2002 Idea House: Abberley Lane

Inside and out, this classic house teems with ideas that reflect the historic charm of nearby Savannah.
Nancy Staab

Nestled in a landscape of oaks and loblolly pines, Abberley Lane is just a 15-minute drive, but worlds away, from the bustle of historic downtown Savannah. As part of the community of Westbrook at Savannah Quarters, this house boasts picturesque views of verdant fairways and a lagoon from the back porch, while its front facade overlooks a quiet lane. The architect, builder, and interior designers worked in tandem to create a home that combines Southern graciousness with all the amenities of modern design.

Historic Southern Details
Architect John Tee drew his inspiration from the beautiful homes of Savannah, Mobile, New Orleans, and Natchez. "They share a common richness that is derived from classical proportions and excellent detailing," he says. Ornamental ironwork, plantation shutters, French doors, gas lanterns, fanlight transoms, copper accents, and a formal entrance marked by a pediment and columns reflect that influence.

To create a distinct look and an aged appearance, builders Greg Hall and Steve Hall even treated the brick exterior with a rubbed mortar finish. John did not neglect an iconic element of Southern architecture--deep-set porches were added to the front and back of the house.

Architectural Elements Brought Indoors
The interior of this home complements the handsome facade. Greg and Steve subtly repeated materials from the exterior throughout the inside. For example, the iron balcony overlooking the family room reflects the ornamental railing of the front porch, while the copper crown molding in the kitchen echoes the copper roofing. Heart-pine flooring was used for an antique feel.

Native Plantings
The landscape, designed by Chuck Handley, capitalizes on typical native Southern plants, such as magnolias, 'Muskogee' crepe myrtles, viburnums, and azaleas, with little pockets of color and seasonal blooms.

Formal Spaces
A decorative garden lantern crowns the foyer ceiling, reinforcing the outdoor theme. The foyer opens on either side to the living and dining rooms through double cased openings copied from a historic Savannah home. A painted faux trim complements the casings. "The front of the house is more formal and traditional with a central hall, adjoining parlor rooms, and 10-foot ceilings," explains John. "As you progress to the rear, the design becomes more informal with an open, relaxed floor plan for today's more casual lifestyles."

Savannah Color Palette
When it came time to fill the interiors, designers Joci Firth and Cullen Albright derived inspiration from the natural beauty of the region. The color palette for the house takes its cues from the lush Lowcountry landscape. "We used primarily yellow, with accents of greens, golds, and blue-greens that call to mind the colors of the marshes and coastal islands," explains Joci. "The saffron yellow and green tones represent the rice plantations and marsh grass."

 

Curl Up With a Good Book
The designers created a library atmosphere for the living room with a fireplace setting and built-in bookcases. Small paintings were hung from the bookcase frame for an added decorative touch. Simple sconces mounted directly to the outside molding provide extra light for reading. A secret compartment, while not shown on the plan, was built into one of the bookcases to conceal valuables. The rich wall color complements the yellow toile and blue-and-ivory silk fabrics.

Refined Dining
The dining room, in ivory and celadon green tones, overlooks the graceful iron railings of the front porch. Because of the room's rigidly square dimensions, Joci and Cullen chose a skirted round dining table to provide contrast. Instead of using an expensive wood dining table, they disguised the basic table form with a dressy silk tablecloth. This simplicity is balanced by elegant dining chairs. The china cabinet provides display space. Wainscot with raised panels and elaborate crown molding add depth.

Room With a View
With its 24-foot-tall ceiling, the family room takes full advantage of the house's scenic views. Three pairs of French doors, which open onto the back porch, and a set of clerestory windows flood the room with natural light. A simple pediment above the mantel, made from coordinating molding, serves as a nice focal point. This is a clever way to add a classical look to a fireplace.

Joci and Cullen warmed up the space with comfortable furnishings in casual moss green-, wheat-, and salmon-colored fabrics. They chose large-scale pieces to match the lofty space. The walls repeat the same green tones of the foyer and bring continuity to the decor. A coffered ceiling, decorative interior balcony, and wrought iron-and-wood staircase leading to the second floor add architectural appeal.

Copper-Trimmed Kitchen
The ceiling of the spacious kitchen is paneled in cypress for a rustic Lowcountry feel. "The pecky boards are meant to recall the old cypress that was dug out of Savannah swamps, reconditioned, and milled into planks," notes Greg. Floors were covered with a unique tile that has a wood-grain appearance. Tile was chosen over wood for its durability, while its gray-green finish perfectly matches the massive 11-foot center island that anchors the space. Greg also complemented the vintage look with unusual copper crown molding and custom beaded-board cabinets. The striking copper was repeated on the vent hood above the cooktop. The back stairway landing, just off the kitchen, is filled with an oversize reproduction clock face, which serves as functional art.

