Incorporating a variety of styles, a Biltmore-area town home comes into the 21st century.
By John Roark | Photography by Michael Woodall
“I am so glad the 1980s are behind us,” says interior designer Shea Ryan with a laugh, remembering the decor era of his town home when he purchased it from its original owners. “It was a time capsule,” he recalls. “The couple took great care of the home but had never made any updates. It was like an homage to a bygone era.” But seeing beyond the boxy interior, outdated surfaces and archaic design treatments, he recognized that the unit held great potential.
Before embarking on a top-to-bottom renovation, Ryan hosted a pre-demolition party for family and friends. “Although no one said anything, I am sure they were all wondering what I had gotten myself into,” he says. Upon completion, the same guests marveled at the metamorphosis. Here, the designer shares his insights on the rebirth of this now stunning abode.
“This spot intrigued me when I saw it for the first time,” Ryan says. “My previous house featured a low ceiling, and I had a lighting fixture in storage that I had never been able to make use of. The expanses of wall space were also appealing.”
The designer wanted to keep the serpentine staircase (shown at left when purchased and post-renovation on the previous page) but give it an update. Painting the railing a charcoal color provided a visual accent. Continuing the lower level’s walnut flooring onto the steps created a cohesive transition to the upper level. And that crystal chandelier that was once hidden away? It now greets guests in the entry, drawing the eye upward and accentuating the ceiling height. “Consistent touches, such as matching flooring and drapery between spaces, helps create and maintain a good visual flow,” Ryan says. The addition of glass French-style front entry doors further opened the space by allowing the front yard to be seen from within.
THE LIVING ROOM
“I have to say this area really sold me on the home from the start,” Ryan says. “The huge windows that open to the backyard bring in so much natural light, and the soaring ceilings were a blank canvas.”
In addition to removing the windows’ heavy shutters, the designer eliminated the fireplace hearth and mantle and smoothed the overmantel’s heavily textured stucco. Carpet was replaced with walnut flooring, and floor-to-ceiling draperies reinforce the vertical volume of the room. “Most of the soft furnishings are in neutral colors,” notes Ryan, who favors clean-lined upholstery pieces complemented with curated antiques. “I always tell clients it should not look as though they bought their interiors from a catalog. To me, rooms that have a wide range of styles seem to have more joy in them.”
Perhaps the most dramatic transformation is the home’s kitchen, which originally comprised angled counters and yards of blue fabric both on the cabinetry and the ceiling. “It was pretty bad,” Ryan recalls. He knew he wanted the area to be open, yet consistent with the melange of styles found in the rest of the home. Removing the adjoining living room wall dramatically opened the space, while continuing the exposed ceiling beams created a feeling of connection. “I went with a contemporary aesthetic for the kitchen,” the designer adds. “The wood ceiling makes the room feel true to the home without looking like it’s out of place.”
Ryan worked closely with a kitchen designer to square off the counter angles, eliminating some cabinet and counter space, which the homeowner was willing to sacrifice. Rather than having a built-in island that matched the cabinetry, a freestanding antique marble-topped French island reinforces the home’s ‘mix-it-up’ appeal. “Because the decor is such a variety of styles, it was important to tie that into the kitchen as well,” Ryan asserts.
Sleek, flat-faced cabinets in a matte black finish play off the black leather wallcovering that sits above the slab backsplash and wraps the range hood. “It’s an ever-so-slight difference in materials,” says Ryan, “but it adds a tremendous amount of interest.”
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