Fresh Style for an Old House
Bright colors and sheer fabrics bring light and energy to this family home.
There's more to the restoration of an older home than just renovating structural elements. Whether repairing or replacing floors, walls, and ceilings or updating heating, cooling, and electrical systems, such projects give homeowners creative license to breathe new life into the interiors as well.
Jamie and Lorenzo Brown, a busy Washington, D.C., publishing duo, sought to slow down their chaotic lives when they purchased a 1908 Prince George's County, Maryland, farmhouse and its surrounding property. The home was steeped in history and ready for a complete transformation.
Having lived in cities the majority of their adult lives, Jamie and Lorenzo were ready to start a simpler life. "Washington, D.C., is more hustle and bustle, and we enjoyed living there until, one day, my husband found this house," Jamie says. "Now it's nice to live here because it's a peaceful retreat. I told everyone I knew we were going to have fun creating our own unique hideaway." The Browns intend to keep the grand presence of the property with the home's wraparound porch, picket fence, trees, and barn.
The home's spacious interiors are filled with rich textures that contrast with sheer fabrics, oversize mirrors, and well-thought out details. It's a perfect marriage of simplified and elegant. "The Browns' house reflects Jamie's personality--warm, loving, and nurturing. It makes you happy," points out designer and family friend Sharne Algotsson.
Vestiges of Simple Living
In a sense, the farmhouse represents coming back to the things that are most comfortable and familiar to the couple. Though Jamie was raised in Chicago, her family is from Jackson, Mississippi, and Lorenzo grew up in Marion, Alabama. Having lived in various parts of the United States as well as in Sweden, they are open to different cultures.
"Both had very strong ideas about the interiors," Sharne says. "It was important that their home reflected a sophistication that wasn't too feminine or masculine. They knew what they wanted and asked me to help them connect the colors and fabrics."
Because the kitchen is the one room to which Jamie, Lorenzo, their sons, family, and friends always gravitate, the couple decided to expand the space. "My husband and I prefer to be in the kitchen," Jamie explains. "We dance, work, and laugh here."
"Jamie and Lorenzo wanted something warm, inviting, and bright, so I helped them with color choices in the kitchen," Sharne adds. "Lorenzo selected a terra-cotta wall color with hints of salmon and a sunny mustard trim color. The splash of blue creates a tropical look." Together, Jamie says, they are sunshine colors, representing the Earth and the water.
New cabinets in a cream-colored hue recall times past, as do the white farm sink, a long farm table, and a refurbished and repainted buffet that came with the house.
The couple incorporated a custom-made island, continuing the colorful Caribbean theme. They positioned a large, ornate, ebony-framed mirror high on a corner wall, which allows cooks and guests to see each other and converse more easily.
Quite a Parlor
The home's back parlor conveys a striking presentation of sky blue, lemon, and vanilla. Jamie says she wanted it to be personable. "My inspiration is a mix of the light and airy with ornate touches and color, always," she emphasizes.
"Jamie's love of vintage fashion and her eclectic style made the transition to decorating easy," adds Sharne. "Upholstering the furniture and treating the windows was like dressing up each room and bringing it to life. Shades of blue and yellow are prevalent in Sweden, and Jamie is drawn to them. Living in Stockholm made such an impact on her style."
Jamie has an eye for curtains. Sheer fabrics in a variety of colors are layered and draped in swags to provide an artful focus against sunny windows. "Jamie incorporates unique tiebacks and big flowers--all fun elements that bring life to a room," Sharne says. Other interesting touches include wall niches for hat boxes, artwork, and colorful purses.
Ornate mirrors are in every room of the house, serving both practical and fashionable purposes. "Jamie says she hardly looks in them, but I know she likes them for aesthetic reasons," Sharne notes. "Mirrors add sparkle, openness, and light to a room."
With a style that is festive and relaxing, coming home to the farm was never so inviting.