Posts from the ‘Design/Build’ category

Interior workshop flyer

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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.

Luxurious French Country Home by Cabell Design Studio

But as we stepped inside, the uncomfortable weather conditions were soon a thing of the past.

Foyer

Foyer

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!

Luxurious French Country Home by Cabell Design Studio

Unique Handmade Doors from a Dismantled French Chateau

 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.”

Master Bedroom, French Country

Master Bedroom, Bed and Seating

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!

Master Bath Tub and Seating

Master Bath – Bathtub and Seating

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.

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Graham Jones, the owner of Hawks Hill Builders in Mechanicsville, Virginia,  knew this project was going to be a challenging build, but until he actually started he had no idea just how difficult the task was going to be. The building site was a steep slope adjacent to an existing home, with another dwelling not too far to the other side. Designed by architect Scott Stephens, the garage was going to be a three story structure, with storage on the lower floor, a three bay garage on the upper ground floor entrance level, and a large room on the top level to be used as an office, with two dormers on the front and a long single dormer on the rear. Due to the steep slope and the need to support the garage floor steel supports were going to be needed to uphold the building. This was definitely not the average residential garage, in scope, or in construction.

The front elevation of the finished garage.

The front elevation of the finished garage.

The rear elevation of the finished garage, and an indication of the steep slope of the the building site.

The rear elevation of the finished garage, and an indication of the steep slope of the the building site.

The 'before' photo, taken from the backside of the building site.

The ‘before’ photo, taken from the backside of the building site.

To get started two massive trees were cut down and the stumps removed, and then the excavation commenced. (All progress photos courtesy Graham Jones, Jr)

Giant stump

Giant stump

Some rock was encountered, which was not that big of a surprise. What was a surprise was that the encountered rock was almost one solid boulder, extending almost the entire length and width of the dig, and clearly not certain how deep. The project almost came to a halt.

Like an iceberg, only a small portion of the boulder is visible

Like a giant rock iceberg, only a small portion of the boulder is visible

However, the homeowner gave the go ahead to proceed, and proceeding meant blasting. Setting off dynamite in such close proximity to existing homes was not without its hazards. But with the help of highly trained explosives experts from Blasting Services of Rockville, Virginia, the massive boulder was slowly broken into manageable chunks.

After the dynamite -1

After the dynamite -1

These boulders were then used to shore up the new grade elevation at the bottom of the slope. Once excavation was complete, the garage proceeded to go up as originally planned. There were problems encountered, but none as big, literally or figuratively, as the enormous rock formation that nearly stopped this project before it got started.

Note the close proximity of the existing home. Not the ideal place to setting off dynamite!

Note the close proximity of the existing homes. Not the ideal place for setting off dynamite!

As seen in the above image, the rear yard was raised some 4 to 6 feet, anchored in place by the boulders blasted out of the garage site.

It took a huge amount of steel to not only anchor the building, but hold up the garage floor, the weight of three vehicles, plus the remainder of the building.

Steel beams support the weight of the building.

Huge steel beams support the weight of the building.

The steel beams are installed

The steel beams are installed

Of the three garage bays, the far left bay doubles as a wash station. A fully functioning, restored antique air pump fits in nicely in the back corner of the wash bay.

Wash Bay

The top floor, the office, is one big room with a fireplace at one end, and the stairwell, half bath, and cabinetry at the other. The front of the room has two dormers, while the rear has one long continuous dormer.

Fireplace

Fireplace

Stairwell wall, with cabinetry and half  bath

Stairwell wall, with cabinetry and half bath

Hawks Hill Builders, LLC, R. Graham Jones, Jr., Owner, 7029 Hawks Hill Lane, Mechanicsville, VA 23111 hawkshillbld@comcast.net

Click on any image below to take you to a slideshow of big images. Thanks for looking! Please leave comments, I’m interested to hear what you have to say!

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