To be described as “approachable and easy to get along with” is rarely a bad thing, unless it refers to an interior and designer Suzanne Hall is doing the talking. “The décor felt pedestrian and formulaic,” says Hall, describing Stacy Smith and husband Ben Johnson’s Sugar House home. “It was not nearly as interesting or witty as its owners.” The family house lacked personal style as well as a comfortable layout, so Hall—V.P. of Design for Alice Lane Interiors—teamed with design principal Jessica Bennett and designer McKinley Emmett to propose a bold refresh and remodel. Smith and Johnson eagerly embraced their ideas and, in return, got an updated family home that is as fashionable as it is functional.
All photos by Lindsay Salazar
“Over the years, we had done some superficial improvements, but definitely not a major overhaul,” says Smith, referring to the modestly sized, two-story abode her family has lived in for 14 years. The new redo included both structural and cosmetic changes that began with the outmoded kitchen and then flowed throughout the house.
“You always start with the kitchen; that is the heartbeat of the home,” Hall says. “It’s also the biggest investment.” Plagued with small windows, clustered cabinetry at one end and a lone banquette at the other, the kitchen was awkward, imbalanced and decoratively dated. The designers transformed it with a functional floor plan and dazzling details. “Now it’s the star of the show,” Smith says.
The creative team reconfigured the kitchen and eliminated the work area’s galley-like formation. “The new layout makes all the difference,” Smith says. “It’s so functional and now I have a lot more fun cooking.” With the layout in order, the designers focused on filling the room with natural light and fearless style. They framed the new range wall with corner windows fronted by open glass shelves. Upper cabinets are noticeably absent. “We like to have a wall without upper cabinets to widen a room,” Emmett says. A brass-knobbed Ilve range anchors the focal wall brilliantly. “It’s a big hero and deserves the moment it creates,” Hall explains. The dark green range inspired the sophisticated hue of similarly colored cabinetry fashioned with flat-fronts and brass inlays. “The blackened green color makes the room feel less like a kitchen and more like a gorgeous custom scene you’d expect out of a cool restaurant or bar,” Bennett explains. Agreeing, Hall adds, “We are in a design renaissance now. People are so exposed to everything, so we want to create things they haven’t seen.”
This innovative and imaginative approach fueled jaw-dropping kitchen details at every turn. A two-toned marble floor delivers stunning pattern and Mont Blanc quartzite turns the backsplash and countertops into “grand gestures,” Hall says. Because this kitchen—like most others—is a series of straight lines, rectangles and boxes on every plane, the designers introduced circular brass pendants, curved counter stools and rounded-corner brass cabinet inlays that “make the kitchen feel custom and take the edge off,” Bennett explains. The team pulled no punches. “It’s big design for a small space,” Emmett says.
The transformation of the main level’s other spaces is no less remarkable. In the dining room, for example, the designers removed conventional crown molding and low wainscot to make space for chic vertical panels crafted from classic molding. “Applied finish work is one of the least expensive ways to elevate a décor,” Emmett explains. Creating a lesson in tension, a “crisp” white-and-black photograph juxtaposes with the adjoining living area’s antique rug while a gilded iron chandelier hangs above a polished table for contrasting effect. “Yin and yang is important,” Hall explains. “If everything is the same, nothing gets celebrated.”
In the living room, the designers grounded a freshly furnished gathering space with an antique rug luxuriously layered upon a natural jute rug. A new sofa and eye-catching zebra-patterned accent chairs surround a surprisingly large coffee table. “Go big where you can in small rooms,” Hall suggests. “It makes them feel more gracious.” The TV hangs above a handsome fireplace reimagined with a black marble surround, creating a single focal point from the all-too-often competing elements. Sheer, floor-to-ceiling drapes visually raise the ceiling, and walls—painted a shade of warm white—enrich all of the home’s sophisticated living spaces. The small library, clad in brilliant teal, is a striking exception. “Enveloping a room in color makes it feel larger,” Hall explains.
Upstairs, the designers wrapped the primary bedroom in soft beige grasscloth and painted existing wall panels to match, melding them into the décor. “We didn’t want a distracting accent wall,” Hall explains. “A bedroom should be a hushed moment.” Beautifully draped windows, luxe bedding and a rug layered upon plush carpeting help ensure that this space is exactly that. “It’s as nice as any hotel,” Smith says. “It’s so indulgent.”
The remarkable redo proves just how big of a change good design can make in a small home. “This is definitely custom work and you have to find the right people to create it. The designers were amazing, and they brought the best craftsmen and artists to the project,” Smith says. “We couldn’t be happier with the results.”
We covered another project from Alice Lane Interiors in starlet Rachel Parcell’s home, you can find it here.