Judy and Gary Nichols downsize with style in their new Franklin home

By Jon Shoulders | Photography by Christopher Whonsetler

One word could describe the way Judy and Gary Nichols approached the construction and design of their new Franklin home.


“The whole concept was to have all the comforts of a larger retirement home but yet have something we could manage
that would be cozy and livable, and still have room for company,” Judy says of
the 2,600-square-foot house, which is located in the Legends West subdivision
in Franklin.

Finding a sweet spot between comfort and accessibility involved carefully refining their original plan for the home, which was completed over a six-month construction period starting in April 2013. The design began with four bedrooms, and alongside Cary McNeil, a custom home builder and owner of Greenwood-based McNeil Homes, Gary and Judy slowly revised the closets, kitchen and second floor loft area to reflect their vision more accurately. “We worked together coming up with colors and amenity selections, although they did the majority of the selections,” McNeil says. “Nothing against interior decorators, but I would always prefer to work directly with the homeowners, especially the ones that have a knack for putting so many finishes together, as the Nicholses did.”

The resulting layout, which consists of two bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths and a two-car garage all centered on a spacious living area with a vaulted ceiling, gives the Nicholses optimal convenience without sacrificing a sense of space.

A wealth of warm colors and textures awaits those entering the living area, from dark wood flooring to a multi-hued granite fireplace surround to the living room couches and end tables, all in varying shades of brown, red, gold and green.

Paintings placed throughout the home’s two levels inspire constant trips down memory lane for the couple. “We’ve accumulated artwork and various pretty things in our travels,” Judy says, adding that they purchased pieces during trips to New Mexico, Michigan and Florida, in addition to local acquisitions from Zionsville and Brownsburg artists.

Plenty of natural light floods the main living area via high-set windows and glass-paned back doors that open onto a small patio, where the homeowners and their guests can enjoy a view of the backyard, which sits immediately adjacent to the neighboring Legends golf course.

The kitchen contributes to the comfortable aesthetic that the rest of the house conveys, and the Nicholses even included a small sofa just off the kitchen table. “We had one in our last couple of houses, and it just worked out well,” Judy says. “I can nestle in there and read a magazine just for fun or if I’m doing something in the kitchen and have some down time.” Passing by the kitchen’s sand-toned granite countertops and rustic hickory cabinetry — courtesy of C&M Cabinets, where Gary works — one reaches the sun-drenched dining area, which, according to Gary, is perfect for a sunrise view.

The master bedroom, which features a his-and-hers bathroom, a walk-in closet with pocket doors and a pull-down ironing board, has an entrance door made by an Amish woodworker from Montgomery, Ala., with whom Gary regularly works. “We had all the doorways made 3 feet wide so they could accommodate us down the road if we have to have walkers and wheelchairs,” Judy adds.

McNeil feels the multiple finishes on the home’s exterior add a bold and distinct touch. “They are unique from the other houses in the community,” he says. “The combination of their brick, stone, shake siding, metal roofing accent on the front porch and paint colors are very appealing. I had people stopping by to tell me how nice and different it was.”

The front staircase railings and newels, constructed by another Amish carpenter and colleague of Gary’s, match the downstairs flooring, adding visual continuity to the home’s central living area. Just around the corner from the second floor landing is a loft area that Gary has dubbed his “man cave,” outfitted with a TV, additional closet space and a treadmill facing a window overlooking the back lawn.

The upstairs also houses a spacious Jack and Jill bathroom and guest bedroom, both of which Gary and Judy built with their daughters — Camille, Lori, Janna and Claire — and nine grandchildren, who range from 27 down to 8 years of age, in mind. Judy says that while it gets increasingly difficult to get the entire family together, with Camille living in Menomonee Falls, Wis., Claire in St. Petersburg, Fla., Lori in Greenwood and Janna closer by in Franklin, she looks forward to future family gatherings in the home. “The more time that goes by it gets tougher, but you just have to bend with the branches,” Judy says.

Originally from Greene County (Judy hails from Linton and Gary from Lyons), the Nicholses have refined their tastes and preferences in home design from living in multiple cities over the years and owning several homes along the way. Gary began his career in the early 1960s at Wickes Lumber, and early opportunities for company advancement with the national chain took the couple to Buffalo, N.Y., followed by Bloomington, Anderson, Indianapolis and eventually Franklin. “Gary would slowly move up to better positions, and each time we’d move we pulled ourselves up and always had a house that we were able to do a little better on,” Judy says. “From every house I lived in, I learned along the way a lot of things I liked and didn’t like about houses.”

In 1977, Gary left the lumber trade to try his hand at building spec houses, which quickly led to yet another career change. “Judy’s father was a builder, and my father was a builder, so I always wanted to build houses,” he recalls. “On my very first house, C&M did the cabinets, and they asked me to work for them.” Three months later he joined the company as manager, continuing to build homes as a side project until 1982. By then, their children were all in school, and the couple was ready to drop anchor in Indiana for the long haul.

These days, the Nicholses enjoy venturing to downtown Indy for Indianapolis Colts games and the Indianapolis Broadway show series, and they regularly explore the dining scene in Franklin and Indy. With Gary’s retirement from C&M Cabinets in the not-too-distant future, he and Judy feel they have created the ideal living space when not visiting their children or taking winter vacations in Fort Myers, Fla., a tradition of five years and counting for the couple. “After you move enough times and make your home enough times, you know what it is you like to live with,” Judy says. “It’s been a learning process.”