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Designs on each other <br> An architecture student and an interior designer settle down in Allentown after a fairy tale courtship

Relationships have changed drastically in recent years. Couples are getting married later, weddings occur after homes have been established, kids move back in, second marriages are common, and so are same-sex unions. We will explore the changing world of today's relationships in "Couples," an occasional series kicking off today.


His worker jeans caught her eye at a party in New York City where they first met.

"He was completely different from any other guy I had met in New York," said Evans Mitchell Geisler, 28, of her future husband. "It's what made him intriguing to me."

The Buffalo-born Mitchell didn't know what to make of the free spirit from rural Wisconsin, but the two would soon fall in love, adopt a dog, get engaged and be married in a whirlwind that smacked of tradition down to the honeymoon in Lake Placid.

Today, the young owners of a 100-year-old cottage in Allentown are putting down roots, much like the spring flowers breaking through the ground outside their front door.

"I feel like I've moved into the adult phase of my life recently," said John Geisler, who turns 30 in May. "Your 20s in general, there's a lot of adjusting going on. No one knows where they're going to be next year, what job they'll have. We sort of went through that together."

Evans grew up in Buffalo's Elmwood Village, attending Elmwood-Franklin and Nichols schools before studying art history at Bucknell University. She moved to New York City, where she interned for an art gallery before attending design school.

Design evolved slowly for John, whose plans to become an architect were founded in woodwork. His passion for wood is obvious the moment you walk through the front door of their home. A towering bookcase he crafted lines one first-floor wall, while a wood-top dining table shines near the set of front windows.

"That's the great part about wood," said John, reaching over the table enough so his tattoos show. "You sand it, oil it and the table is as good as new."

Evans collects chairs: an eye-popping orange and another in lime green; navy chairs in light white aluminum. She likes to arrange and rearrange midcentury modern chairs while renovating their old home. Already several walls have been dismantled, making the ground floor one large living space bathed in natural light.

"I play this game where I come home and ask myself what's different today," said John, who is finishing his second year at the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning. His first year he studied at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, where he and Evans moved shortly after they were engaged.

John's proposal -- in a canoe in Georgian Bay in summer 2008 -- capped a week of ninja planning maneuvers that involved much of Evans' family, who were vacationing bayside in their summer home.

"I spent all week setting it up," recalled John. "During the week I was canoeing because in the past I never canoed. I didn't want it to seem weird that I suddenly wanted to canoe to an island. When the day came, it started out raining, and we were leaving in two days. I had to drag her to the canoe."

"It was my night to cook dinner, but everyone told me to go with John on the canoe ride," Evans said. "The sun was setting and it was beautiful, and he threw the champagne and ring at me, and I wanted to pass out I was so shocked. It took me 10 minutes to gauge what was going on.

"And then we canoed back and my parents were all crying," she said. "Our dog was in the water trying to swim out to us."

Ray, a chocolate Labrador retriever, has logged 80,000 miles with her owners traveling twice between coasts. Named after chair designer Ray Eames, this female Lab has been around.

"Growing up it was: Pick your dream city and get your dream job," said Evans. "My dream job in my dream city of San Francisco just wasn't there. It felt very far away from the East Coast. It could get very lonely at times."

They had planned to give San Francisco three years, enough time for John to finish architecture school, but with the economy tanking and with Evans -- unable to find a job in design -- working in a bakery, they decided to head east after one year.

Moving into their home in October, John and Evans share a second-floor work space which serves as an office for Evans Interiors, the design business Evans started in September. Starting a design business was a goal that John had urged Evans to pursue, just like Evans inspired John to follow his dream of becoming an architect.

"John builds me up," Evans said looking into the eyes of her husband. "He always dives into everything completely confident, and it always worked out for him. That's good, especially when you're trying to start a new business."

Starting a new life in Buffalo, this urban couple want to become part of the city's resurgence, and have plans to join Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and the Allentown Association. They are eager to see what other flowers their new ground holds.

"I didn't know when marriage was going to play out, but I knew we'd be together forever," said Evans. "I changed my name. I just always assumed I would."

"She was fired up about changing her name," John laughed. "I'm flattered. It's not expected. Marriage isn't expected."


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