There’s something completely charming about a 1940s-era brick ranch-style house, and Adrian Johnson and Bethany Vann, of Johnson + Vann Interiors will completely agree. One of their recent projects involved such a house, and the two, along with Harrison Design, did a total renovation complete with all the modern conveniences, but with the old-school charm intact.
“There have only been two previous owners, and not much had been done,” said Vann. “The new owners wanted to keep the charm, so we worked within the footprint of the house.”
Walls were knocked down, and the kitchen expanded. Part of the renovation included vaulting most of the ceilings in the four bedroom, four-and-one-half bath house, to give an illusion of extra space.
Like all good design projects, this home on Sea Island Drive had a starting point.
The owners, from Nashville, Tenn., are a married couple and their teenage daughter.
After stepping over the threshold and into the home’s living spaces, one of the first things visitors will notice is the use of bright white paint throughout the house. The white provides a neutral, but fresh, backdrop for pops of bright colors, including blue, orange and green.
“The kitchen backsplash started it all,” said Vann. “She wanted that shade of blue.”
The bright blue backsplash, made of glass tile, has a reflective quality that gives it both lightness and texture. No window treatment was used in kitchen either, because the window overlooks a charming courtyard garden.
The master bedroom is another such example.
With its celery green ceiling and jewelry-like turquoise chandelier that hangs suspended over the bed, the colors exude relaxation and an island vibe, albeit with a sophisticated twist.
In the daughter’s bedroom, colors used are orange and hot pink against a bright white background.
Local, original art throughout the house expands on the colorful palette.
“It’s bright; there’s a lot going on,” said Johnson, explaining that people are more likely to take design risks with a second home. “There are a lot of patterns, but it’s whimsical, not kitschy.”
“When you walk into that house, it’s just hard not to smile,” she said. “But when you use color, you have to show restraint, you have to edit and use color strategically. Color can quickly overwhelm a room.”
One nod to quasi-formality is found in the study, with its beamed ceilings and rolled-arm sofa. The sofa is paired with “island-style” chairs, and a leather trunk coffee table. An antique flag of the United States, framed, hangs on one wall. Vann referred to the look as “Americana,” in the tradition of designer Ralph Lauren.
“We didn’t want to do the traditional dark wood-paneled walls,” Johnson said. “So, we wrapped the walls in grass cloth, which gives the room a cozy feel, but not so formal.”
And, in what may have been born of a converted coat closet, a powder room, with feather-printed wallpaper and a glass-front vanity, was installed in the hallway.
“The homeowner said she wanted some organic elements brought in, so this was our nod to that,” Johnson said.
Vann said the “glam” mirror-front vanity is fun in such a small space.
“It’s tiny, so we went for drama,” she said.
Living so close to the beach, there were practical considerations as well. All of the fabric for the furniture used in the design process is Sunbrella, which is recommended for both indoor and outdoor uses because it handles moisture so well. The living room coffee table is laser cut marble, which is also a low-maintenance material, ideal for the beach.
“It’s classic, but totally updated,” said Johnson of the once red brick house, which was whitewashed during the renovation. The shutters were painted blue-black, and greenery, interspersed with colorful hydrangeas, was planted. “It’s very high-end, but it seems attainable, gracious and not out of reach.
The end result, Vann said, is the product of the process.
“They trusted us,” she said. “It was great; they described their vision to us and then just trusted us. That rarely happens in a renovation.”
Vann said that the house was completed just before Easter and the family arrived to see it on Good Friday.
In fact, the couple still drops by the Johnson + Vann studio on Market Street just to tell the designers, “We still love our house.”