Memory Maker

Designer Deborah Hensley's Raleigh home is all about paying homage to the memories and moments that a family creates together.

Deborah Hensley loved her nearly ten-year-old home. Years of memories had been made. It was where she had raised her three daughters. But the home was fast becoming unsuitable for everyday life. “Things just started coming apart,” she says. “The  old kitchen was non-functional. Cabinets were breaking. Sinks were cracking and couldn’t be replaced. At one point, I had to use the laundry room sink to wash dishes.”

When Hensley realized they were not legally allowed to make the renovations they needed or wanted to their existing home, she had an epiphany. “I loved the lot our old home was on, so why not tear it down and rebuild there?" And so the existing home was razed, and in its place, a stunning Southern-inspired Georgian was erected. “I’m really drawn to that Southern Town & Country aesthetic," Hensley says. She teamed with architect Carter Skinner to design the classic and timeless home with red brick and navy shutters.

The interiors, though, were where Hensley was able to truly add her personal stamp. Not one to shy away from pattern and color, she took a more-is-more approach throughout the home, layering heirloom pieces with collected ones against the backdrop of vibrant wallcoverings and fabrics. Hensley’s process begins with wanting a room to evoke a certain feeling—one that aligns with feeling comfortable, welcome, and relaxed. “I firmly believe in filling a home with things that remind you of a wonderful memory or tradition, or something that simply makes you feel warm and happy,” she says. “I love using handmade pieces that have been passed down.”

Blue and white porcelain can be found throughout the home. “The blue willow pottery was collected by my mom, so every time I see it, it makes me think of her,” Hensley says. The designer also wanted the home to be comfortable enough for her large extended family to gather, so every room provides ample seating and seamless transitions from space to space. The breakfast room, for example,  features French doors, which open out to the backyard so that during family gatherings, people can easily move inside and out without feeling cramped.

But it wasn’t just the accessories and artwork that the designer incorporated into the design to achieve that warm, inviting feel  throughout. For Hensley, the color palette was of the utmost importance. In the family room, Hensley looked to a vibrant kelly  green for the walls. “It’s where we gather as a family for holidays and after dinners,” she says, “so I wanted this room to feel warm,  happy, and inviting. The only way to do that, in my mind, was to put a warm green-velvet wallcovering on the walls. It’s also a color that works well with the adjacent rooms the family room opens up to.” Several paintings by Hensley’s grandfather are hung  throughout the home—most notably in the family room above the mantle, which also features a large conch shell Hensley  collected during her travels. The designer took a similar approach in the library where wood-paneled walls in warm cherry and  chestnut hues coupled with fabrics and patterns evoke a feeling of being enveloped. “I just really wanted that room to be a place  where everyone could relax on the sofa with a blanket,” Hensley says.

The foyer and mudroom are also other areas that Hensley designed with family and memories in mind. In the mudroom, photographs of her daughters Maggie, Sarah Ann, and Olivia hang above the lockers and bench. In the foyer, the dramatic gallery wall features a handful of vintage photos of her family, not to mention her grandfather’s artwork. “It’s  these layers of memories throughout that really make you feel warm and comfortable in a room,” Hensley says. Though it doesn’t feature any heirloom pieces, the kitchen was created so that it would also be a gathering place for friends and family. An oversize Cararra marble island with adjacent butcher block doubles as a place for the kids to do their homework or snack as well as a space with enough room to entertain large groups of people comfortably.

The rest of the home is designed with the same premise in mind—to create a warm and inviting place to gather and make  memories as a family. “This home was designed so that all of my daughters would be able to come back when they’re older with  their spouses and kids and have room to stay and be together as a family,” she says. “To me, decorating a house is almost like a  movie. I think of the events and special memories and milestones that happen here, and how this should be a place to create  those memories.”