The approach to this elegantly stunning French Country home is like a storybook illustration, even in this photograph, taken in the early morning during an oppressive heat wave. By 9 am we were well in excess of 90 degrees, and the brief overnight shower provided no relief, only making the Southern muggy air even thicker.
But as we stepped inside, the uncomfortable weather conditions were soon a thing of the past.
Interior designer Elizabeth Cabell, of Cabell Design Studio in Montpelier, Virginia, was contacted by the homeowner in the month of April for this design project – a 10,000 square foot French Country home in Charlotte, North Carolina. The homeowner’s instructions were, as Elizabeth explained to me, “Retain the French atmosphere that the house, obviously, exudes, but to create an environment in which they could live. They did not want a museum and they did not want a french fussy place full of country chickens. She specifically banned ‘toile de jouy’.” And one other item – the project had an August completion deadline!
Elizabeth Cabell, “Into the dining room…. This is the house for me. Quintessentially. Totally. This image, and the moment that you grabbed it, will forever remain in my memory. That moment represented completion for me. It was the visual fruition of the months of planning, presentation, ordering, straining, solving, sweating, swearing and smiling captured in an instant. I love the doors, they allow the house to breath with more life than the new owners could ever hope to provide. They add the sense of history and permanence that a house of this magnitude should have, a grounding, lest it become too false. I love the way the light beckons the viewer into the room and the barest glimpse of the marbled back wall provides intrigue and interest. Funny, but this was one of the most sparsely population rooms and yet this picture still has the capacity to speak volumes.”
I spent two enjoyable days photographing this home, but the image above, one of the first taken, turned out to be the summation of the entire design project. As a photographer of interior design, I strive to not only capture an accurate visual representation of the project, but also the feel and the essence of the designer’s vision. Sometimes it is easier to get one part than the other. While struggling to get a photograph of the foyer that satisfied those requirements, I turned and saw this – a timeless scene of exquisite beauty.
“The doors came from an estate sale that the builder attended in France. They were part of an old chateau that had been demolished and portions of it were auctioned. They are truly one of a kind, handmade, incredible.”
And then sometimes the issue isn’t what to photograph, but what gets left out. I could have easily spent a half day in a creative reverie just in the master bedroom, but fortunately Elizabeth had some definite ideas about what she wanted to capture. The homeowner had insisted on a TV over the mantel. Elizabeth wasn’t too keen on the idea, but by locating a manufacturer of tapestries that are held on a remote control roller, she was able to find a solution within a proper historical framework for the house that was a happy ending for both homeowner and designer. The furniture, with the exception of the bed, was all being purchased from an antiques dealer in Italy, and then shipped in a container for an August delivery. There was an uncertainty over the dimensional information supplied by the antiques dealer, and Elizabeth was on pins and needles until the shipment arrived with the pieces all the correct size. The bed, ordered 13 weeks prior to the move in date, arrived in 10 weeks, but was ‘smashed to smithereens’ when it was unpacked. Somehow Elizabeth scrambled and found two replacement options, both ready to to ship, one of which the owners liked better than the original choice!
Elizabeth’s description of the master bathroom is all that is needed: “The rug was an adventure for the client and I. We found the perfect rug for the upstairs library in Pennsylvania. It worked well with the library chairs , bookcases and drapery which were going to live in there and the husband loved the colors. However, it was 6 feet too long! We asked the dealer, a very reputable Iranian who has been in the oriental rug business for 45 years, to cut it down to size and retain what remained. He did as instructed, serged the edges and added a trim for us and, voila, Master Bathroom rug! It was a great two-for-one moment for the homeowner, who at this point was dazed by the spending. The drapery, over the top treatment as usual, is an Old World Weavers embroidered silk. It is lovely and graceful and elegant and soft. The tan silk drapery panels underneath really support the lightness of this swag as the top treatment would be lost to the wall color, otherwise. The ottoman material is a Vervain, and one which I happen to love . It was a coup for me to have the client approve this one, as it’s much more contemporary than they prefer. They found a wonderful antique coat hanger / shelf on 1st Dibs which is only 9″ deep and fits perfectly in the niche behind the tub to store towels and bath things.”
Next post – the living room, chair details, kitchen, and library.