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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
  • 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,
    Interior design: Phoebe Howard, Mrs. Howard and Max and Co., 425 Peachtree Hills Ave., Suite 23, Atlanta, GA 30305; 404/816-3830,

    Stone (reclaimed limestone): Bourbon Boards,
    Slate roof: Evergreen Slate Co.,
    Shutters: Spanish cedar.
    Shutter paint (custom): Farrow & Ball,

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    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. 

    Throughout main floor—
    Wood flooring (10-inch wide white oak, custom finish); windows (custom, fabricated by Victor Franz): Pursley Dixon Architecture, 704/334-6500,

    Rug (“Sicilia”); Stark,
    Wall paint (“Cloud Cover” #855); Benjamin Moore & Co.,
    Double sided drapery (“Glace”/Pistachio #8900-04 and “Glace”/Daiquiri #8900-02): Donghia,
    Chandelier (“Bruges”/Ladew White Finish #41-0919): David Iatesta,
    Sofas (“Park Avenue” #1029): Cameron Collection,
    Sofa fabric (“Cervo”/Raffia #92702-08): Rogers & Goffigon, 203/532-8068.
    Round table, right of sofa (“Tristan” #256): Rose Tarlow,
    Table with shelves (“Three Tier Painted Curved Leg Side Table”): John Rosselli,
    Table lamps (“Ginseng”/Dune #TL480): Hwang Bishop,
    Cocktail table (custom): Mrs. Howard,
    Vase on cocktail table (“Inez Spherical Vase”): William Yeoward Crystal,
    Armchairs opposite fireplace (#207): O. Henry House Ltd.,
    Armchair fabric (“Peony Garden”/Blue): TylerGraphic,
    Fireplace surround (honed slate with wooden surround): Pursley Dixon Architecture,
    Mirrored sconces (“Paris Oval Sconce” #11-00903-08-01-V23): Niermann Weeks,
    Wing chair (“Hussar Host Wing Chair”): custom.
    Wing-chair fabric (“Bennett”/Beige #F3624-03): Cowtan & Tout,
    Tufted chair (“Windsor Lounge Chair” #6357): Baker,
    Tufted chair fabric (“Shelter”/Eucalyptus #25389.123): Kravet,

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    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. 

    Rug (#RH-2037 (A2) in Desert): Rugs by Robinson, 404/364-9042.
    Bench (“X-Back Bench” #301-1, by Jasper): Michael Smith Inc.,
    Bench cushion (“Inigo Stripe”/Cloud #M210/01): Mark Alexander, through Romo,
    Drapery (“Windsor”/London Fog #1301/04, by Great Plains): Holly Hunt,

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Entry - Opposite

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

    Railing (custom, iron): through Volodko,
    Lantern sconces (“Dalen Wall Lantern”): Gregorius/Pineo,
    Floor (reclaimed limestone): Paris Ceramics,
    Paint (“Cloud Cover” #855): Benjamin Moore & Co.,

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    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. 

    Dining table (“Pickwick Dining Table” #2013): Rose Tarlow-Melrose House,
    Side chairs (“Minor Chippendale-Style Side Chairs” #1415); host chair (“Irish Sheaf-Back Arm Chairs” #1422A): John Rosselli,
    Side-chair fabric (“Mixed Capri” #28687.135): Kravet,
    Host-chair leather (“Brighton”/Linen): Moore & Giles Leather,
    Chandelier (“Bruges”/Ladew White Finish #41-0919): David Iatesta,
    Sideboard (custom design through A. Tyner): A. Tyner Antiques,
    Lamps on sideboard (“Pleated Lamp (Peridot/Large)” #BBS02PL, by Barbara Barry): Baker,
    Rug: existing.
    Art (by Elizabeth Stockton): through The Mercantile,
    Porcelain planter with orchids: John Boone Inc.,
    Double-sided drapery (“Glacé”/Pistachio #8900-04 and “Glacé”/Daiquiri #8900-02): Donghia,

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    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. 

