Light-Filled Living Room

“The tendency with most stone houses is to do dark, natural wood interiors,” Pursley says, “and while we did want paneling, beams, and wainscoting, we painted them very light to keep the rooms from feeling heavy and frumpy.” With stone walls lined with expansive arched windows and a relaxed modern floor plan that combines living and dining rooms into one light-filled great room, Beth and Jim were on their way to fulfilling their respective wish lists. Beth wanted to be sure the furnishings stayed in keeping with her vision of “a very serene house with a calming feel.” Again, she found just the right partner in Atlanta-based interior designer Phoebe Howard, a virtuoso of the muted palette.

The palette of porridgy cream and whispery blue flows from room to room as easily as people do. “We used pale gray-blue threads through the entire house to pick up on the cooler tones of the stone,” says Howard. It’s a decidedly subdued color scheme, but one that doesn’t seem blanched of life or warmth.

The living room’s soaring ceiling is brought down to a more intimate scale with a chandelier from Ainsworth-Noah. A tufted chair covered in a subtle fabric from Kravet and a club chair in a TylerGraphic print add bits of misty blue to the neutral tones. 

Airy Entry

“You do have to be very careful when working with a palette this light,” warns the designer. “Bold color is very easy to hide behind, but neutrals? They leave you naked out there! You have to pay much more attention to your forms and shapes—they’re going to stand out more.” Taking her own advice, the designer chose furniture with eye-catching silhouettes—like a lovely scallop-edged living room coffee table, a scene-stealing inlaid English chest in the master bedroom, and an updated Stickley-style bench in the foyer. Just as she predicted, the arresting lines of the pieces spring forward from the reserved background.

A sculptural bench by Michael S Smith stands out against the white backdrop in the entry. 

Entry - Opposite

Matching curved stairways are tucked into opposite ends of the entry to make them less imposing.

Casual, Classic Dining Room

English-style armchairs from John Rosselli mix with more contemporary upholstered side chairs—a surprisingly casual combination around a classic Rose Tarlow table. The dining area in this open-plan space is delineated by a rug from the French Market Collection sitting atop a larger Stark rug that extends into the living room. 

Cool Family Room Colors

In the family room, the house’s luminous stone walls make an indoor appearance. A floor-to-ceiling array of limestone outlines a beautiful arch of glass and greenery and dominates one end of the room. Howard says she was more than happy to play off the stonework’s massive presence. “The strength of Ken and Craig’s architecture keeps the pale colors from floating away,” she explains. “This room is all about hard stone against soft fabrics, the mix of rough with refined—the same as in the kitchen, where the contrast of the warm, wormy chestnut pantry door looks so great against the painted cabinets.”

Architects Pursley and Dixon used reclaimed limestone to give the new house the settled feel of an older home. Interior designer Howard framed the arched window in fabric from Hodsoll McKenzie and covered furniture in linens from Victoria Hagan Home and Cowtan & Tout. The coffee table is from Mrs. Howard. 

Sleek Kitchen

A wormy chestnut pantry door provides a dramatic textural counterpoint to glossy painted cabinets and the sleek steel of the Sub-Zero refrigerator and the Thermador range. 

Backsplash Details

Honed Calacatta Regina marble on the backsplash offers a subtle variation to the polished marble countertops. 

Custom Breakfast Area

A light fixture from John Rosselli illuminates a custom-made kitchen table and Hickory Chair seating.

Style + Function

Custom white cabinets near the breakfast area are both functional and, with the addition of glass cabinet doors, aesthetically pleasing .

Master Suite

To add a hint of texture to the master bedroom’s sleepy tranquillity, Howard upholstered the walls in the same tone-on-tone crewelwork embroidery she chose for the curtains. Enveloping and cozy, the lovely space is hushed and peaceful. Combined with the bucolic three-way views of the surrounding woodlands through a large bay window in the room’s serene sitting area, it’s a bedroom to get lost in.

The headboard and bedskirt are in a creamy Calvin fabric that harmonizes with the walls, furthering the room’s soothing appeal. Mirrors reflect the glow of bedside table lamps from Roy Hamilton. 

