commerce in search of unusual residences. Judy and George received an e-mail query about their home.
“We were shocked and had no idea how they found us,” said Soldavini. Five months went by without hearing a word. Television producers contacted them again, this time with only six weeks warning before cameras would be rolling.
“It really motivated us to get things done,” said Soldavini.
Only five minutes of “bridge” footage will be shown on the half hour show – along with three other homes. Five seasons are being shot in one year with scenes from the bridge falling somewhere in the fourth season. The actual airing times haven’t been chosen and could be as soon as next fall or as much as two years from now.
“That’s TV,” quipped producer David Stephen, on scene recently at the unusual Nevada City home.
Through his experience with unconventional homes, Stephens points to the cost of real estate and a love of open spaces as the common thread nudging people to abandon traditional housing.
“They all seem to have a really strong vision. It’s pretty amazing seeing what people do,” said Stephens.
As for Soldavini, she hopes to tackle one more project. This is her second so far since she came onto the design scene just six years ago. Her last home, known as the Italian Villa and the “crown jewel” of the Home Tour sold for $1 million. She’s hoping to get at least $2 million for the bridge when it goes on the market next fall.
While the bridge is a dichotomy of styles – a mix of silk curtains rustic solid cedar 12-foot by 12-foot beams, art deco and some Asian flavors, Soldavini says the next house will be “ultra-modern.”
“I can do any style… I think I was born with this talent.”
“Re-zoned” airs at 7 p.m. Sundays on the Home and Garden Network. Visit the show online at: http://www.hgtv.com/hgtv/shows_bdc
Laura Brown covers outdoors for The Union and writes occasional stories on a variety of subjects. Her e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
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