Neoclassical Plan with 4 Bedrooms and 4 Baths - HOMEPW03715
Case Study in Home Building
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When George and Martha decided to buy a home that was only partially built, in Mississippi, they took on a project that had been started by another person—a person who had different ideas, goals and needs for a home.
The home's design was originally commissioned by a single woman who intended to build her dream home. Her builder, Mississippi-based Jay Harrison, referred her to home designer Edsel Breland of Breland & Farmer Designers, Inc., with whom Harrison had worked for some thirty years. Breland recalls well his conversations with the original homeowner regarding the design.
"What she was after was the grand, Southern-style, Greek Revival home," Breland explained. "Once we presented the plans to her, she was very pleased, but for a variety of reasons, as the building progressed, she decided to put the home on the market."
Enter George and Martha. With three children who have all but flown the nest, the retired couple was in the market for a new house. They were no strangers to building homes, and saw potential in the over-4,000-square-foot structure, which, according to Breland, was at the time of the sale about 80 percent complete. With equal measures of vision and determination, the couple decided to take the leap.
One look at the fabulous home, Plan HOMEPW03715, and it's not hard to understand the attraction. The impressive dwelling stands an imposing forty feet tall. Four white columns with Ionic capitals, echoed by four white chimneys, distinguish the red brick facade. White keystones top each black-shuttered, front-facing window. Clean, white-on-white dentils define the eaves.
At the center of the facade is the sidelighted entry, which sends natural light cascading into the soaring foyer. An upper-floor balcony with custom-made wrought-iron railings overlooks this gorgeous area.
"I love the foyer," says Martha, who sculpted the centerpiece figure that now stands on a circular table in the middle of the stunning space. The centerpiece serves as a focal point, beyond which four white pillars form a pathway to the living room.
The sunken, two-story living room, like the foyer, grants views of an upper-floor library. Fourteen-inch crown molding in contrasting colors—coffee brown and a creamy, antique white—create interest and texture, drawing the eye to the ceiling.
Martha chose all the colors and completed the decorating of the home without the assistance of a professional interior designer. She's received admiration from friends and visitors, who ask for help choosing color schemes for their own homes.
The home's decorations lend a feeling of history—the history of its inhabitants. "We have things from all over the world," Martha says. "My husband is very well traveled; about the only place he hasn't been is China. Everything means something to us." In a time when imports and reproductions are easy and inexpensive to buy, this statement speaks volumes. The woodwork not only complements the color scheme, but also has a history of its own. Carpet was the original builder's floor covering of choice, but Martha and George believed antique heart pine—wood with a past—was more fitting for this historically inspired home. Longleaf pine, once abundant in the South, was used to build many homes in Colonial times. Now almost completely absent in forests, this coveted wood is lovingly salvaged from long-forgotten structures that date back to the Industrial Revolution and from pristinely preserved riverbottom logs. The wood is prized for its beauty, durability and rarity. "It took them two months to find [the wood for the floors]! They had to go to Louisiana," Martha says. The result was worth the wait, since the floors unify and give character to the home. Solid, eight-foot, antique heart pine doors throughout the home complete the beautiful and natural old-fashioned look.
To the right of the living room, a hallway leads to a sitting room—an introduction to the grandeur of the master suite. A bay window brightens the sitting room, where the couple keeps a writing desk and two comfortable chairs. A see-through fireplace separates the sitting room from the bedroom itself, and the placement of the bedroom one step down from the sitting room (inspired, says Breland, by a slightly sloped lot) gives the sleeping chamber an additional measure of coziness.
Beyond the bedroom, the sprawling master bath offers all the luxuries Martha and George could want: custom mirrors, a spacious dressing area, a spa tub and plenty of linen storage and closet space. Martha mentions the shoe closet with special admiration: "It holds a hundred pairs of shoes!" she says. Another favorite part? "There's a steam sauna room in the master [bath]," says Martha. "You go in there, shut the door and just steam for a while. It's great, especially in the winter."
As cozy and pampering as the master suite is, Martha reports that her husband can frequently be found in the nearby study. Just steps away from the couple's suite, and without access from the foyer, the study is truly a private, quiet escape. Built-in shelves lie along one wall, between two small closets. Martha says she often joins her husband in the study, where they spend happy hours together, reading, watching television or playing cards.
On the other side of the living room lies the kitchen, which is the room Martha names as her favorite. If the rest of the home is a living testament to the American South's architectural history, this room is a picture of the future of residential architecture, although it retains traditional decor. The kitchen, which is professionally outfitted with Viking, SubZero and KitchenAid appliances, is the perfect outlet for Martha's prolific baking and cooking. A six-burner gas range—topped with a vent hood that blends beautifully with the room's cherry cabinets—keeps up with all the braising, stewing and bubbling Martha's cooking can produce.
The kitchen's up-to-the-minute layout is in step with its accessories. Columns provide subtle separation from the living room, while still allowing plenty of interaction between the two rooms. An angled peninsula, where the sink, dishwasher and ice maker are located, faces the living room and defines the shape of the kitchen. To the far right, beyond the wall supporting the ovens, lies an indispensable organization center comprised of a wine rack, a menu desk and additional storage.
Behind the peninsula, you'll find the refrigerator, the range and another oven. The area to the right of this cooking station is the breakfast nook, a casual spot for snacks and informal family meals. A tall bay window enlarges this space and floods it with natural light.
A butler's pantry bridges the gap between the kitchen and the formal dining room, which resides along the front of the home, facing the front yard.
Outside, a porte cochere lies to one side of the structure on the way to the garage. An entry from the porte cochere near the utility room and the kitchen simplifies unloading packages. "The porte cochere is really neat," Martha says, "because you can get deliveries and groceries without going all the way back to the garage."
Not that heading back to the garage is unpleasant. On the contrary. A veranda bridges the brief gap between the house and the garage. Access from the breakfast nook and the veranda's outdoor grill and bar—a veritable "summer kitchen"—make this spot a popular one with George and Martha, especially for entertaining. They've enhanced the veranda's appeal as an "outdoor room" with lush potted plants.
The veranda and the garage, along with the opposite side of the home, where the master suite lies, form two arms that stretch out to embrace the backyard. This architectural feature combines with a natural "wall" of evergreens along the back perimeter of the property, to grant the outdoor space enough privacy to inspire Martha and George's future plans. "We'd love to be able to put in a swimming pool in the back—with a fountain," says Martha. "The way the house was designed, you can see through the front door all the way to the backyard, so it would be perfect for a fountain and a swimming pool." The practicalities for this are in place as well, in the form of a half-bath just off the veranda and plenty of enclosed storage space for equipment.
Hosting two bedroom suites and a balcony library with a view of the living room and the foyer, the relatively simple upper floor is the perfect foil for the main floor's lavish layout. The upper floor provides the space needed to accommodate children and guests, yet does not contain any of the rooms that need to be accessed by the home's regular inhabitants—so transitions into older age are made easier.
And that's a good thing. Martha and George, completely satisfied with their wise investment, plan to remain in their gorgeous home for a long time to come. Knowing the timeless design will weather the storms of fickle home fashion, the two sometimes imagine how their home will be regarded by future generations. On a recent trip to nearby historic Natchez, Miss., which is full of prized estate homes built as long ago as the Civil War, Martha and George saw a home that looked just like theirs. Martha was inspired. "There were so many stories of the families in the Natchez homes," she said. Martha turned to George and said excitedly, "Our home is going to be like that!"
And chances are, it will.