A Gracious Plenty

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Two Atlanta transplants mix casual comfort with a dash of glitz to create the ideal setting for celebrating with family and friends. Judy Bean stops by for a visit.  »  Photography by Richard Leo Johnson

The Gregory Stats »

Year built:  1853

Year purchased:  2010

Square footage:  4,300 (3,200 indoor living quarters, 1,600 deck and garden, 500 carriage house office, 500 garage, 1,300 rental unit)

Accommodations:  6 bedrooms, 5½ baths

Time to complete renovation/remodel:  3 months

Kent and Lyn Gregory’s living room is the shade of pale blue-green created when sunlight shimmers just below the surface of a tropical lagoon—as clear and captivating as a multi-carat aquamarine.  Seeing the 19th century-era townhome on Monterey Square lit from within, passersby often stop, knock and ask for a closer look.

Lyn chose this particular hue—which she describes as “like going into the ocean”—for its alluring, soothing effect.  It’s just one of the comforting choices this professional interior designer made in reimagining her townhome’s interior, all with the intent of welcoming children, grandchildren and guests.

Love and Let Live

Family beckoned Lyn and Kent south from Atlanta three years ago.  One daughter, Elizabeth, had moved here with her husband, Garron Gore, now the food and beverage manager of the Andaz Hotel.  Another daughter, Kendall, was studying graphic design at the Savannah College of Art and Design.  (Their son, Kyle, a busy student pursuing a dual degree, remains in Atlanta.)  The couple purchased a condo on Jones Street, at the time thinking it would make frequent visits more convenient.  But they soon fell in love with the city and decided to sell their sprawling Atlanta house so that they could call downtown Savannah “home.”

They found the perfect place to accommodate large family gatherings in a four-story row house on Monterey Square, which they share with Temple Mickve Israel, Alex Raskin Antiques, the Mercer-Williams House and other notable homes.

“We like that it’s the most residential square in the city—the one with the most homes opening onto it,” Kent explains.

Theirs is one of a row of townhomes erected in 1853 by architect Amos Scudder, who also built Independent Presbyterian Church on Bull Street.  The townhome was renovated more than once over the centuries and, fortunately for the Gregorys, the most recent updates functioned fairly well, preserving the structure’s original layout, oak floors and plaster details.

So the couple chose only to refinish the floors, update the kitchen, add French doors and a deck to the main living level, and to “fluff and buff”—as Lyn puts it—the master bath.  Lyn, a designer by trade, then customized the home with her own brand of visual magic.  She chose colors and furnishings to fit what she saw as the home’s three zones: family and entertaining on the main floor, a private retreat for her and Kent upstairs, and a guest suite on the top floor.

The garden apartment at street level remains a rental, and the carriage house across the verdant courtyard now serves as Kent’s real estate development office.

An Open Outlook

A vibrant red front door opens onto a cool gray foyer on the main floor.  Graphic, hand-printed wallpaper in a stylized, vertical vine pattern gently recalls a mid-1960s mod aesthetic. Above, a silvery chandelier with a translucent drum shade sparkles like Holly Golightly’s tiara, setting a glittering tone that prevails throughout the first floor.

To the left, the aquamarine living room transitions seamlessly into the dining room.  Where most homes of this era would have a wall with double doors between these two rooms, this home has no intervening wall—only a graceful curved arch starting high on each side wall, as if the builder foresaw the allure of open-concept living decades before Frank Lloyd Wright.  Ornate, original brackets are all that mark the arch’s base, echoing the crown molding, ornate ceiling medallions and other surviving plaster details.

A transitional black couch with brass nail-head trim sits just in front of the arch, further defining the space without disrupting sightlines or the abundant light spilling in from the floor-to-ceiling windows.  The couch is accompanied—and contrasted—by two silver Barcelona chairs, distinctly upholstered in creamy white leather.

A room-size Oriental rug that the family has had ever since Lyn can remember softens the hardwood floors.  Its supple blue, gray, white and blush fibers form a geometric pattern that gently unites the room and begs to be touched by bare feet.  It’s already a favorite spot for their elderly poodle, Einstein.  This holiday season, they expect their new grandson, Grayson, to claim it as his own.

“We wanted a home the kids could come back to,” coos Lyn. “Now, we have to have space for the baby to play!”

Reflective Spaces

Natural light from the two square-facing windows falls deep into the dining area, where Lyn placed a massive, mullioned mirror that bounces the light back into the living area.  Off to one side, a mirrored credenza enhances the overall illumination.

After sundown, the two rooms are brightened by the crown jewels—matching, silver-leaf chandeliers, centered on two white marble fireplaces.  Classic in their curves and sleekly unadorned, the fixtures complement the fanciful medallions that encircle them and establish the past-meets-present aesthetic of the space.

