13 Achievable Ideas Inspired by a 1926 Tudor
When it came to updating a mountain home in North Carolina, Barrie and Matt Benson found inspiration in the family's personality and style—as well as the house's history.
For the Bensons, the right mix for this project hinges on the right push-pull between traditional and fresh and feminine and masculine. Barrie's jewel tone color palette brightens the handsome bones of the 1926 Tudor house, while Matt's renovations honor its history and satisfy the needs of modern life. Just look to the living room's slightly too-high window seat. Rather than tear it down to rebuild a more typical perch, Matt and his team carefully refurbished it. Barrie then outfitted it with a cushion made from pink-flecked fabric and plenty of pillows. "That seat is our kids' very favorite place in the house," says the owner. "They fight over it; they cuddle up in it. It's the first place they go in the morning."
This all makes for a mountain house that's the happy home to a family of five…or depending on the weekend, 12 golf buddies or three families. And if you find yourself at one of their famous cocktail parties, you'll discover a guest list that spans from ages 4 to 94. Like we said—a mix.
The fact that this all functions so beautifully is a credit to Barrie, the Charlotte-based designer who thrives off bringing her clients' tastes to life in a more stylish way than they could have imagined on their own. In the case of this home, it also helps that the Bensons are close with the homeowners: Their daughters are best friends, and the wife is in a cooking club with Barrie.
Add in Barrie's deep understanding of how a family really lives. "I think part of why I can design so well for families is that I have one," she says. "I know what works, what stages to prepare for, and what questions to ask to understand how people are living in their homes." What's in her dossier? "Are you red wine drinkers? Are kids allowed to eat on the sofa? Do you use 17 shampoo bottles? If so, we're going to need room for that." Barrie's collaborations result in a house that's far more than just eye candy. See her brilliant ideas that offer inspiration for any home in need of a shake-up.
The Exterior: Build Up the Character
"I always try to bring a sense of history to the houses I work on," says architect Matt Benson, "but this one already felt old and historic. You can sense the age and craftsmanship as you turn the original door handle and feel its heft." It is certainly buoyed by the home's exterior, featuring stone foraged in the 1920s from a quarry that has since shut down. The stone is still echoed in some of the neighboring homes in town.
The Kitchen: Mask the Updates
"When we started out, the kitchen had a tired and economical 1950s feel, with linoleum sheet flooring and Formica countertops," says Matt. But his renovation, complete with white paneled walls, sleek dark wood floors, leather-finished soapstone countertops, and a dark steel hood, brought the look firmly into the 21st century while still feeling old. What's more, he and his team expertly excavated a small, hidden woodstove in the wall and transformed it into the kitchen fireplace that both the homeowner and Barrie praise as the highlight of the room.
This steel vent hood was buffed to a black matte finish to imitate the patina of an old woodstove.
The Breakfast Room: Add a Pop of Pattern
The breakfast room gets a wink from the modern chandelier (Vaughan's Colombier) and cheery seat-back fabric (Clarence House's Udai Crewel).
The Living Room: Balance, Don't Battle the Sexes
"You have to give credit to a husband who's confident enough to handle a pink-and-purple-themed living room," jokes Barrie. But the truth is, her expertly layered feminine touches are part of the well-executed yin and yang that balance the Tudor's more masculine architecture. Another tip to keep things from looking like a Barbie Dreamhouse? Weave in menswear-inspired fabrics like wools and plaids with floral and chintz patterns. And make sure the more ladylike prints always have a hint of black or brown. "This helps take the sweetness down a notch," says Barrie, "and puts a few warts on it."
The console next to the fireplace hides a TV, which the family pops open on days when it's too rainy or foggy for outdoor activities.
The Living Room: Let Patterns Speak
Barrie combined 10 different textiles and prints in a single, orderly viewpoint without flinching. "I'm not shy about mixing patterns," she admits, "as long as the scale is significantly different." Three boldly distinct but equally strong upholstery selections converse easily with one another in this mise-en-scène. The swivel chairs' leafy magenta-and-blue print (Sanderson's Rainforest Blackberry) leads the look, while the club chairs' deep violet linen adds a calmer counterpoint. The lighthearted purple, pink, and white leopard print on the window seat cushion (Lee Jofa's Feline by Kelly Wearstler) keeps pace with the other prints without overwhelming any of them.
A Brush Stroke Lamp by Bunny Williams Home invites a warm blue into the mix of the living room's jewel tone furniture.
The Living Room: Get Creative
"Pillows are connectors," Barrie says. "They really allow you to get creative with color palettes." Here, mauves, fuchsias, and mustards mingle together on the living room window seat.
The Built-In Bar: Give It an Accent
The three pink-rimmed plates on the wall belonged to a previous owner of the house. Barrie accented them with matching pink candles from Blackhawk Hardware in Charlotte.
The Front Hall: Create a Warm Welcome
Abstract art with lavender and yellow tones by Charleston, South Carolina-based artist Kate Long Stevenson and a brass lamp from Slate Interiors present an eclectic and warm welcome to the home.
The Front Hall: Make an Easy Update
An antique bench in the front hall gets updated with yellow paint and Ferrick Mason's Criss Cross fabric in Amethyste. The bench's saturated colors and striking lines hold their own against the hall's dark wood.
The Bunk Room: Focus on Flexibility
When it's just the family at home, the two daughters sleep in a bedroom, but when guests stay over, the girls move to the bunk room. "The bedroom has to work for people my age as well as 13-year-old girls," says Barrie. "So we made the color scheme really unexpected—acid green and purple. It's both sophisticated and youthful." In the bunk room, Barrie lined up four traditional Jenny Lind beds, which she modernized by coating them with bright red paint and adding a shaggy Moroccan rug.
Lampshades and pillows in Sister Parish's Burmese fabric and bright Euro shams elevate the simple space.
The Girls' Bedroom: Go Bold
John Robshaw pillows and bedding as well as a bold color palette make the daughters' shared room a comfortable and stylish place for visitors of all ages to stay.
The Master Bedroom: Lighten Up Tradition
With a homeowner who would "monogram her underwear if she could," as Barrie jokes, the large-scale appliquéd initials on the Leontine Linens bolster were a must. But to keep things looking more fun and personal, not prissy, Barrie brought in a vintage Moroccan rug—the tension it creates with the classic bedding makes for an irresistible space. "The owner's mother loves this room, and so do her friends who visit from Los Angeles," says Barrie. "It's the playful mix that really makes an impression."
Leontine Linens bedding holds court in the tranquil yet daring bedroom alongside gray chairs from Slate Interiors and a camel-and-pea green plaid bench.
The Back Porch: Think Outside the Walls
No matter the season, this home gels perfectly with its surroundings—whether the foliage is green, crisped by the brightness of summer, or autumn tinged. It's a credit not only to the stunning work by the home's landscape designer, Laurie Durden, but also to Barrie's color choices throughout. The homeowner praises her use of sky-influenced blues and grass greens that tie the home to its surroundings. The Restoration Hardware furniture is a great neutral backdrop for bright pillows.
This is the ultimate spot for enjoying a refreshing beverage, like the owner's signature "ace cocktail"—freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, soda, and splashes of lime and pineapple juices, topped with vodka.