A tranquil paint palette, acoustics, texture and lighting set off this renovation
By Elizabeth Sugg Photos by Edgar Allen Photography
A palette of greys, creams/whites and brown sets off the contours of a house built originally by Californian architect Robert Clark who once designed a Hollywood home for Julie Andrews and Blake Edwards. Known for incorporating an octagonal space and flowing rooflines into his blueprints, Clark did both in the house he built for a retirement in Pinehurst where he and his wife spent many years before moving back to the West Coast in their 90s. Their retreat was built on the outskirts of the golf village with enough acreage where neighbors could have a horse or two. Upon their move their distinctive home and verdant setting became the property of a couple who simply LOVE houses. Their pleasure in creating a habitat for their diverse, purposeful lives is almost tangible upon entering this understated, clever contemporary farmhouse.
After a warm greeting by the owners, a visitor is immediately swept into a living room filled with natural light. A vaulted ceiling and large bricked fireplace are set off by a back wall of windows, the top-to-bottom view of the backyard like a living painting of the natural landscape. Your eye doesn’t stop as you take in the lovely room, its size disguised by the tranquil tone created by its mix of white paint, furnishings and textures. There are lessons in this house, a warm minimalism that soothes even a visitor’s soul.
The couple were older when they married; he was a longtime bachelor who had never found “the one”, and she was a busy working mother of two. As they created a first home together in Fayetteville, they found a special bonding and rhythm to their renovation — she liked concentrating on the interior, after all her mother was one of the first interior decorators in NC to earn her A.S.I.D., and he is an outdoor enthusiast ready to tackle any project so the day can be spent outside. Their kinship for major home re-dos has resulted in the couple moving every few years, this hopscotch the result of their enjoyment of bringing a new interpretation to an interesting property.
But remember that one half of the pair is a working mother, one running a family-owned company? Some help and a shared vision was needed, but not just someone, the right someone, and that person remains Cathy Maready of Elephant Ears Fine Interiors & Design who has worked with the couple on three houses.
When the property came on the market in 2018, Maready was on hand to brainstorm the possibilities. She explains, “This house has amazing natural light and amazing views that I simply did not want to compromise with loud bangs of color. The owners love neutral colors, so we settled on soothing tones of creams, whites, greys and brown to ground the interior, particularly the large expanse of the living room into the piano area. The view, the people and the architectural elements should be the "wow" factor, and a monochromatic palette allows for this effortlessly.”
Even though the house had great architectural bones, it still needed updating and a fresh design approach. Maready suggested opening the top of the fireplace in the main room even more so natural light could flow through the space, plus connect it to the space beyond — the kitchen. In Maready’s words, “We humans are happiest in natural light, so anytime you can enhance this feature in a house, the better the environment.”
Another monochromatic decision was to paint the red oak floors white, and their gleaming simplicity soothes the spatial surroundings. The furnishings became a blend of old and new, with one notable set of Kravet grey leather chairs making their way from the very first farmhouse Maready helped the couple with. Two curled cotton fabric Hable sofas were custom-ordered through Hickory Chair, set off by a one-of-a-kind, free edge coffee table in walnut and iron.
The architectural lighting was an important aspect to this respite, filled with selected furnishings collected for meaning, not abundance. Paintings and oversize vessels mingle with shelves of books and music from their grand piano, one of the few indoor passions of the resident outdoorsman, the other being two 180-gallon sea water aquariums in the adjacent library filled with unusual fish, coral and two resident shrimp named Sushi and Tempura.
The octagonal dining room is bathed in light from its conforming set of floor-to-ceiling windows, the domed cupola ceiling cupping the space in intimacy. Maready, who once owned an import company before turning to design full-time, chose a custom-sized hammered copper table to add texture into the room, one of the secrets to understated design. The chairs are saddle leather, another custom order through Hickory Chair, while a weathered iron chandelier tops the table, a find by the owner. Her mother’s ornate silver service on a window-side table, one of the few but distinctive family pieces to find their way into this home with a modern beat.
