Color Theory

Designer Andrew Howard modernizes a centuries-old home in the heart of historic Hillsborough.

When Andrew Howard got the call from a potential client back in 2017, he was elated. The client, her husband, and their five kids were based in New York City and planning a move to the Raleigh Durham area. The client’s request was simple: she wanted her 200-year-old home located in the quiet suburban town of Hillsborough to pay homage to the home’s rich history while also modernizing it. 

Jacksonville-based Howard, whose trademark design is a modern, updated take on traditional beach chic, was excited at the opportunity to tackle a project with such deep-rooted history. “It was an extremely special property,” Howard says. “To do this home justice, we couldn’t fill it with all new furniture and accessories. It had to be done right.” And so, Howard began scouring and digging through antique stores and vintage markets up and down the East Coast to find pieces that would complement the home’s rich architectural details but could also be modernized with new upholstery or hardware. “I definitely did not want a home filled with items we picked out of a catalog,” the homeowner says. 

So Howard and the client teamed up, spending time in Stanford, Connecticut, shopping through antique stores and markets, then in Charlotte and Atlanta, where they scooped up vintage and antique one-of-a-kind pieces, including artwork that, when coupled with Howard’s modern sensibility, resulted in a stunning interior design throughout the home. “We wanted the interior design to play a supporting role to the home itself,” Howard says. “The home was to be the centerpiece, and everything else was added to allow the home and its history and its architectural details to shine.”

But the home’s original interiors were lackluster. “The house didn’t feel approachable,” he says. “It felt too stiff. I thought the
way to bring it back to life and make it feel more friendly, a place you want to sit with your friends and spend time with family, was to add a lot of color to it.” Howard began in the dining room, easily the home’s centerpiece. Ironically, it was also one of the most unique and challenging rooms for Howard to design. “It has no exterior windows,” he says. “I’d never designed a major room in a home that had no windows at all. Curtains are like the finishing touch to a room, but when you’re unable to use them, you need to bring your A game to the design.” So Howard began with the walls. “They needed to be extraordinary but also look like they may have been there for two hundred years,” he says. A stunning handpainted floral wallpaper by Gracie instantly elevated the design of the room and served as the base for the rest of the space’s design. An approximately one-hundred-year-old dining table left behind by the previous owner was inherently traditional and complemented the antique crystal chandelier. But when coupled with the more modern lines of the Hickory Chair host chairs in a John Robshaw fabric, Hickory White dining chairs, and a Baker chest, the room felt updated and modern.

The living room, though not nearly as much of a challenge as the dining room, was another space Howard loved designing. “It’s the biggest room in the home, and it’s where everyone gathers as a family or when entertaining,” he says. “So it had to be comfortable but also beautiful.” Using the Lisa Fine drapery fabric as the springboard for the room’s design, “We really jumped off the deep end,” Howard laughs. “It was one of those things that I was nervous about – all of the colors in that one space – but we stuck to our guns and knew it’d be great.” Bold doses of color abound in the room with the addition of a custom settee in a LuRu Home fabric. A custom chair is swathed in a Sister Parish design while custom wing chairs feel a touch modern in a playful green. “For five children to move to an entirely new home and city, it was important that the house feel really happy and loved,” Howard says. “I thought color would do that and make it feel more approachable and comfortable.”

In one day, Howard installed his entire vision for the home so that once the homeowners returned, everything was in its place. And the reaction was just as the designer had hoped. “It was so exciting to walk in and see how beautiful and colorful everything was,” the homeowner says. “It was everything we had wanted in the home.”