Text: Tiffany Adams
Photos: John O’Hagan
When Gretchen and Jason Black were dating and in college, Sunday afternoons were spent driving around to admire architecture and attend open houses. They didn’t realize at the time that they were creating a love of homes that would last a lifetime. After marrying, Jason, who received his MBA, and Gretchen, who went on to become a neonatal nurse, they began to work on their own home, researching design trends and building features while drawing on their own creativity. “We built a home together and thought, ‘Hey, we can do this,’” says Jason.
The couple started helping friends and family, taking on projects as their day jobs and family life allowed. However, while expecting their youngest of three sons, they decided to take the leap, quitting their jobs to become a full-time designer and builder. That was 15 years ago; today, Gretchen is at the helm of her design firm and Jason owns Artisan Signature Homes. In these roles, the two have cultivated a fresh yet traditional style that attracts clients in their native Kentucky while continuing to evolve in their personal residences. “This is the twelfth home we have built together,” says Gretchen. “We have moved about every two years, but hopefully, we are here to stay,” adds Jason. “This house is a great representation of Gretchen’s style and color palette.”
While restoring a house in the Glenview area of Louisville, the Blacks fell in love with the neighborhood and found nearby acreage where they could build. For this go-round, the pair decided on a primary suite on the ground floor along with a flow of casual, comfortable rooms for reading, relaxing, and entertaining. They also aimed to include as many porches as possible, a feature that Jason notes is true to the neighborhood’s style. “This is a historic area with predominantly older homes, and we wanted our house to feel like it had been here for years,” he adds, pointing to other timeless features, including the cedar roof, bluestone walkway, and picket fence.
The character carries indoors, playing out in the ornate millwork found in the sitting room, an installation of pecky cypress in the great room, and a vaulted ceiling with exposed beams and V-groove paneling in the primary bedroom. “I’m always really impressed with Gretchen’s ability to make something from nothing. We’ll get boxes of molding, and she just goes to work designing,” says Jason.
Aside from the structure, the furnishings showcase the couple’s attention to detail as well as their cheerful personalities. “I love mixing patterns, whether that’s with print or different textures,” says Gretchen, adding that her palette, which consists of blue, pink, and white, is always chalky rather than saturated and bold. “I’ve always been drawn to blue; it feels like a neutral to me. I have a lot of clients who do a blue island, but I wanted to go all in,” she says in reference to the kitchen cabinetry. The same is true for the designer’s passion for wallpaper, which has made an appearance in every home the couple has owned since their first. “It’s a fun way to add personality—especially in kitchens, where there is not always room for art,” she says.
These elements are accented with finishing touches that make the house feel like a home. For example, a framed scarf stands in for artwork in the sitting room, a series of dried botanicals Gretchen made and framed hangs in a hallway, and several furnishings the family has collected over the years are scattered throughout the rooms. “If we get tired of a piece of furniture, we just paint it or reupholster it,” says Jason.