When building a dream home, it’s easy to get caught up in the aesthetics. Will it be contemporary or more classic? Will it feature pops of color or playful patterns? But for a young couple with two children, their new lakeside home in Columbus, Georgia, was instead built more on feeling.
“The home really does smile at you,” says Montgomery-based interior designer Ashley Gilbreath, when describing its welcoming nature. “It’s a hospitable, happy place and that’s really a reflection of the clients.”
The family’s easy-going spirit, along with the land’s verdant setting, was all the inspiration Atlanta architect Brandon Ingram needed to craft a rambling-style home that makes quite the first impression. A meandering driveway through the woods reveals a classic lap-sided dwelling that boasts touches of local fieldstone and a playful wooden roofline. “It has a kick back-and-relax feel to it, but still is very sophisticated. Given they’re a young family, it was important that the home didn’t take itself too seriously so we avoided any notion of overt formality,” explains Ingram.
The interiors echo Ingram’s approach. “While much of the home is rooted in classic design, it’s equally casual and approachable,” says Gilbreath. She skillfully achieved this balance by avoiding anything deemed “too fussy” and instead outfitted the light-filled spaces with tailored lines and natural textiles in a range of organic tones so as not to distract from the scenic lake views. Whimsical details were also part of the design equation, such as the powder room’s vintage wooden trough sink or an unexpected modern leather light fixture in the library. Most impactful of all, though, is a custom 11-foot raffia upholstered screen that not only serves to delineate the living and dining spaces, but further enhances the home’s unique design sensibilities.
Since the young homeowners were trading in their hodge-podge furnishings (including pieces from college) from their first home for more refined pieces in line with this new season of life, Gilbreath was keen to help them understand the value of investing in antiques. “I don’t think you can grow up in the South and not have some collection of antiques, that’s just part of it, but they began to recognize the value in an old piece rather than buying something new,” she says.
“Not only do antiques, with their little quirks and imperfections, add to the depth of a space, but they really stand up to life’s ‘uh-oh’ moments,” Gilbreath goes on to explain when discussing the home’s antique European tables in the breakfast and dining rooms. “The clients envisioned their home as a place where all the other kids and families came to hang out, so snacking and coloring and whatever else on these tables is very hassle-free because you can’t harm them. They’ve already stood the test of time.”
The backdrop for all of these design details was just as thoughtfully devised by Ingram, with many of the interior walls featuring butted wood boards. “There’s an inherent feeling that wood gives to a home. It’s the echo and the way a door shuts; there’s something kind of ephemeral about that,” he explains. And to dress up spaces intended for entertaining, Ingram incorporated more complex millwork. “In some places, we let the cornices get fancy but the wood still reels it in a bit. And there’s other spots where we dialed back the millwork, essentially playing this game of high and low throughout to create visual interest, which effectively creates a story to the home.”
And undoubtedly, the narrative of this home is one of warmth and hospitality. “It’s not too showy or too bold,” says Gilbreath. “Just like the clients, it’s ready to greet you with open arms.”