Antique Italian chairs, upholstered in seafoam-and-sand silk plaid, surround a contemporary mahogany dining table.  The simple lines of the dining room table are echoed by a glossy white parson’s table at the other end of the space, situated between the two street-side windows.  The table, flanked by two chic, black settees, is where Lyn and Kent eat breakfast and watch the city awaken.

“And when the kids are here, this is where they set up their laptops,” Lyn adds.

Room With a View

The first-floor family zone continues to the back of the house, where a combined kitchen and den looks out through French doors over Lyn’s charming garden.  Visible through an expanded opening from the living-dining area, the doors repeat the lines and light of the dining room mirror.

The doors, along with a large window, provide lots of light for the cozy kitchen-den.  Quickly outfitted with built-in cabinets, granite counters and new appliances, the room is slated for further renovation.  But rejecting today’s trend toward gigantic gourmet centers, Lyn and Kent plan to keep the den, which doubles as their media room, as half of this area’s space.  One of their few layout changes will be transforming the kitchen peninsula into an island, so that thirsty TV-watchers can easily reach the fridge.

The French doors allow gatherings here to spill onto a wide deck, which looks across the courtyard to the top floor of Kent’s carriage-house office.  Just in front of the office space, on a strip of garage rooftop directly across from the deck, a garden blooms with bright geraniums, white vinca and a miniature magnolia.  Lyn asked the landscapers to create this vivid backdrop to be seen from her home’s main floor.  Simple, delicate wrought-iron deck railings heighten the blooms’ visibility.  A fountain high on the garden’s side wall provides a peaceful murmur to disguise downtown traffic noises.

Private Retreats

If the main floor is all about gathering, the top floors are all about privacy.  One floor up a silver-gray stairway lined with black-and-white family photos sits the master suite, which includes the bedroom and Lyn’s office (both with original fireplaces) and the “fluffed and buffed” master bath (now with new, white granite countertops, a glassed-in shower, and stone and ceramic tiles in shades of white, cream and beige—all of which harmonize with the preserved white-and-beige limestone floor.

The bedroom is painted a serene shade of gray, just like the hallway, with pale blue-green accents that echo the scheme downstairs.  The king-sized bed is layered cozily with the beckoning textures of white linens, a pale blue-green silk duvet and white fur pillows.  Its headboard is upholstered in vivid teal velvet with silver nailheads.

Here, as well as on the floor below, Lyn chose colors and surfaces to invite in more light.  Custom-made cupboards in the bedroom are one example.  Crafted by Savannah’s Black Dog studio, they feature antique-mirrored fronts that act as virtual windows.

Lyn notes that these cabinets and their craftsmen are typical of the design resources she was delighted to find in Savannah.

“Design was my passion for many years before it became my business in Atlanta,” she explains.  “The stores and artisans here are wonderful.  There is very little I can’t find here design-wise.”

“Up top” on the fourth floor, two welcoming guest rooms share a bath.  The bedroom overlooking the garden is dressed in sunny creams with an orange-sherbet accent wall.  The second bedroom is leafy green like the Monterey Square treetops visible through one window.  Its other window frames Temple Mickve Israel’s Victorian Gothic tower.  Lacking closets, both rooms feature large, wrought-iron clothes racks that provide plentiful storage for guests without adding visual heft.

Better Than Brownstone

“I lived in Manhattan for years before we moved to Atlanta,” Lyn recalls. “I used to look at the New York brownstones and dream of having one of my own.”  Now, she muses, that dream has come true, “but better.”

In the brief time Kent and Lyn have lived in Savannah, they have fallen head over heels for life downtown and its panoply of things to do. Both enjoy riding their bikes to dinner and to social events—unless, of course, those gatherings require fancy dress.

“We were surprised to find out how formal Savannah parties can be,” Kent says. “I’ve worn my tuxes here more often than I ever did in Manhattan!”

This cosmopolitan couple, though, can shuffle effortlessly among black-tie dinners, oyster roasts and tailgate parties.  And they entertain often at home.  Next on their agenda: a series of holiday feasts with the entire family, where they will count the blessings of having all they ever wanted under one roof.

The Gregory Referrals »

Interior designer:  Lyn Gregory

Contractor/builder:  Savannah Restoration Inc.

Floor refinishing:  Smitty’s Hardwood Floors

Paint/wallpaper:  Design Center of Savannah

Carpentry:  Black Dog Studio

Lighting design:  Lyn Gregory, fixtures from Pace Lighting

Landscape/hardscape design:  Zipperer Land Management Inc.

Electrician:  Bodman Construction

Landscaper:  Zipperer Land Management Inc.

Furniture:  24e, Arcanum

Appliances:  Livingood’s

Accessories:  24e, owner

Art:  Diane Dean, Adam Jones, owner