2021 Idea House: Step Inside Our Dreamy Kentucky Home
On a bluff overlooking the Ohio River, our 2021 Idea House in Louisville, Kentucky, shows off the pastoral beauty of the Bluegrass State. Find inspiration around every corner in our new-old home.
Home took on an entirely new meaning in 2020. As we started planning our 2021 Idea House, we imagined a comfortable, welcoming place for a family to live, work, and play. With Louisville, Kentucky, tapped as our location, we called on builders who know the Bluegrass State best—Jason Black and Jimmy King of Artisan Signature Homes (a member of the Southern Living Custom Builder Program)—to bring our vision to life in their own backyard. Nestled in a new development, The Breakers At Prospect, this house sits on a prime waterfront lot along the Ohio River. The builders were joined by architect Brandon Ingram, interior designer Sarah Bartholomew, and landscape architect Josh Myers to dream up a new home filled with tried-and-true decorating ideas. "A house can feel traditional and still live for today," Brandon says. Here, classic looks anything but outdated. Inspired by historical architectural precedents from around the South and coastal New England, Brandon designed a 5,545-square-foot Colonial Greek Revival cottage he named Riverbend (SL-2066). "The house doesn't give away all its secrets the minute you walk through the front door. It's a home you have to explore, and every new room is a surprise," he says. See how this extraordinary team balanced livable and lively ideas.
"The Doric columns make this house feel old and grounded," says architect Brandon Ingram. Durable and rot-resistant James Hardie siding is painted Sherwin-Williams' Emerald Rain Refresh Exterior Snowbound (SW 7004). The shutters and Clopay garage doors are painted Sherwin-Williams' Emerald Rain Refresh Exterior Roycroft Bottle Green (SW 2847).
Make a Subtle Intro
Instead of a rug, Sarah painted the entryway's floors in a checked pattern (which she carried through the interiors). Millwork gives a new build old-house charm. "We used that as a way to make each space unique but keep a consistent thread that runs throughout," Brandon says. The home starts out formal in the foyer but begins to relax as you move from room to room. "Exploring the house is like getting to know the family better as a guest—it loosens up," he says.
Fit For a Crowd
"I wanted this to be a defining comfortable space," Sarah says. In the living room, she kept the palette light with neutrals and touches of blue. A mix of lounge-worthy furniture provides plenty of seating for piling in this central gathering area. Transitioning from the dramatic foyer to a more intimate living room, Brandon added beams "to visually drop the ceiling. It's like wearing a cozy sweater—you feel at ease in a space that's not excessively large," he says. Maximizing natural light, the team installed Marvin Signature Ultimate Swinging French Doors that open to the porch. "Every pane is a frame around the view," Brandon says.
The best way to keep a Kentucky living room ready for company? A built-in bar with a Monogram Appliances wine fridge and bourbon from Log Still Distillery.
Build In Surprises
"This is where an adult could sneak away to work, or it could double as a place to hang out with friends over a glass of bourbon," Sarah says of the library. She wrapped the room in a woven wallcovering by Phillip Jeffries (Manila Hemp in Truffle Brown). A decorative artist created a stencil that mimicked the eclectic mix of fabrics and painted a border underneath the molding.
A hidden desk built into the bookcase can be pulled out for conference calls and put up for cocktail hour. The tufted banquette with chocolate brown upholstery by Grant Trick Furnishings makes the small space feel like a tucked-away escape from the hustle of the house.
Design for All Occasions
"The formal dining room is the center of memories, especially in Southern houses," says Brandon, but he found a happy medium between dressy and laid-back. It can stay open to the kitchen for everyday meals, but concealed pocket doors can close for dinner parties. Sarah also balanced high and low, starting with the wallcovering (Lorenzo in Taupe on Oyster by Bennison Fabrics from Ainsworth-Noah). "It's a formal damask pattern executed in a casual way," she says. She paired an antique farm table with wicker chairs. "Mix pieces your grandmother may have passed down with newer ones. It doesn't feel brand-new but doesn't seem dusty," she says.
Instead of wallpaper, Sarah opted for strié, a painting technique that mimics the textural look of a covering like seagrass, with olive and cream shades. The Wellborn Cabinet, Inc. vanity in olive is special to the space thanks to a custom counter and backsplash. "Bring one piece of old into every room," Bartholomew says of the antique Queen Anne mirror. A pair of cheeky Nickey Kehoe Scalloped Sconces help the welcoming formal powder feel more relaxed.
