Tap into decades of design experience. Our former Homes Editor and his wife walk us through their dream house and share design secrets.
House Full Of Ideas
Credit: Van Chaplin

Louis Joyner served as a one-man dynamo in the Southern Living Homes department for nearly three decades. He brought our readers up to speed on the newest home-improvement tips and residential products. So when he and his wife, Gaye, built a new home in South Carolina, we couldn't resist visiting once the sawdust had settled.

Getting Started
How does someone such as Louis design and decorate his own place? "After 27 years of writing about interiors and architecture, I probably knew too much for my own good because there was a temptation to put in every good idea that I'd ever seen," Louis admits. "Gaye and I went through our files of tear sheets and narrowed them down."

The couple also worked with a talented group of professionals to bring their goals to fruition: residential designer Miles Gandy Whitfield, builder Tim Hager, designer Carol Lund, and landscape architect Andrew Smith.

A New House With Age
The Joyners relocated to the new community of I'On in Mount Pleasant. They favored this development because of its commitment to traditional neighborhood and architectural values. "We wanted a new house that looked as if it had been around for years," explains Louis, "and I'On was a great place to accomplish this."

The couple sought the best of both worlds by building a new home with modern comforts that captured a heritage and craftsmanship of the past. "The concept was to create a house that looked as if it had been added on to over time," Louis explains.

Inspiring Ideas
Louis and Gaye may have found it challenging to whittle down their wish list; nonetheless, they achieved great results. Here are six of our favorite ideas found in their new home.

1. The orientation of the Joyners' house was initially difficult. "This was an unusual site for I'On," Louis says. "It's a corner lot with wetlands along the back and a park along one side. Eventually, we determined that orienting the house to face the wetland preserve and putting the garage on the front corner near the street worked best for privacy and parking."

2. Creating a home to appear as though it was built in stages requires well-thought decisions about overall design and materials. "The original house, so to speak, is the front portion with a center hall, which was typical of homes built in this area during the late 18th century," Louis explains. "The wing perpendicular to the front sector, which contains the kitchen and family room on the first floor and the master suite above, hints at being an add-on."

While these portions are covered with siding, builder Tim Hager stuccoed the garage and home office to mimic an early kitchen outbuilding. To tie together the garage and living quarters, Miles designed a connecting mudroom. Here exterior siding and stucco continue for an authentic touch.

3. This house functions well inside and outside because all of the main rooms lead to a porch, stoop, or other outdoor area. In particular, the lower side porch is one of the couple's favorite places to eat meals or relax--and they made sure that everything was just right. "I kept thinking that our side porch needed to be deeper [from 10 feet to 12 feet], and early in the process, I mentioned this to our builder," Gaye says. "That extra 2 feet makes all the difference."

4. There are no upper cabinets in the kitchen. "Because the space is such a visible part of the family room, we didn't want it to look too much like a kitchen," explains Louis. A large walk-in pantry nearby holds dishware, food, and utensils.

A built-in armoire that incorporates the refrigerator lines one wall. An island, topped with granite, contains a cooktop and provides storage.

5. Placing the front rooms four steps up from the family room makes the house look as if it were expanded over time. "Our goal was that the front part of the house would be more formal," Louis points out. "Then things would get progressively more casual as we moved to the family room, mudroom, and garage."

6. Expanding the corridor wall thickness made the built-in nooks in each room possible. "Louis and I asked Miles to design a pair of recessed nooks in the dining room and study but to make them different," Gaye says. "The curved shelves in the dining room soften the room and provide display space."

The Saga Continues
As expected, this energetic couple stays on the go. Louis also keeps busy with photography, furniture-making, and freelance work. Lucky for us, his commitment to learn--and to educate--has never stopped.

Keep these pointers in mind whether you're restyling a kitchen or designing your dream house.

  • Talk often with your builder and designer. Chat on the phone, or fax sketches and photos from books and magazines.
  • Spend time at the location. "Gaye and I walked through our house while it was under construction," says Louis. "We got a feel for the space and how the light changed. We took folding chairs and sat in various places to get different perspectives."
  • When in doubt, mock it up. The couple created a kitchen island with sawhorses and plywood to verify its size and location before the real thing was built.
  • Look beyond books. Often, you can find great ideas while watching a movie or TV. Also, stroll through furniture stores and pay attention to displays.

This article is from the Favorites 2005 issue of Southern Living.