The grand homes in Lowry Hill boast plenty of charm and good bones, but many are in need of a little love and polish. This 1918 five-bedroom Georgian Colonial had the best of the old: push-button lights, a Juliet balcony, and a back staircase. But tight rooms and a missing connection between the interior and exterior were holding it back from its full potential for modern living. It took a strong collaboration between the homeowners, Rehkamp Larson Architects, interior designer Alecia Stevens, and Choice Wood Company to transform the home and blend the old with new, the traditional with the whimsical.
“We reenergized it, the quality and character is so endearing,” says Jean Rehkamp Larson, a partner with Rehkamp Larson Architects. “We just had to breathe some new life into it.” Although they only added 80 interior (heated) square feet (plus a 165-square-foot screen porch), the home definitely got its revival.
Since homeowners Geoffrey Emerson, an ophthalmology surgeon, and Lynda Kauls, a dermatologist with Market Street Dermatology in International Market Square, have three kids under 10 and a dog, it was critical to carve out a back entry space for boots, backpacks, umbrellas, and toys. By sacrificing the back staircase, the team was able to create a mudroom with built-in cabinets and cubbies, painted in a darker more forgiving shade that would wear well, hide the dirt, and pop against all the white millwork. The new space also restored the lost connection between the indoors and the outside. “In the world today we come and go a lot,” says Rehkamp Larson. “And this is a family that doesn’t mind getting messy.”
Now feeding directly into the sunroom, the mudroom has a petite sink for quick hand and paw washing. Extra touches like this are throughout the home, be it vintage stools for the kids or a hidden chalkboard wall upstairs. The architect and designer worked hand in hand to achieve that balance of function and fun. “Delight and discovery is a good part of living in a house, I always look for those opportunities,” says Rehkamp Larson.
In each of the kids’ bedrooms, Stevens designed with that same delight and sophistication so each child could grow into their space. Daughter Lily has grown-up bedding and wall coverings with metallic threads that work for any age, lending timeless appeal.
Putting antiques in the kids’ room and more modern touches downstairs, Stevens gave the homeowners an interesting juxtaposition of new and old in every space.
“I am, frankly, over ‘transitional’ furniture,” says Stevens. “It is neither here nor there. If I am going to do traditional, I like it really traditional. Give me a Bergamo damask or a Fortuny print, or a Robert Kime linen. Give me an antique anything of old wood and gilt, a mirror that has its original glass, a French bergère with tattered fabric. Then, I like to mix this with a modern light fixture or a Lucite table or modern art. I prefer the greater contrast, not landing at too safe a place in the middle. By doing this, the room has all the elements and a harmony, but the individual pieces can hold their own.”
Stevens blended the polished and the playful everywhere, using a subdued palette, which paired well with the homeowner’s taste and art collection. “Lynda and I were completely in sync with muddy colors, colors that look a bit old and faded. This is just where she was most at home,” Stevens says. “Personally, I swoon over a palette of soft, worn color.”
Punches of color are used sparingly, as in the kitchen nook where a bright green sofa sits by a red-corded lamp. Vaughan star pendants hang over exquisite rugs from Aubry Angelo and Francis King Ltd. in the entry, while the designer left ample hardwood floor space uncovered for skateboarding in the hallways. Now more livable and full of character, this house is ready to stand tall another century.