Designer Mary Tobias Miller Brings Breath of Fresh Air to Charlotte Home

Designer Mary Tobias Miller transforms a dark and dated home in Charlotte into a stunning entertaining space that's both sophisticated and comfortable.

Designer Mary Tobias Miller Brings Breath of Fresh Air to Charlotte Home

Text: Blake Miller
Photography: Dustin Peck

Mary Tobias Miller loves a good design challenge. So when her clients reached out to her about their new home in the Eastover neighborhood of Charlotte, North Carolina, Miller was not intimidated by the home’s eyesore of an interior. “The home was heavy and dark with an Asian flair, and just about every room featured oversized cornice boards that made each space feel even darker,” the designer says.

Designer Mary Tobias Miller Brings Breath of Fresh Air to Charlotte Home

Designer Mary Tobias Miller Brings Breath of Fresh Air to Charlotte Home

Designer Mary Tobias Miller Brings Breath of Fresh Air to Charlotte Home

Designer Mary Tobias Miller Brings Breath of Fresh Air to Charlotte Home

Designer Mary Tobias Miller Brings Breath of Fresh Air to Charlotte Home

Designer Mary Tobias Miller Brings Breath of Fresh Air to Charlotte Home

Designer Mary Tobias Miller Brings Breath of Fresh Air to Charlotte Home

Designer Mary Tobias Miller Brings Breath of Fresh Air to Charlotte Home

Designer Mary Tobias Miller Brings Breath of Fresh Air to Charlotte Home

Designer Mary Tobias Miller Brings Breath of Fresh Air to Charlotte Home

Designer Mary Tobias Miller Brings Breath of Fresh Air to Charlotte Home

Designer Mary Tobias Miller Brings Breath of Fresh Air to Charlotte Home

But Miller and her clients saw beyond the cosmetic accents of bold oranges and reds and dark woods left from the previous homeowners. In fact, part of what drew her clients to the home was its stunning architectural details—intricate millwork, molding, and archways that they knew Miller could bring to life with her eye for design.

Architectural designer Frank Smith was enlisted to transform the traditional redbrick exterior into a more modern and inviting entrance. “I wanted the new design to look like an Italian villa on a hill,” says Smith of the painted white brick facade. Smith also worked alongside Miller to redesign some of the interior spaces, such as the kitchen, primary bedroom, and powder room. Miller, though, was tasked with reworking the entire interior design. After gutting the kitchen and bathrooms, removing the oversized cornices throughout, and stripping the home of some of its existing wallcoverings, Miller began with a blank canvas, save for the original architectural details that remained intact.

The goal for her clients was simple: Create a comfortable home for their grown children and friends to visit while also allowing them to easily entertain. “I felt like once the kids were out of the house, I wanted everything to be clean and happy and new,” says the homeowner. “I wanted it to feel young. Mary definitely has an eye for color, and for me, that was new and different. I had always stayed very safe with blues, grays, and light greens, and Mary really wanted to breathe a little life into everything.”

Miller’s design calling card is that she doesn’t have one. Her work is chameleon as she effortlessly couples old with new, modern with vintage in such a way that everything looks elegant and sophisticated. It’s exactly why the homeowners called on her for this project. “They were traditional, and I like traditional with a little edge,” says Miller. The couple loved the traditional bones and details of the home, but to make it lighter, brighter, and more youthful, Miller infused each living space with a more modern color palette, patterns, and finishes.

In the living room off the foyer, the designer suggested a light blush hue for the walls and ceiling. “Most people would be a little scared when their designer says, ‘What about lacquering your ceiling in pink?’” Miller laughs. “But my clients trusted me and were on board with it.”

The sheen on the ceiling provides just the right modern touch and glow to the room, which is decidedly traditional with its sofa by Century Furniture and more contemporary pair of chaises by Stewart Furniture. “I love fashion—I’m not afraid of taking chances and doing something bold, like lacquering a ceiling,” says the homeowner. “That blush pink was more muted and lovely and not so scary. It was an easy way to transition into a few more bold moves.”

And Miller was more than ready to make those changes for her clients. In the newly designed kitchen and adjacent lounge area and dining space, Miller presented a graphic wallcovering by Lee Jofa that would seamlessly combine the two spaces together. “The kitchen is classic white with white countertops and white custom cabinetry, so we wanted to add some interest to the open floor plan.

That takes faith to have bold wallpaper installed in the kitchen, where they live every day,” says Miller. But for the homeowner, the choice was more than a bold design move; it spoke to her personally. “It reminds me of some of the mission work I did in Africa,” she says of the zebra-like pattern. “And this wallcovering felt like a bit of an homage to that. Something about it makes me feel like it’s daring and a little exciting. It immediately clicked when Mary showed it to me.”

Even in the study, which originally had dark wood paneling, Miller opted for a more daring, modern finish on the rough-hewn wood. “Initially, we went back and forth over the color,” she says of nudging her clients a bit outside their traditional roots. “But in the end, we chose this stunning green, and it instantly infused the library with subtle but elegant color and transformed a very traditional space into a much more sophisticated one.”

But not all design choices were considered bold and daring. Though the homeowners loved the move to a more transitional aesthetic in their new home, they also wanted to embrace their family traditions. That meant keeping their antique dining room table in lieu of a more modern one that Miller initially suggested. “I used to sit at a table just like this with my family for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so it’s a nod to what I grew up with and love,” says the homeowner. The pair of chandeliers by Visual Comfort offers just the slightest transitional touch to the otherwise wholly traditional space.

In the end, though, Miller struck just the right chord with her clients, nailing every criteria they gave her, resulting in a space where the couple loves to gather with friends and family alike. “This home just feels so happy and young,” says the homeowner. “It feels a lot lighter. Mary’s designs were the perfect way to breathe some fresh air into our lives and lifestyle.”

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