Making Contemporary Comfortable
* Keep it simple: Ben and Stacy chose white walls and minimal trimwork throughout their house to provide a backdrop that didn't compete with their unique elements. "Many times good things such as nice design, fine furniture, eye-catching accessories, and artwork get lost if you add too much color," Ben says. "If everything is fighting for attention, then nothing gets noticed."* Find some furniture with personality: While the Mosleys weren't heavy-handed in their decorating, they didn't want the house to feel cold or uninviting. So they looked for furniture that not only was appropriate for each space, but also could take everyday use and still look good.* Don't forget the down-home touches: Apart from their colorful collection of artwork and accessories, it is Estella's creations that, understandably, get the most attention. In fact, the display niche in the living area is entirely devoted to her handiwork.
Whoever said that a book shouldn't be judged by its cover forgot to mention that the same applies to houses. And when it comes to Ben and Stacy Mosley's home, a thorough examination of the front and back is required before rushing to any assumptions. Even then, you just might be tempted to ask, "Is this the same house?" The Mosleys are accustomed to this reaction. From the street, their abode displays an undeniable Southern charm, with a cozy front porch, an inviting stoop, and a recessed entryway. Step around back, and tradition gives way to a modern brown box and a streamlined, multilevel deck. Even the landscaping changes from conventional shrubs in front to a backyard containing exotic grasses and clipped junipers with an almost Zen-like quality.
So what's the reason for this blend of two completely different styles? For starters, the couple chose to settle in the old Germantown district of Nashville, which has been around for more than 150 years. "For such a small neighborhood (approximately 18 city blocks), Germantown has quite a diverse range of architecture," says Ben. As a residential designer, he felt obliged to find a place that, at curbside, reflected the surrounding historic fabric.
While the front meshes well with the community, in back the Mosleys saw the opportunity to deviate from a historically based appearance. "In light of the style diversity of the neighborhood, I figured that there was a place for our modern brown box as well," explains Ben. Consisting of a family room on the first floor and a master bedroom and bath upstairs, the addition--necessary to accommodate their expanding family--grew out of enclosing the Mosleys' former back porch. Keeping the horizontal cypress trellis of the porch, the couple installed storefront windows and sliding doors behind the thin members. Ben acted as his own general contractor and turned to friends Shelley Carder and James Murray for additional help.
Even the interiors received a makeover from one of Ben's college friends, interior designer Laret Casella. Working closely with the couple, Laret established a sleek look to flow with the contemporary addition. During the renovation all of the decorative trimwork and crown molding was removed to give the rooms a minimal elegance. Ben also replaced the base molding with simple 1 x 6 finishing boards. All of the new windows have flat casings as well.
Likewise, Ben and Stacy spent a lot of time thinking about and searching for the right materials and features for their house. Special touches such as the display niches found in the living and dining areas resulted from increasing the width of the wall between these areas and the stair hall. The bottoms of each niche are fitted with a stainless steel ledge that lips over the edge. These curved panels tie together all the other metal surfaces found in the house.
Ben achieved another horizontal effect by using open shelving in the kitchen. Constructed from maple veneer plywood and trimwork to match the cabinets, the shelves contain puck-shaped lights mounted underneath to highlight dishware.
While the house is decidedly contemporary inside and around back, several of Ben's design decisions serve as intentional nods to the more traditional elements of the neighborhood. One example: He chose to locate the stair hall directly beyond the front door and to one side of the house, which is a common trait in most of the Germantown residences.
With such a conscious effort to bridge two styles, the Mosleys have created an amazingly coherent home packed with volumes of great ideas, from cover to cover.
"Nashville Surprise" is from the March 2008 issue of Southern Living.