This Savannah Homeowner Shows Us How to Find the Charm By Embracing Old House Surprises
Savannah boutique owner Courtland Stevens makes the most of a quirky aged home.
The stately brick house had curb appeal that Courtland Stevens just couldn't curb. "It has such a cool presence from the street—this funky, boxy, fig-covered house—not what you normally see in town," says the owner of Courtland & Co., a fine linens-and-interiors boutique in Savannah, where antebellum Georgian and Victorian architecture abounds. Smitten, Stevens and her husband tried twice to buy this place before finally snagging it in 2018. Built in 1923 by a Greek Orthodox family (the small upstairs was designed as two prayer rooms), the home has a traditional floor plan that appealed to her. "I love division of space, using each area for its own purpose," says the mother of two, who frequently entertains. But every one of those rooms was a monochrome gray and "kind of joyless," Stevens recalls, so she set about turning "each into its own color box," infusing variations of greens and blues, lively art, and chintz galore. Just when they were getting settled, the entire plaster ceiling in the living room caved in. "It was a total disaster, but I got a pretty ceiling instead," says Stevens, who added lacquered latticework to amp up depth and interest. Such curveballs are to be expected with an older home, and to her, are part of the charm. She's embraced the house's quirks and let her design evolve. "I didn't really have a plan—I'm not that organized," she confesses. "I just knew I wanted it to look like a lot of fun. You can do that with paint and saturated colors without spending a fortune."
Creeping fig engulfed the entire facade when the Stevenses bought the house, which was originally painted white. "I shaped it so now it covers only the upper half. Someone along the line exposed the plain brick. I wouldn't mind it painted again, but I don't want to lose the fig," she says, despite its need for frequent trimming.
Dial Up the Details
"The front door is our main entry. It's nice to come into something pretty rather than a mudroom," says Stevens, who custom matched the emerald paint to a pot from Target. "I call it Target Bucket Green—it's super moody but cozy." The vintage brass chair and hat rack is from her grandmother's closet. Stevens dug the pendant out of a sale bin at Circa Lighting.
Take a Few Decorating Risks
Thanks to the ceiling disaster, Stevens had to redo her living room, salvaging some things and starting over elsewhere, including trying out the latticework (painted Wimborne White, No. 239, by Farrow & Ball). "I'd never done it before but thought, 'Why not?' " she says. The green silk velvet sofa "got karate chopped in half," during that incident but was fortunately repairable. Meanwhile, she replaced a dark carpet with this light wool weave. "It feels so grown-up to have a white rug. It makes the room so airy, and the pattern plays off the ceiling well," she says.
Learn to Love Pattern
Old-school elegance seasoned lightly with spunk is de rigueur at Courtland & Co., and that mix carries over here. To wit: The dining room walls are covered in Stark's Raphaël by Sandberg. "It reminds me of wallpaper my grandparents had," Stevens says. The table belonged to the former homeowners. The designer is unfazed by the contrasting patterns. "The white chairs calm it down, so I have a busy blank canvas," she says.
The study is a favorite spot for casual drinks with friends. (It also opens to the garden.) The room's decor began with the two paintings over the sofa, the work of a Savannah College of Art and Design student. "I liked that they were loud and large-scale," says Stevens, who—not one to shy away from bold elements—originally painted the ceiling as well (Lulworth Blue, No. 89, by Farrow & Ball). "It was too wild, so I put that paper up instead. It's still nuts but not as nuts." The pattern runs horizontally to make the room feel wider, and the Stark antelope rug is similar to one her family once had. "It was in every house we lived in. I had to have it here," she says.
Let Yourself Cheat (Sometimes)
A pergola-covered seating area and adjacent koi pond create an inviting space for outdoor entertaining, but the backyard extends far beyond on the other side of the pond. Stevens installed AstroTurf to reduce maintenance. "You'd never know. I'm all for simplified upkeep. What I love about this house is that it's plush but easy," she says.
"If the ceiling hadn't fallen down, I would have gotten a new kitchen," says Stevens, who instead refreshed the existing cabinetry with a new backsplash, countertops, and waterfall marble on the island's sides. The custom banquette occupies a prime spot, looking out onto the front yard. "We spend a heck of a lot of time in that cozy little corner," adds Stevens, who chose Calke Green, No. 34, by Farrow & Ball for the walls. She had the table made with a sturdy base and frequently changes the banquette fabric. "Stanley Steemer lives in that kitchen," she admits.
Upstairs, the main bedroom spans the front facade. "All five windows are steeped in Spanish moss. When they're open, it's just fantastic," Stevens says. To fill the large space, she chose the biggest bed she could find. "The four posts are sleek and whitewashed, which goes with the gray walls," she says of the only room they didn't repaint. She selected a mix of vintage linens from her shop's D. Porthault collection. A painting by local artist Katherine Sandoz pulls together the room's hues.
Bring on the Charm
Stevens' daughters, ages 8 and 4, share the upstairs bedroom—an ode to timeless beauty and happy hues, starting with the classic Colefax and Fowler Bowood wallpaper. "That print has always been in my house or my store, so I wanted to find a place for it," says Stevens. The Hickory Chair bed, upholstered in lavender fabric, is outfitted in a collection of heirloom D. Porthault linens.