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Home for the Holidays

By Sam Boykin | Photography by John W. Adkisson

Posted: Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012

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It all started with a dirty couch. Although the Cornelius home sits on a lush lakeside lot and had been renovated a few times over the years, the interior design and style didn’t fit the owners’ lifestyle, as they often host parties and get-togethers. The furnishings and décor were dated and arranged in a choppy, segmented way that didn’t flow well together. Plus, there was the couch, which had originally been white but over the years had turned an ugly shade of brown thanks to the family dog.

Enter Starr Miller of the Cornelius-based StarrMiller Interior Design. She was charged with updating the look of the house and creating a warm and inviting environment where friends and family could gather and socialize, particularly during the holidays.

Thankfully for Miller, she had good bones to work with. At about 4,500 square feet, the three-story brick house, built in 1987, has three bedrooms and four-and-a-half baths. It also reflects the homeowners’ love of the lake. An upstairs screened-in porch and deck overlook the water, and is connected to a little outside flagstone patoio via a short stairway. Another set of stairs leads from the patio to the backyard, where the lawn is bordered with flagstones and meticulously landscaped shrubs and bushes, as well as oak, poplar and dogwood trees. Along the side of the backyard a flagstone path winds along a waterfall and stream and leads to a dock and sandy beach area at the lake.

Over the years the homeowners (who wish to remain anonymous), made several structural improvements to the house, including expanding the formerly cramped, horseshoe-shaped kitchen to an open, airy space with a handsome granite countertop island and large windows that look out onto the backyard.

The renovation opened up the entire main floor, so that the kitchen flows seamlessly into an informal dining room/breakfast nook and an expansive sitting room. This area is the heart of the house, where guests congregate, chat, and of course, eat. But overall the space lacked warmth and a cohesiveness design. .

Miller was first called to simply recover the dirty sofa, but once she and the homeowners started talking other projects took shape. Most pressing was the sitting room, which, like most of the main floor, has rich, southern chestnut hardwood floors and lots of windows. It also boasts a large stone fireplace with built-in, floor-to-ceiling bookcases on either end. It’s a great space, but the traditional “country cottage” décor was outdated and awkwardly positioned.

“It was almost like two separate rooms within one room,” says Miller. “The space needed to be opened up and pulled together.”

First, much of the older furniture was replaced with contemporary “transitional” pieces, Miller says, which feature clean, simple lines. This included four custom armchairs that took the place of an old sofa that bisected the room. The chairs were positioned in pairs and placed back-to-back, but angled inward, with each pair facing opposite ends of the room. So the chairs helped break up the large room, but the two distinct spaces still felt connected.

Elsewhere, stylish, open-arm chairs with funky stripe and checker designs were grouped next to coffee tables and sofas—including the newly upholstered sofa that remains the family dog’s favorite resting spot—creating intimate spaces throughout the room. “It created lots of different places for people to sit and talk,” says Miller. “During parties guests fill up every little nook and cranny.”

A mix of recessed and track lighting was installed, along with contemporary, earth-toned lamps. Other touches included whimsical polka-dot draperies and funky artwork. It was all tied together with a 20-foot custom wool and silk rug with tones of blue, copper and champagne.

With all the custom pieces and detailed touches, the main floor makeover was done in multiple phases over nearly two years. But the end result was just what the owners and Williams envisioned.

“All the designs and renovations were done with entertaining in mind, and it really shows,” says Williams. “It’s an ideal setting for holiday parties.”

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