    Stone wall (reclaimed limestone): Bourbon Boards,
    Rug (Design #2037, Tibetan Carpet #2589 in color MC-627): Stark,
    Drapery (“Cadogan #21040-853, by Hodsoll McKenzie, discontinued): Zimmer + Rohde,
    Drapery hardware (custom); sofa in front of window (custom): Mrs. Howard,
    Sofa fabric (“Heart & Soul”/Barry White #3801/01, by Great Plains): Holly Hunt,
    Pair of pillows on sofa (“Soma”/Blue Lagoon, Sand #2344/06): Rose Tarlow-Melrose House,
    Center pillow on sofa (Hudson Ribbon Pillow,” Trader Vics Collection): Dransfield & Ross,
    End tables: antique.
    Table lamps (discontinued): Simon Pearce,
    Armchair (“Tuscany Bergère” #345): Rose Tarlow-Melrose House,
    Chair fabric (“Darby”/Aqua #11051/04): Cowtan & Tout,
    Coffee table (custom); sofa opposite armchair (custom): Mrs. Howard,
    Sofa fabric (“Heart & Soul”/Barry White #3801/01, by Great Plains): Holly Hunt,
    Window shades (“Cadogan” #21040-853, by Hodsoll McKenzie, discontinued): Zimmer + Rohde,

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    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. 

    Roman shades (#1742 Twilight, Conrad Original Sunshades): Conrad,
    Range (Professional Series, custom fabricated stainless steel): Thermador,
    Range hood: custom.
    Backsplash: Calacatta Regina marble, honed.
    Refrigerator (700 Series integrated refrigerator): Sub-Zero,
    Sink (stainless steel): Franke,
    Faucet: Rohl,
    Cabinetry: custom.
    Cabinetry finish; wall paint (“Cloud Cover” #855): Benjamin Moore & Co.,
    Cabinetry knobs (polished nickel): Whitechapel,
    Drop pulls (polished nickel): Gerber Hinge Co.,
    Stainless steel cabinet pulls: Arthur Harris & Co.,
    Perimeter countertop: Calacatta Regina marble; polished.
    Island countertop: London Gray limestone slab.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Backsplash Details

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

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Custom Breakfast Area

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

    Table (custom): Mrs. Howard,
    Banquette: custom.
    Banquette fabric (“Hopscotch” #21041-685, by Hodsoll McKenzie, discontinued): Zimmer + Rohde,
    Chairs (“Chippendale Side Chair” #1820-02): Hickory Chair,
    Chair fabric (“Coda”/Whey #7500006-02): Rogers & Goffigon, 203/532-8068.
    Light fixture (by Lewis James): John Rosselli,

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Style + Function

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

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    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. 

    Area rug (“Ebb and Flow”/White): Stark,
    Wall fabric; drapery fabric: discontinued.
    Wall fabric trim (“Desert Linen Border”/Burlap #977-43150/19); drapery trim: Samuel & Sons,
    Ceiling and trim paint (“Seashell” #926): Benjamin Moore & Co.,
    Sheer drapery (“Flurry”/Glace #939002-01): Rogers & Goffigon, 203/532-8068.
    Drapery hardware (mechanical): Lutron,
    Chandelier (“Jolie 6-Light Chandelier” #8027): Ironware International,
    Headboard (custom): Mrs. Howard, 704/376-8900,
    Headboard and bedskirt fabric (“Calvi Linen”/Pine Nut #10207): Calvin Fabrics,
    Bedskirt trim (“Ghent”/Birch #9122): Pindler & Pindler,
    Blanket (“Renaissance Quilted Scalloped Coverlet”/Ivory): Home Treasures,
    Duvet (“Delano”/Ivory, Sand #M213): Matouk,
    Bedside chests: custom.
    Table lamps (“Large Double Gourd”/Linen Beige on Cream): Roy Hamilton,
    Mirrors (#09-M-057): Parc Monceau, 404/355-3766.
    Bench (“Courtland Bench” #1523-30, by Suzanne Kasler): Hickory Chair,
    Bench fabric (“Goddess Garden”/Javanica #92524-06): Rogers & Goffigon, 203/532-8068.
    Upholstered chair (custom); cocktail table (custom): Mrs. Howard,
    Chair fabric (“Country Cloth Plain”/Borax #92501-02): Rogers & Goffigon, 203/532-8068.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    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.