Another texture employed to dramatic use is metal, commanding a doorway opened up in the renovation from living room to kitchen, to the unexpected, utterly handsome cabinetry in the kitchen and dining room. Desi McAlister, a senior designer for Kitchen and Bath Galleries in Cary who led the renovation of the kitchen, found the source.
“As much as I would like to take credit for it, the decisions to use the material we did were based on the inspiration photos that the owner brought to our first meeting. It was a welcome challenge to locate the material/products that were as close as possible to the photo,” McAlister explains.
The custom cabinets were crafted in metal with fine-tuned refinement by Tuck DuMond of DuMond Iron in Knoxville, Tennessee. Set off by leather marble countertops and lower cabinetry made of rustic hickory in a driftwood finish, this central kitchen is a bold statement of craftsmanship.
“I was inspired by the unique space to give them a more workable/flowing kitchen. We adjusted two closets, reworked the air return, added an opening/barn door to the piano room, got rid of the wall oven/cooktop for a more design-friendly range, created the "bar" area, opened up the small "stairwell" to the nook, and added the iron doors to the two-angle closets in the nook,” lists McAlister, exclaiming, “It was so much fun to have a project like this — unlike any others that I have ever done in my 35+ years of business!”
One of the most buoyant aspects of this contemporary house is the whimsey found in each of the bathrooms. Maready explains the contrast, “Even though the rest of the house is a soothing monochromatic palette, the bathrooms are cheerful and full of life and offer a glimpse into the fun humor of the homeowner.”
Acoustics are another aspect of interior design Maready pays attention to, and textured wallpapers are a favorite technique she uses to quiet a space, particularly bathrooms, “to break down the echo.” She had a chance to learn a lot about sound proofing spaces during her tenure as a pilot for a hotel developer in Hawaii (yes, Maready is a trained pilot). Her exposure to large-scale project development became the backbone of her progression, first as an importer of fine furnishings, and then to her work as a designer. A brush with cancer brought her home to North Carolina, and creating soothing interiors that reflect and enhance the life of the homeowners that inhabit them became a passion she has been pursuing for the last 25 years.
Maready describes her inspiration as coming from an ecological place and a love of nature, and a dedication to “keeping it clean.” The seasoning and spice of a home happens through the process of getting to know each client, so when the project is complete, their “passions really do shine.”
The views from the windows will soon encompass two relocated rescue horses while the newer salt water tank is ready to accept species of rare coral, both passions of this dynamic couple, who think they may stay in this reimagined house for a long while.
The living room is dominated by a white bricked fireplace now flanked by handsome bookshelves that replaced two louvered-door closets. Maready admits to being “an electric chord phobe” so the floor lamps next to the deep-cushioned sofas were re-wired under the area rug so that they can’t be seen.
A custom-sized hammered copper table adds texture into the octagonal space, a signature architectural style the original owner, an architect, put in every design.
On master bath:
The owner wanted to avoid major bath renovations, so the cabinets were painted black to downplay the older tile. Maready simplified the mirrors and lighting, and added a textured wallpaper — recycled New York Times newspaper woven into a grass style weave. Funky art from the homeowner adds spice and humor.
On photo of guest bath downstairs next to her mom's bedroom:
Maready toned down the existing tile with black cabinets and some funky wallpaper from Crate and Barrel. The homeowner added all the delightful finishing flourishes.
On upstairs bath with bords on wallpaper:
More whimsy was added into the upstairs bathroom with wallpaper by Schumacher. Maready’s nickname is "Bird", so whatever project she works on so she laughingly says, “there is always a bird loose in the house somewhere when I leave.”
Custom metal cabinetry by a Knoxville craftsman is enhanced by leather marble countertops and lower cabinets with a driftwood finish.
Cathy Maready elephantearsdesign.com
Desi McAlister kandbgalleries.com
DuMond Iron dumondiron.com
Coastal Reef (aquariums & aquaculture education) coastalreefusa.com