There are a number of ways to approach the renovation of a mid-century modern home. The most obvious (and expensive) route, of course, would be fully restoring the home to its original glory; filling it only with period-specific furnishings and authentic decor. Then, there are those who only subtly embrace the home’s architectural character in lieu of embracing their own contemporary sense of style. Finally, there’s something in between; a happy medium, if you will, that spans decades. Interior designer Hannah Crowell approves of this balanced approach.
Putting her vision to the test, the Nashville-based creative was recently tasked with making over a 2,200-square-foot home in the West Meade neighborhood of Nashville for the first time since it was built in 1955. The house was just one of many undiscovered treasures in the area.
“I actually live in the same neighborhood and love it! The lots are at least an acre, and it’s really green and lush. All the homes were built in the ’50s and ’60s, so you can find some true mid-century gems in this neighborhood!” shares Crowell.
The designer’s main objective was to transform the home (once haunted by tight corners and low ceilings) into a bright and open space that reflected her client’s eclectic sensibility. Though Crowell wanted to stay true to its mid-century bones, she also didn’t want to compromise the couple’s wish list—a pool for her; a cigar deck for him.
“When I first met Judy I thought, ‘This is who I want to be when I grow up!’ She is in her 60s but looks like she’s not a day over 50. She is a firecracker and just about the coolest woman I know. She’s a painter and makes all her own clothes—she’s a force. Her husband is an absolute sweetheart as well,” she explains.
The homeowners’ energy is ever present in the subtle weaving of punchy colors, experimental materials, and, of course, cheerful art collection.
From the moment Crowell first drew up the design plans to the day of the final walk-through, the renovation took about a year and a half to complete—start to finish. While the designer and her team managed to keep the shell of two of the bedrooms and maintain the existing footprint (though they added to it), the home is practically unrecognizable. After raising the roof, adding all new windows, doors, and exterior siding, and building a second story over the living room, the pair was left with a totally different house.
Introducing contemporary shapes, updated finishes, and trending fixtures to a primarily mid-century scene isn’t as simple or straightforward as you’d think. Crowell’s secret to mixing and matching styles with ease? Avoid falling into obvious decor traps.
“I find it’s pretty easy and seamless when you are keeping the footprint of the original home. The spirit of the home seems to translate with little effort. The key is to keep it fresh and contemporary without becoming a mid-century modern cliché. Instead, I let the architecture bring that into the interiors sparingly,” says Crowell.
Intense color and concrete might not have a place in your run-of-the-mill mid-century home, but here, said elements are the recipe for a standout dining room. Fun lighting and fuchsia (I mean, how dreamy is that perfectly pink area rug?) were just the beginning. Lending a semi-industrial touch to the dining space, Crowell brought in a custom concrete table. We’d be lying if we said that wasn’t the sturdiest surface we’ve probably ever seen.
“I think the places where we truly create something unique usually stand out the most. In this case, we designed the dining room table with a local company here in Nashville, and I love how it turned out. That table is never going anywhere because the concrete base weighs a million pounds!”
In the sitting room off the kitchen, a slatted wood door cleverly conceals the hallway leading to the secondary bedrooms and powder room.“I think it’s one of my favorite parts of this house,” notes Crowell. “It was added in an effort to close off that hallway in an artful way.”
With the exception of the master bedroom, almost all of the walls in the home are bright white. Though, when color and pattern did come into the picture, Crowell found herself gravitating toward options that would ultimately complement her client’s ever-changing art collection.
“I absolutely love color! I hardly ever use it on walls but I love to bring it in in the art and textiles. I really fell in love with this fuchsia overdyed rug for the dining room but was not 100% sure my client would go for it. She loved it, and I think it totally makes the space. She’s a painter, so she loves color. Her work is stunning, and she tends to rotate it within the house pretty regularly, so there’s always something unexpected and bold happening in the space.”
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