Master Bedroom Sitting Area

The embroidered tapestry fabric from Schumacher makes the bedroom feel like a lacy cocoon. Dressmaker details on the tufted chairs create romantic appeal in the master sitting area.

Bedroom Bureau

An antique chest of drawers in the master bedroom lends weight to the room’s airy palette. 

Blue Bathroom

A Waterworks tub is set against an elegant backdrop of floor-to-ceiling curtains in a Pindler & Pindler acrylic fabric that’s impervious to moisture. A painted vanity has decorative nickel legs from P.E. Guerin. 

Blue Bathroom

Walls are sheathed in Blue Celeste marble tile from Renaissance Tile & Bath. The pattern of the Lee Jofa fabric on the chair echoes the curves in the mosaic floor-tile border.

Homeowner Beth Hanson

Beth perches on a chaise covered in creamy Rogers & Goffigon natural linen in the master bedroom.

“I think the house really reflects Beth,” designer Howard says. “It’s lovely and understated but also solid. Not glitzy or flashy. It very quietly unfolds. Beth understands that restraint brings peace.” For her part, Beth brushes aside her designer’s compliments. “I think this house really played to Phoebe’s sweet spot! She makes rooms that draw you in. In our other houses, we would walk right by the living room. Here we use the whole house every single day.”

Pool House Paradise

Jim is clearly delighted with the interiors of his new home, but Beth confides he’d rather be outdoors. “He loves the pool house. The doors are bi-fold, and the whole building opens up and becomes one big open-air room. It’s Jim’s favorite place to be, his little getaway. He says his blood pressure drops the minute he gets out there!”

Pleasing Porch

Pursley says relaxed informality is exactly what he’d hoped for. “This isn’t a showplace. Beth and Jim just wanted something they’d love every day. I think the house reflects their lightness of spirit.”

Chairs from Janus et Cie circle around a coffee table and outdoor fireplace.

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Stone House with Lovely, Light Palette

A North Carolina couple build a stone house with a gentle soul

Written by Lisa Cregan
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Emily Jenkins Followill

Stories about houses built of stone usually demand adjectives like stately, dark, or formidable. Downton Abbey, Wuthering Heights, Gosford Park—you get the picture. But Beth Hanson’s new home in Charlotte, North Carolina, couldn’t be further from images like that. Tranquil, breezy, casual—these are the words that leap to mind as you cross the threshold.

This is actually the fifth house Beth and her husband, Jim, have built as they’ve moved around the country following the path of Jim’s career. No innocents in the intricacies and pitfalls of new construction, they knew up front that it would take a special team to work through their conflicting desires. Beth wanted a sweet and soothing cottage, while Jim craved the solidity, stature, and permanence of stone.

In an inspired choice, the couple hired Charlotte architects Ken Pursley and Craig Dixon, who cheerfully accepted the challenge. “How do you build a structure out of stone that’s not a repressive castle? That was our conundrum,” Pursley says, laughing.

They found the first piece to their puzzle in an abandoned Kentucky distillery, of all places. The building’s limestone walls had been blackened by a century’s worth of soot, but the sides of the stone slabs that had faced away from the smoky business of making whiskey had kept their original complexion—shades of pale blue, light gray, and honey gold—which was perfect for the house’s facade.

Blue shutters pick up the coolest color in the limestone and create curb appeal. 

Photography: Emily Jenkins Followill
Produced by Sandra L. Mohlmann

Architect: Ken Pursley and Craig Dixon, Pursley Dixon Architecture, 201 S. College St., Studio 2700, Charlotte, NC 28244; 704/334-6500, pursleydixon.com.
Interior design: Phoebe Howard, Mrs. Howard and Max and Co., 425 Peachtree Hills Ave., Suite 23, Atlanta, GA 30305; 404/816-3830, phoebehoward.net

Stone (reclaimed limestone): Bourbon Boards, bourbonboards.studiobanks.com.
Slate roof: Evergreen Slate Co., evergreenslate.com.
Shutters: Spanish cedar.
Shutter paint (custom): Farrow & Ball, farrow-ball.com.

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