Light and Bright Renovation
Originally built in 1932, aside from its grandeur and stateliness, this elegant home hardly resembles its former self. Current owners Millette and Haag Sherman purchased it in 2004, when its front elevation was Georgian red brick with columns, its interiors were filled with dark wood and the Great Room (an addition to the original structure in 1989) was a dark man-cave trophy room.
The homeowners actually lived in the home for five years before they began to renovate in 2009. What was intended to be a simple six- to eight-month project quickly expanded as they began to discover issues that couldn’t be ignored within the home’s older structure, such as a basement that had water problems. Like with many older-home renovations, the more that was uncovered, the more they had to fix.
Once the repairs were attended to, the couple began to focus on updating the interior design and aesthetic. “Their inspiration for the renovation was open flow living, French décor, elegant lighting and a monochromatic color scheme,” said Bret Duhon, the couple’s interior designer and Millette’s business partner at Boxwood Containers. Millette explained that when she grew tired of what she was finding in local antique shops, she decided to partner with Bret in their own storefront.
“We’ve been friends for years,” she said, “and because Bret has been my interior designer, I knew we shared a similar taste. He and I hand-select everything from estates and flea markets all over Europe. We have high quality and a large quantity of furniture, accessories, mirrors and chandeliers.”
The consistency of the aesthetic is clear and certainly adds to the flow of the home from one space to the next. The neutral off-white/“greige” color scheme is soft and elegant, with equally elegant furnishings, accessories and lighting. Each is complementary in its visual appeal and could easily be moved to any room and be well-suited. In fact, most of the furnishings and accessories are from the same city in the South of France — Lisle, Dordogne.
Axial architecture spanning the front of the home’s interior is an element of design that lends continuity and open flow. No matter which way you look — right, left, up, down — there is a symmetry that is dramatically appealing. As you step into the foyer and gaze right or left, large arches frame and define each space from one end of the home to the other, inviting you to experience more of the home’s innate hospitality. Additionally, the floors, though different materials and textures, flow seamlessly in their presentation, heightening the interest in each room.
In the Great Room, windows were added along an entire wall, flooding the room with tons of natural light and offering a wide open appeal to what was previously a dark, awkward and obvious add-on to the home.
“The room is so bright and open now that it is almost like sitting outside; we absolutely love the transformation,” said Millette. “Previously, we never wanted to come into this part of the house because it seemed so separate and closed off.” Large limestone tiles link the variety of seating options here — one around the huge 17th century armoire which houses a television; one in front of a grand fireplace and custom mantle; and one for simply admiring the view of the beautiful backyard swimming pool and lovely tailored garden, which stays green year-round, with fruit trees to provide pops of color.
The home’s finishes provide another layer of continuity to the renovation. Leslie Sinclair of Segreto Finishes said, “This was my second time to work with the homeowners, so I understood well the aesthetic they were trying to achieve and the challenges they felt creating flow with a remodel. With multiple ceiling heights in the architecture and their hope for a warm, elegant comfortable home, we used plaster as a connecting factor throughout.”
By using a variety of tones of the same even finish on the walls and ceilings, the home took on the sophistication the couple yearned for, acting as a soothing backdrop without being busy. The smooth, cool plaster on the walls also allows the couple’s magnificent art collection, beautiful furnishings and fabrics to take center stage. Changing things like pillows and accessories is also much easier with such a timeless backdrop.
Leslie also finished the cabinetry and paneling in the home, adding depth and giving the spaces their own personality, as well as a furniture-quality finish in areas where the woodwork or cabinetry were the most noticeable elements of the room. One prime example is the kitchen island, where the finish is more textured, creating the feel of a reclaimed element in a new space. Other examples are the custom fireplaces throughout the home. Each lends that old-world French quality which amplifies the connectivity of design from room to room.
“We love working with Leslie,” said Millette, “because she has similar vision, a positive attitude and confidence about her skill. Plus, we know the end result will be fabulous. One of my favorite parts of this remodel was selecting the furniture, then seeing the changes in the furniture with Leslie’s finishes.”
Noticeable, too, when considering the flow and consistency of the home’s aesthetic are the ceilings, floors and countertops. Along with the limestone in the Great Room, stunning hardwood floors connect the spaces indoors. Some run vertically and some are parquet, yet the effect is immensely appealing and dramatic. Overhead, spectacular aged beams grace the ceilings. In the kitchen, for example, the beams are reclaimed from an ancient church in the south of France. The island countertop is a majestic marble, Calacatta Gold, which is also used as the sole material in the master bath.
The Shermans also added an outdoor kitchen and a room above the new outdoor space that serves as Haag’s home office and workout area. The duality of the additions is a perfect set-up. The outdoor kitchen is a natural extension of the indoor living spaces, and utilizing the space above it provides this busy husband and father a chance to enjoy private time either working or working out. The third floor, too, received an overhaul. Previously, the space was an attic, then a children’s playroom. With the remodel, the couple decided to convert the room into a fourth bedroom, further boosting the home’s desirability should they ever decide to sell.
As in any renovation, there are challenges and rewards. The most challenging part of the redesign, according to both the homeowners and the designer, was the master bedroom closets. “We literally had to steal inches to have two really nice walk-in closets and be able to maintain a sizeable master bathroom,” said Millette, “and the most fun was collecting the lighting.”
Apart from the intrinsic growing pains and eventual rewards of a home remodel, the end result, especially in this case, was more than worth the trouble. The light and bright open flow — combined with the continuity of design and elegance the couple and their design team created — made the tranquil vision for their home a reality.
Text by: Cheryl Alexander Photography by: Wade Blissard Interiors by: Bret Duhon and Michele Williams, Boxwood Interiors Finishes by: Leslie Sinclair, Segreto Finishes Renovations by: Darryl Dieciedue, Dieciedue Construction
TOP IMAGE: Plastered walls and aged beams by Segreto warm up the grand scale of this entertaining space. Sources: Graphite fabric on club chairs from Pindler and Pindler, Inc. Custom Schumacher Raja Embroidery fabric in Stone on Ikat pillows and custom finished chandelier from Boxwood Interiors. Harem and Stripe drapery fabric from Cowtan and Tout. Plaster and beams by Segreto.
Light and Bright Renovation