Classic materials and fine antiques dapple a new Kentucky home with timeworn beauty.

By Sally Finder Weepie
Updated July 31, 2020
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Some things never grow old, like the soft glow of Venetian plaster walls, the warmth of reclaimed oak flooring, the integrity of handmade furniture. Just their presence imbues a room with soul. And that's exactly what Dave Chandler envisioned for his house in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Left: Leslee Mitchell
Right: Leslee Mitchell

"Dave wanted a home that exudes authenticity and timeless European charm," designer Robin Rains says, "an old-world-style home that feels like it's been here for centuries."

Although Dave couldn't pluck a stately villa from the Tuscan countryside and drop it into his lot in the rolling hills of Kentucky, he could do the next best thing: create a new home with all the charms of an old-world masterwork.

Leslee Mitchell

Architect Ron Farris set the tone with an exterior shaped from a simple palette of stone, slate, and weighty timbers. "Classic materials make a home feel grounded," Farris says. "The older this house gets, the more nestled into its environment it will become."

With comforting continuity, the classical scale and timeless materials repeat inside. "Rooms are well-defined and unfold one by one," Farris says. "As you're gradually removed from the daily grind, relaxation takes hold."

Any building blocks that aren't old wear the patina of age, including concrete pavers handworked to bear the dimples of time, metalwork, and cabinetry crafted by local artisans who preserve time-honored crafts. Rains even chipped and tea-stained the limestone of a new fireplace surround to look as if it has warmed generations of homeowners.

"We brought the sense of history from the exterior inside," the designer says. "There's harmony, a timelessness. The architectural details set the stage for layered interiors that make the home feel collected, not simply decorated."

To furnish the rooms, Rains thoughtfully perused numerous antique markets, both in Europe and stateside, to handpick pieces from diverse eras and regions that meld into a cohesive blend.

Leslee Mitchell

A 17th-century French library table provides weighty Gothic counterpoint to graceful chinoiserie candleholders. Italian chandeliers echo the curves of an Art Deco end table and an alabaster lamp. Japanese calligraphy brushes pose like sculpture on their contemporary acrylic stands. A contemporary abstract by the late Nashville artist Anton Weiss enters a dialog with gilt-framed oil paintings from another century.

Leslee Mitchell

Cherished antiques might seem at odds with a gregarious homeowner who loves entertaining—and his two big bullmastiffs. But it's actually a perfect marriage. "Antiques work wonderfully in a home that's really lived in," Rains says. "The pieces are steeped in history, but they're not perfect. Spills and stains just add to the furniture’s story."

Upholstery, however, always looks fresh for guests. Seating pieces boast classic forms covered in modern function, courtesy of sustainable performance fabrics that can be popped in the wash in the wake of any inadvertent wine spill or spirited canine carousing.

Everyone should feel relaxed here, welcome. Dave won't have it any other way. So Farris gave him a gathering area ample enough to keep everyone on the guest list. But that also gave Rains a mammoth challenge. "The scale of the salon is wonderful when Dave opens his home to friends, but we still wanted it to have the comfortable, inviting atmosphere you get in a smaller space," the designer says. "Creating separate seating areas was the perfect solution; they feel intimate yet they allow beautiful flow through the larger room."

Leslee Mitchell

When the gathering is on a smaller scale, it's a sure bet everyone will end up in the kitchen and adjoining dining area.

"The kitchen really is the heart of Dave's home," Rains says. "The barn wood ceiling and stain-washed chestnut cabinetry make it look like it's been here forever."

Left: Leslee Mitchell
Right: Leslee Mitchell

The cooking space connects with a dining area that includes both formal seating and relaxed lounging spots at an upholstered banquette paired with bistro tables. A gold-painted Italian table and a chandelier made by a local artisan play against the tones and texture of an old metal armoire. Rains sited one of her favorite finds, architectural columns from the Brimfieldflea market, next to a giant French mirror. "They're the eye-catchers of the room," she says.

Leslee Mitchell

The casual attitude continues in the family room, furnished with a plush sectional and upholstered chairs. A TV lets Dave and his friends watch the game, or they can meander outside through mahogany-framed French doors to a well-appointed patio with views of gardens and the countryside beyond.

Leslee Mitchell

On the patio, Lee Industries sofa and wing chair mingle with Century Furniture club chairs and a pair of new concrete benches from Formations that look like antiques.

Leslee Mitchell

Every evening, Dave savors the luxury of retiring to a master bedroom that Farris designed as a private sanctuary set off from the rest of the house. Timber framing visually separates sleeping quarters from a sitting area outfitted with roomy chaises that face a fireplace and television. "It's so comfortable—the ultimate relaxation area," Rains says.

Leslee Mitchell

A masculine palette of warm grays and moss greens is accented by soft orange, a color journey led by the vintage rug that Rains chose for the sitting area. As in the home's gathering areas, antiques finish the suite with character and patina.

"This home is so close to my heart," Rains says. "It's left me with such wonderful memories—I can picture being at the Paris flea market or at Brimfield choosing pieces. But even better than that is seeing how much Dave loves his home and how he shares it so generously with all the people in his life."

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