Evolution Meets Establishment
Home Reflects Family Growth While Maintaining Family Values
For almost 10 years, Jeff and Georgia Pennington have been established home and business owners in Houston’s Memorial area. They bought a home and raised three children — Alexis, Camryn and Walker — along with Bella, the dog, and though both have other careers, in 2001 they became business owners. A designer friend of theirs offered her share in The Accessory Place to the couple. They decided to invest even more of themselves in the area and bought in. However, a few years ago, they realized though their family was growing and changing, their home was not.
More than just their kids getting older, Jeff and Georgia, too, were evolving. Jeff, formerly a partner at Accenture, decided to retire and begin focusing his time and energies on some philanthropic passions, such as his positions on the boards of First Baptist Academy and Spring Spirit Baseball. Georgia, a CPA, was more focused now on her older children and individual pursuits, like her arts and crafts. The 4,250-square-foot home begin to feel smaller and smaller as the children got older and each of the family members’ activities became more varied. Everyone seemed to need more space.
Though the house sat on a big lot, which was great for younger kids, now with two kids in high school and one in junior high, the one-story ranch-style dwelling was no longer functional for the needs of this older family. A realtor friend, aware of their plight, kept nudging them towards different homes, when finally they ventured into an unfinished 8,000-square-foot custom construction.
“What we liked about it,” shares Jeff, “was everything.” For this family, what “everything” means for one, is that the home is “teen-friendly.” Each child has their own bedroom and bathroom, which makes each room feel suite-like and private. The kids also have their own media room and a game room, and better yet, all the kids’ spaces are upstairs. “We wanted a home that our kids would want to stay around and bring their friends over,” says Georgia, “and this home makes that possible.”
This home also offers Georgia and Jeff each a space to pursue their hobbies: Georgia has an actual room (rather than the cramped dining table at the other house) to enjoy her scrapbooking and needlepoint, and Jeff enjoys his “man cave,” a large reclaimed space (initially intended for a wine cellar) under the ample staircase, where he and his buddies can watch games (on three screens) or play backgammon on the antique game table. Additionally, this residence offers a large study that provides the couple a place to conduct and maintain their family, personal and individual business affairs.
The fact that the Penningtons discovered the structure when there was only sheetrock on the walls made the find even better. They were able to utilize their resources at the store, their contacts within the industry, their own creative inspiration, and the accumulation of their family history to really define this space as their own.
The couple began to assemble a team of experts to assist them with the evolution. Along with their own tastes, and the input of Jean Ellen Russell, one of the four design consultants at The Accessory Place, and Leslie Sinclair of Segreto Finishes, the Pennington residence began to take form.
“Though Jeff and Georgia kept several pieces from their other home, like the Yamaha Baby Grand piano or the beautiful iron bed in the master bedroom, their new place is a true reflection of their family and their store,” says Jean Ellen. “The homeowners selected every finish in the house, and we had a great working relationship.” She adds, “The home turned out so beautifully because we communicated effectively, The Accessory Place affords great relationships within the industry and the Penningtons trusted me.”
The trust and communication between the working parties was vital to the evolution of the home. “We bought the home,” Jeff discloses, “with nothing but sheetrock on the walls.” Georgia continues, “Jeff is right. The home was extremely stark and bare, so we had some challenges to overcome in order for the home to evolve into the warm, traditional space it has become.” Some of the challenges came in the form of the architecture of the abode. “Leslie’s expertise was so essential. With her help,” Georgia says, “we were able to achieve balance between the design elements we selected. For example, the golden tones and neutrals really soften the brick.”
The balancing act doesn’t end there, though. Even with the arched doorways, high ceilings and large windows, the dwelling retains a very traditional feel. The 24-foot ceiling in the living room presented a slight dilemma. The Penningtons really wanted to accentuate the grand scale of the room, so they added beams, an antique tapestry and other design elements to draw the eye upward. Additionally, Leslie plastered the ceilings in the living room to add warmth and interest, whereas the rest of the home features painted ceilings. They decided that the grand piano was an impeccable fit against the big, beautiful picture window, so there was no need for treatments. The result is picture perfect.
Another design challenge came in the form of the cabinetry in the residence. Jeff and Georgia loved the built-ins that were a part of most of the rooms and bathrooms, but wanted to avoid the generic appearance projected by some cabinets. “Though the cabinets were custom,” says Georgia, “they lacked personality and pop.” So the couple collected photographs of furniture they admired, presented them to Leslie and she began to work her magic. “By adding more charming finishes, some embossing, a little stenciling, a bit of detail,” Leslie divulges, “the cabinets look less like built-ins and more like furniture.” It’s true. Each space is warmer, more personal and less generic with the finishing touches Leslie added to each piece.
Other design tricks distinctive to the Pennington residence are found in the other common areas. The dining room, for example, features stunning stenciling on the walls. Leslie asserts, “The stencil design gives the room a more formal, elegant feel.” She also refurbished the chairs around the large dining table. “I added glazes to the chairs to age them.” The effect is an inviting and warm ambiance with just the right touch of ceremony for a formal space. Between the kitchen/breakfast area and the den, the team decided to utilize a beautiful metal gate to define the different areas, yet keep them open. The outcome is outstanding. Each space seems larger as a result and the energy flows freely between the areas, making entertaining even easier.
The Pennington home is a true reflection of the way a modern family grows together as children get older and each family member begins to evolve into new expressions of themselves. What is inspiring here is the way this family has retained the traditional values that are so important to them while incorporating fresh elements of design and décor in their new home. Sophisticated and stylish, casual and inviting, traditional and warm, established and evolved. Just like the family who lives inside.
TEXT BY CHERYL ALEXANDER PHOTOGRAPHY BY WADE BLISSARD DESIGN BY JEAN ELLEN RUSSELL, THE ACCESSORY PLACE FINISHES BY LESLIE SINCLAIR, SEGRETO FINISHES PROJECT COORDINATOR, STEVE BURNS, CENTAMARK CUSTOM HOMES