    Drapery fabric: discontinued.
    Sheer drapery (“Flurry”/Glace #939002-01): Rogers & Goffigon, 203/532-8068.
    Drapery hardware (mechanical): Lutron,
    Sofa (“Colefax” #509-75): Hickory Chair,
    Sofa fabric (“Linen Velvet”/Cream #10767-01): Cowtan & Tout, 212/647-6900,
    Floor lamps: owner’s collection.
    Upholstered chair (custom); pillows; cocktail table (custom); console table (custom): Mrs. Howard,
    Chair fabric (“Country Cloth Plain”/Borax #92501-02): Rogers & Goffigon, 203/532-8068. 

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Bedroom Bureau

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

    Chest of drawers; urn: antique.
    Lamp: discontinued.
    Wall paint (“Seashell” #926): Benjamin Moore & Co.,

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    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. 

    Cabinet legs: P.E. Guerin,
    Wood cabinetry (custom): Bill Truitt,
    Cabinetry hardware (pendant pull in polished nickel): Gerber Hinge Co.,
    Sink (“Caxton”/white with custom top): Kohler,
    Faucet: Waterworks,
    Countertop (“Calacatta Regina”): Walker Zanger,
    Sconces (“Lyon Sconce” #SC-219, by Palmer Hargrave): Dessin Fournir,
    Mirror: Mrs. Howard,
    Mosaic floor tile with inlay rug (field color, “Calcatta Gold”; accent color “Blue Celeste”); wall tile (“Blue Celeste”): Renaissance Tile & Bath,
    Towel bar warmer (“Warma Towel Hydronic Heated Towel Warmer” #H542): Quality Bath,
    Bathtub (“Empire”/White #EMBT01): Waterworks,
    Oval bench (custom): Mrs. Howard,
    Bench fabric (“Brabant”/Oyster #7727); drapery (“Camellia”/Ivory #8734): Pindler & Pindler,
    Drapery trim (“Endless Mist”/Sea #6200/96): Chella,
    Chair: antique.
    Chair fabric: Lee Jofa,  

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    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.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    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.”

    Chaise (custom): Mrs. Howard,
    Chaise fabric (“Nevis”/Milk #91301-01, discontinued): Rogers & Goffigon, 203/532-8068.
    Accent table: antique.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    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!”

    Bar stools (“Edward Counter Stools with Back”/Ivory): Janus et Cie, 800/245-2687,
    Bar-stool cushions (‘Dinghy”/Olive #DL1003-09): DeLany & Long, 203/532-0010,
    Bar counter (concrete): Mudwerk, 704/533-2790,
    Pool house stone (reclaimed limestone from the Old Crow Distillery): Bourbon Boards, 704/376-0575,
    Steps to pool house (cut Indiana limestone): Indiana Limestone, 812/275-3341,
    Roof (slate): Evergreen Slate Co., 518/642-2530,
    Doors and windows (custom wood by Victor Franz): Pursley Dixon Architecture, 704/334-6500,

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    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.

    Chairs (“Jackson Lounge Chairs”/Ivory): Janus et Cie, 800/245-2687,
    Chair cushions (#DL1003-09): DeLany & Long, 203/532-0010,
    Porcelain garden seats: Mrs. Howard, 704/376-8900,
    Flagstone (Indiana Bluestone): Charles Luck, 888/475-5825,
    Stone wall (reclaimed limestone from the Old Crow Distillery): Bourbon Boards, 704/376-0575,