His childhood home was always in the back of his mind. Having grown up in the West Forest Hills neighborhood outside Durham, the homeowner wanted to raise his own family in the very neighborhood he’d spent riding his bike, playing with friends, making memories. So this is where he and his wife purchased a small home in 2003.
It wasn’t long, though, before the couple and their two young children were ready to expand. They needed more space, and so the house shopping commenced just six years later. The couple desperately wanted to stay in the same neighborhood, but there was nothing on the market that suited their needs. They looked in Chapel Hill, they looked in Durham, they looked in what felt like just about everywhere in the area, and still nothing caught their eyes. But the couple kept going back to an older circa-1952 home six houses down from theirs. “We always admired the home,” the homeowner says. “It has such great bones.”
As luck would have it, that home’s original owners put it up for sale around the time the couple was looking. Having only gone through one round of renovations in almost seventy years, the home was dated, dark, and in desperate need of TLC. But the couple could see past the flaws, bought it, and made plans to make it their own. “I’m no good at interior design, so I knew I needed a professional to help,” laughs the homeowner.
It was then that she hired designer Heather Garrett to help renovate the kitchen and master bathroom and open up the family room. “I already had a head start aesthetically in knowing what style they liked,” says Garrett of their previous relationship while designing the interiors of their former home. “They have a more traditional approach to design, and keeping things classic was really important to them.” The wall separating the kitchen and family room was removed, opening up the two spaces and allowing for more natural light. The kitchen was gutted and replaced with a classic white and gray kitchen with white subway tile and custom cabinetry by CKS Architectural Millwork. This renovation gave Garrett the canvas she needed to implement the timeless, classic, and traditional interior the homeowners longed for.
Fast forward several years, and the homeowners were ready to finish the remainder of their home’s interiors. They enlisted designer Leslie May to update their family room to create a lively interior that pushed the boundaries of tradition. “The home has beautiful old Southern bones, but it needed a makeover,” May says. “What I love about these clients is that they were willing to try some bold things. We have a very similar sense of style in that we both love color and we love rooms to flow so that they’re comfortable for family gatherings and entertaining.”
With its custom millwork and traditional architectural details, the foyer was one space May wanted to update and inject personality. “The foyer originally had a chintzy floral wallpaper that was so dated,” she says. “But the foyer is the calling card of your house, the first impression. Because you simply pass through there, it presents an opportunity to be a bit bolder in your design choices.” May added a Kelly-green grasscloth by Phillip Jeffries on the ceiling, which she complemented with the Schumacher Imperial Trellis wallpaper—design choices that instantly transformed the entry. “The green envelops you and feels very warm right from the beginning,” she says. The designer then added flush-mount lighting by Circa Lighting and a custom settee by Leslie May swathed in Ralph Lauren fabric.
The living room also needed updating—a task May was keen on tackling. “There was a lot of chintz, swag drapery, canopied beds, a lot of floral prints left over from the original homeowners,” May says. To keep things classic but modern, the designer chose a navy color palette, which she carried into the upholstery, rug, and draperies, all custom, and even the interior of the built-in shelves. “I love the colors we chose in both the living room and foyer because they reflect the homeowners’ personalities—classic and fun and youthful,” May says.
May went to work on the remainder of the rooms, as well, including the family room, the master bedroom, and the master-bedroom sitting area, each lovingly instilled with personality and color while maintaining the same sense of timelessness in the details.
Though it took several years to finally finish the updates, the couple is thrilled with the result. “Both Heather and Leslie did a nice job of forcing us to think outside the box but still giving us that traditional feel that we like,” the homeowner says. “The home just feels like me, like us now.”