Text: Alice Doyle
Photography: Rustic White
When starting a new chapter in life, letting go is part of the process, but it helps when what waits in the wings has great potential, as a client of interior designer Beth Meyer realized at full tilt. “We lived on a large equestrian farm, which had been a dream of mine, but with all five children out of the house, we were basically rattling around it in,” says the homeowner. So the empty nesters decided to have a wholly different experience with the purchase of a 1917 home in the historic part of Marietta, Georgia, where they can walk to the office and restaurants and bike along a designated greenway.
Before experiencing this new lifestyle, significant renovations were in order to make the home truly their own. The couple had the good sense to hire a team that had worked for them before or had worked with each other. Contractor Cooper Jones handled all the red tape and approvals required by the Historic Marietta Commission; for example, the front entry columns had to be recreated to be a perfect match of the originals. Permission was granted to paint the exterior bricks—an amalgamation of types from all the previous renovations over the decades. Now the beautiful creamy white gives the home the fresh feel of a crisp ball gown and provides uniformity throughout.
Replacing the asphalt roof with a beautiful Dover Black slate, only one of two types approved for use in historic renovation, and adding copper gutters brought even more presence to the exterior. “We later discovered remnants of slate tiles in the attic, so we knew that the new roof spoke to the original architecture,” says Meyer.
As far as the interiors, all the bedrooms were on the second floor, which is typical in houses of this age. “That was the biggest drawback for my clients,” says Meyer. “We left the entire upstairs intact but added a spacious main bedroom suite that connects to a new porch on the back of the house.” However, it soon became apparent that the house needed a lot more attention, so architect Frances Zook was brought in to reconfigure the rooms and let in the light.
Vaulting the family room and the addition of steel floor-to-ceiling windows and doors made a world of difference in the entire space, including the adjoining, totally reworked kitchen. “There were a lot a cramped, underused rooms, and you could tell that the house had been tinkered with over the decades,” says Zook. “We wanted to breathe new life into the spaces with more windows and a more workable layout to make the whole home open and bright.”
The dank lower level was a forgotten space with nothing to recommend it, so it was totally reimagined into a true destination. “This was fun to work on; we gutted it and created the wine room and added all the stone, brick, wooden ceiling, and windows for an Old World ambience,” says Zook.
The area over the garage was also ripe for reinvention; the former sound and recording studio underwent a total makeover, morphing into a comfortable, stylish guest suite. And when a majestic old oak tree crashed down, Jones had the vision to take the wood to a mill and then have it installed in the library/office for the paneling and new built-ins, which feel original to the home.
When it came to the interiors, Meyer was tasked with finding a home for many of her clients’ existing furnishings and art, which were used in a very different style home based on French Normandy architecture. “I really loved all our antiques, and I was worried they might not fit into this traditional Southern-style home, but Beth did a masterful job of finding new places for the pieces I cherished,” says the homeowner.
“We reupholstered several things and introduced new pieces as well as including light fixtures with a little more edge,” says Meyer. “My clients wanted a happy house with their favorite blues and a little whimsy to it, like the mirrored and lacquered turquoise bar. She was understandably nervous about such a drastic departure from the old, but when she saw the results, she said, ‘It’s my home—it feels like me!’” And the house feels in sync with the original, but masterfully transformed for 21st-century living. It’s a compelling stage for new memories, proving that letting go can make for a different but equally meaningful experience.