Casual Meals
Cypress boards were used to panel both the ceiling and the walls of the adjoining breakfast room, which overlooks the back porch. The windows are dressed with a simple scalloped valance so as not to obstruct the view. The green, yellow, and rose fabric of the valance and tie-back chair cushions coordinate with the green tones of the kitchen. An antique breakfast table and a reproduction Welsh hutch for china display round out this charming space.

Convenient Office
The family information center, which can be approached via the garage or the kitchen, "serves as a central catchall for the mail, keys, schoolbags, and stuff that usually gets stacked up on a desk," says John. Cubby-hole mail slots help organize the clutter. The center can be equipped with a fax machine, computer, printer, and phone. It even includes cell phone stations where family members can charge up their mobiles. A pet station with built-in water bowls and leash hooks accommodates family pets.

 

Serene Retreat
For privacy, the master bedroom is tucked into the back corner of the first floor. The hallway leading to the room functions as a family photo gallery. The soothing bedroom is swathed in gray-greens, golden yellows, and touches of salmon that reflect the rest of the house. Antique-inspired furnishings such as a Sheraton dresser and modified rice bed fill the space. A tray ceiling with innovative cove lighting incorporates a distinctive accent. Above the fireplace is an oversize mirror that disguises a TV. When the set is turned on, the TV screen can be seen clearly through the transparent mirror surface. A walk-in closet and compact laundry room link the bedroom to the adjacent bath.

Relax in Luxury
The master bath boasts a sophisticated tone-on-tone color scheme of cream and ivory. Two sinks are separated by a stepped-down vanity area. Gold fixtures and sconces add an element of glamour. Framed mirrors are mounted against the larger mirror above the sinks to create a dazzling optical effect. The walls are covered with a faux-stone wallpaper topped with a Moorish arch border. An old-fashioned freestanding tub is set in a window alcove. A small TV is inset into a wall above the tub. Seamless floor-to-ceiling sheets of glass enclose the shower.

Green Oasis
The upstairs guestroom creates a serene haven in light green and ivory. A pale pastel palette was enriched with toile curtains and embroidered Chinese silk bedding. The sage green walls coordinate with the overall color scheme, while framed botanical prints add a touch of nature.

Clever Bath Solutions
A connecting bath adjoins the two upstairs bedrooms. Joci and Cullen took a novel approach to this bath's wall treatment--covering walls with brown kraft paper. "You can buy this paper by the roll for about $30 at an office-supply store and bond it to the walls with natural wheat paste," Cullen advises. The grocery-bag brown creates a surprising alternative to wallpaper. A wall of hanging straw baskets, hung from three stainless bars, stores towels and various bath supplies.

Ornamental Trim
Bring materials from your home's exterior indoors, whether decorative railing used for a stairway, rough-hewn stone for a fireplace, brick for flooring, or unique copper molding.

Area for Children
The playroom, which doubles as a kids' TV room, can also be converted into another bedroom or study as needed. The room overlooks the two-story family room through French doors that open onto a decorative iron railing. An array of yellow, green, and raspberry red prints adds youthful exuberance to this space. A sofa accented by throw pillows and a box-pleat ottoman, used as a coffee table, anchor the room. Windows are given a youthful treatment with a tassel-fringe valance. A handy desk set, placed into a side-wall niche, is lit by sconces.

Bonus Room
This additional area tucked above the master bedroom and garage could be used as a gym or home office. However, Greg and Steve chose to finish it as a game room that includes a kitchenette and various seating areas. The adjacent media room is comfortably furnished with four overstuffed armchairs and a movie screen framed by festive red plaid curtains.

Cottage Charm
The main garage, with its barn-style doors, includes an outdoor water spigot for washing the car or filling a watering can. The plan was designed with a detached third-car garage; this structure is a flexible space. Built as a shingle-style cottage, it could be used for a studio, guest apartment, or, in this case, a potting shed. There is even room in the adjacent garage to park a golf cart.

Live-In Back Porch
The 35-foot-long x 9-foot-deep back porch was "designed as an outdoor room," says architect John Tee, "and respects Southern porches of the past by using traditional shading devices such as a trellis at one end." Comfortable rattan chairs, cushioned in red, yellow, and green, add cheer to this outdoor living room. Ceiling fans help cool the space during sultry summer days, while three copper-finish lanterns contribute to the ambience.

Potting Table Project
Simple and versatile, this table can be a potting bench, buffet for entertaining, or workbench. It measures 48 inches wide x 21 inches deep x 32 inches tall.

Detailed plans and step-by-step instructions for our Potting Table Project are available for $4. To order send a self-addressed, stamped (with two first-class, letter-rate stamps), business-size envelope to Potting Table Project, P.O. Box 523, Birmingham, AL 35201. Please enclose a check for $4 payable to Southern Living Projects. Allow six to eight weeks for delivery.