Depending on the circumstances, bigger is not always better. The owners of this cheerful house have owned several homes over their many years of marriage.
While their previous home was magnificent, it was larger than they needed at this point in their lives, and it turned out to be too far away from the couple’s grown children and grandchildren living in Frontenac. “They weren’t stopping by to have lunch when we were out there at St. Albans,” the wife quips. Driving in and out of the city several times a day became inconvenient. So the couple decided they would move closer to their kids and simplify their lives at the same time. A vacant lot in Frontenac—10 minutes from both their son and daughter—fit the bill.
The husband had definitive ideas of what he wanted in the new home. “He’s probably the most hands-on, involved client I’ve ever had,” says Dick Busch, principal of Dick Busch Architects. “He knew what he wanted.” First and foremost? A home that was much smaller and more understated than the St. Albans residence. Busch says the client shared a picture of a painted brick house with a shake roof and black-framed windows. “We both loved the photo, and we tried to be faithful to that look,” says Busch. The client also wanted interior brick walls and a screened-in front porch with a front courtyard. These wish-list items were fulfilled in a home with over 5,000 square feet on the main floor and two guest bedrooms and bath upstairs.
Busch describes the home as classic cottage style. “He likes old houses,” Busch says of the husband. “A lot of old houses had screened-in porches on the front.” Similarly, the painted brick walls defining the dining room lend a vintage air. “Everyone coming in thinks this was an existing house we rehabbed,” says interior designer Kate Convy. The wife agrees, noting she and her husband consider it a compliment when people think the house is a remodel. “We tried to give it some age with the interior brick walls, beams in the kitchen and other elements,” the wife says.
The use of color, however, gives the “I-think-it’s-old” house youthful energy. “I wanted to go brighter in this home,” says the wife. “I did a little storyboard of what I wanted, which was pinks, greens and oranges, and that’s what we ended up with. Kate helped me see how you could ground these bright colors with a few older things.”
The principal of Partners in Design, Convy found an antique secretary in Atlanta and placed it in the library, which features a ceiling painted pink. “There are so many wonderful ceilings in this house that didn’t need a pop of paint or wallpaper, so this room was the only place to do something like this,” Convy says of the saturated hue, inspired by a Manuel Canovas toile utilized on an upholstered chair and window treatments. Convy added texture to the room with a chunky grasscloth wallpaper.
Many clients are afraid to incorporate bold colors, fearful of making expensive mistakes or tiring quickly of audacious shades. “Tile is hard to change but paint is easy, and many times people relax when you say that,” says Convy. “I said, if you don’t like the pink ceiling in here, we’ll paint it white. Let’s give it a try, and 95 percent of the time it’s worth it.” Indeed, the wife says the library is one of her favorite rooms in the home.
In the dining room, the husband wanted a round table so everyone gathered can be seen and heard. Convy found an antique table in San Francisco that the couple purchased based solely on photos. A daring fabric featuring shades of orange and pink is carried from the draperies onto an accent wall. Mixing old with new, the full-length mirror is a Restoration Hardware find. Underneath, a double-bordered sisal rug helps protect the oil-rubbed white oak floors.
Convy says the couple was mindful that the thoughtful design of this home would allow them to age gracefully in place. Such elements include locating their bedroom on the main floor and installing a zero-entry shower in their bathroom, which also includes two water closets, a clever design inspired by a similar layout in their Florida home. “We both have our own space to get ready and that’s something we really appreciated,” says the wife.
She says their bedroom is one of her favorites in the home. “It may seem like a bit of a departure because it’s not as bright as the other rooms, but it’s peaceful,” says the wife. Upholstered chairs in a cheery pink pop against the muted tones of the bedding, window treatments and creamy rug. The understated furnishings also allow the magnificent ceiling to take center stage. The wife gives credit for the coffered barrel vault ceiling to Keith Gegg of Gegg Design & Cabinetry, who also designed the home’s award-winning kitchen. “He has such an artistic eye,” says the wife.
During construction of the home, the couple rented a small villa after the St. Albans home had been sold. “I think we both realized, living in the villa, we can be just as happy in something very simple,” says the wife. “You realize your kids don’t want your stuff, and with just the two of us, we don’t need that much space.”
With thoughtful, well-executed design and a vibrant color palette, the home “just feels good,” says the wife. “It’s just the right space for what we need at this stage of our lives, and it makes me feel happy.”
Interior Design: Kate Convy
Architect: Dick Busch Architects
Builder: Hennessey Development
Kitchen Design: Gegg Design & Cabinetry