Fresh Start

- by

By Anna Jones
Photography by Jeremiah Hull

The three-story, 1872 brick rowhouse faces one of Savannah’s busiest Historic District avenues, an oak-lined street swarmed by locals and tourists alike in search of restaurants, shops and the elusive downtown parking space. How ironic, then, that when you step through the front door, all outside noise vanishes without a trace. 

“It was almost eerily quiet at first,” says owner Rob Cordasco, an accountant. “The St. Patrick’s Day parade goes right past here and you can’t even hear it from inside. The location is very urban, but feels like it’s off the beaten path.”

Cordasco purchased the home in fall 2014 as a respite for him and his two children, Sara and Christopher (he also has a daughter in college). The decision marked a turning point for Cordasco, a recent divorcee, and his focus for the home was singular: Provide an easy transition for his children and a cozy place where they could all start the next chapter together.

To spearhead the redesign, Cordasco enlisted local interior designer Lily Brown of Lily Brown Designs (formerly Calvert Dean Designs). Having worked with Brown on other design projects in the past, Cordasco handed her the reins, requesting only that the home retain a certain masculinity without veering into man-cave territory. “I didn’t want any pool tables or neon signs on the walls,” he says with a laugh.

Historic elements of the 1872 rowhouse were preserved with care. Photo by Jeremiah Hull

“It was fun to work together to create a house that was a little traditional and appropriate for a historic home, but one that was very tailored to Rob, and also family-friendly,” Brown adds.

Right away, Brown defined each floor of the townhouse by a different level of formality. The first floor would be stately and distinct, while the second and third levels—where the family spends most of its time together—would skew more casual.

Christopher’s light-drenched space. Photo by Jeremiah Hull

Keeping her client’s mission in mind, Brown began the renovation with Sara and Christopher’s bedrooms on the third floor. She consulted with them to gain insight into their tastes and priorities, then set about designing age-appropriate rooms still sophisticated enough to grow in step with them. A colorful Missoni rug anchors Christopher’s light-drenched space, while a Bernhardt canopy bed and delicate Schumacher Indian Arbre drapes dress up Sara’s serene hideaway.

Once those rooms were complete, Brown moved to the first-floor common areas. Layering a mix of antiques and modern elements helped her pay respect to the historic nature of the house, “but also keep it fresh,” she says. Here, reflective surfaces abound: A contemporary glass coffee table is juxtaposed by a custom hand-antiqued mirror above the fireplace. That hearth, a tall and imposing Victorian style, was reframed with modern lines, and Brown had its original mirror framed and hung over a credenza in the dining room. Surrounding a sleek lingue-wood dining table, eight bright yellow chairs offer a bit of irreverence that initially gave Cordasco pause—but nevertheless, Brown persisted.

Designer Lily Brown calls the mustard velvet dining chairs “moody and sophisticated.”

“Very early on, I had a vision that this house needed mustard velvet chairs,” Brown says, “and they’re one of my favorite things in the house. I wanted the space to be moody and very sophisticated, but I think using some color in a thoughtful way is really compelling.”

Original artwork, photographs and antique architectural prints flank the first-floor walls, each piece procured and curated by Brown. An oversized Shea Slemmer painting injects color into the perfectly saturated dining room, while a gallery wall in a hallway niche mixes together vintage pen and ink sketches, an original photograph of oyster shells by Christine Hall, and smaller custom pieces. The result is a dynamic assortment of art that brings character and life to the home.

A gallery wall in a hallway niche. Photo by Jeremiah Hull

Cordasco initially planned to address the kitchen in a second phase of renovations, but once the rest of the house was complete, he knew it was due for a more immediate update. They ripped up the existing tile floors only to find a sagging subfloor, and what began as a cosmetic update turned into a major undertaking. “It was actually kind of a miracle the refrigerator hadn’t fallen through the floor,” Brown says.  

After the structural issues were addressed, Brown chose dark slate tile laid in a herringbone pattern for the floors, and painted the cherry cabinets a pale gray. New honed marble countertops were installed, and the choppy travertine and blue glass tile backsplash was replaced with simple white subway tile. The result is a lighter, more uniform space that operates as both a gourmet kitchen and a gathering place.

Gray every which way in the kitchen. Photo by Jeremiah Hull

On the second floor, Brown updated the family room with more original artwork, a comfortable sectional sofa and storage for Sara and Christopher’s books and toys. With floor-to-ceiling windows revealing the townhome’s northern exposure, an adjacent cozy nook Brown refers to as the “sun porch” turns an otherwise neglected space into one of Cordasco’s favorite rooms.

“Little spaces can be considered awkward, but all they need is a purpose and a bit of personality,” Brown notes.

As Cordasco and his family settle in, they know they’ve got a home they can count on and a haven in the midst of it all—even during the noisiest of St. Patrick’s Day parades.  


Owner: Rob Cordasco          
Year built: 1872
Year purchased: 2015
Square footage: 3,200
Accommodations: 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths
Time to complete remodel: 12 months
Interior designer: Lily Brown Interiors (Formerly Calvert Dean Design)
Landscape design: Colorscapes Unlimited 
Tile/flooring: Garden State Tile
Paint: Benjamin Moore
Wallpaper: Lee Jofa
Fabrics: Donghia; Kravet, Schumacher, Pollack
Lighting: Circa, Arteriors 
Furniture: Lee Industries, Knoll Studio, Bernhardt, Arteriors, Palecek, custom pieces
Appliances: Livingood’s Appliances & Bedding
Accessories: Arcanum, Number Four Eleven, Habersham Antiques, trade resources
Art: Shea Slemmer, Erica Luedtke, Marcus Dunn, Christine Hall PhotographyAshley Woodson Bailey, antique prints