Give Classics a Refresh
"Over time, the Buttboard used on the walls and ceiling will continue to move, adding to the home's character," says Jason. Inspired by Bunny Mellon's signature painted wood floors, Sarah perked up the cabinetry (in Sherwin-Williams' Emerald Designer Edition Snowbound, SW 7004) with a blue-and-white geometric pattern underfoot. "I like a warm white paint that has a good balance between gray and yellow undertones. I imagine having a bright white and then rubbing a little bit of dirt in it—that's my perfect shade," she says. The butcher block atop the island adds a "casual warmth," which is further complemented by brass accents on the Monogram Appliances range.
"Open shelves float in front of the window and get integrated into it," says Brandon, who added the extra storage without obstructing the view. The prep space overlooking the porch is prime for hosts. Mix drinks, arrange a charcuterie board with Kerrygold USA cheeses, and serve guests outside.
The rear kitchen (left) serves as a pantry, coffee bar, and appliance-storage area. At the far end of the rear kitchen is the scullery (right), which is right off the dining room. Dinnerware from The Southern Living Collection Exclusively at Dillard's can be displayed in glass-front Wellborn Cabinet, Inc. cabinetry. Use the extra counter space for party prep. Sarah continued the painted floor from the kitchen throughout this adjacent area.
Redefine Hardworking Spaces
The colorful studio is like "the family epicenter," says Brandon. Connected to the kitchen and laundry room, this space is a multiuse hub where kids can sprawl out with school projects at the table and parents can work at the built-in desk. Shelves and cabinetry provide storage for book bags, games, and art supplies. The bench seat takes advantage of the view.
"Areas that work hard can still be beautiful," he adds. Sarah brought a playful palette to the utilitarian space; Lake August's Nasturtium in Bigleaf wallpaper shines against trim in Sherwin-Williams' Emerald Designer Edition Leaflet (SW 9674). She used only durable Sunbrella fabrics in the studio (even for the shades), taking any stress out of potential messes.
Frame The View
Brandon describes the main bedroom, which is set in a back corner of the first floor, as "the catbird seat for the whole house." It's right off the living room, with French doors that open to the covered porch. "You have views, you have access, and you're connected. But you can also easily retreat," he says. Sarah emphasized the sweeping scenery by painting the trim Sherwin-Williams' Emerald Designer Edition in Silver Lake (SW 9633) and keeping the walls white (Sherwin-Williams' Emerald Designer Edition in Cotton, SW 9581). "It makes the color pop without feeling overpowering," she says.
Behind the scalloped headboard of the white-lacquered canopy bed by Reid Classics (which also includes hidden baseball bats in the posts, a nod to Louisville), the designer hung curtains to add another layer of softness to the bedroom.
In the adjoining bath, a freestanding cast-iron tub is wrapped in a basket skirt, which was woven from willow saplings by Kentucky artist Justin Roberts of Walk the Willow. Cafe curtains maintain privacy while allowing light to pour into the room.
Let The Sun Shine In
"Find things that speak to your past, and bring them into the house in an updated way," Sarah says. In the downstairs guest bedroom, the skirted coverlet recalls memories of beds at her grandmother's house, but it's kept fresh in a yellow-and-white ticking stripe. "It's a nod to the past without feeling dated," she says. Layering yellow textiles in various shades, patterns, and textures kept the palette feeling fun and cheery instead of bold and heavy. Connecting with the outdoors is a priority for every Southern homeowner. Marvin Awaken Skylights bring maximum sunlight into this space, transforming it into a comfortable and inviting place for weekend guests.
This bedroom could also function as the primary living quarters for aging parents with a Sleep Number mattress, an adjoining full bath (left), easy access to the laundry room, and a separate side entrance. A built-in morning bar (right) adds another hospitable amenity for weekend guests.
Don't Push the Color (Too Much)
Off the rear hall is a second powder room. Sarah painted the floor in a colorful checkerboard pattern. "It's a hardworking powder where everyone comes in and washes their hands," says Sarah, who kept the palette kid friendly. "It's not precious—it's just fun." The Wellborn Cabinet, Inc. cabinetry in aqua compliments the colors from the rear hallway.
Play Hard and Work Harder
Living beside a river inevitably means mud, so Sarah chose a large sink for soaking dirty clothes. A skirt hides cleaning supplies stashed underneath. "Every pup needs a spot in the house," says Sarah of the built-in pet nook in the laundry room. It's an ideal place for toys, a bed, and bowls of Pedigree dog food.
Dial Up Downtime
There's a "more the merrier" attitude upstairs in the family-friendly media room. An elliptical window lets natural light pour into the airy space, which Sarah wrapped in a wood-grain wallpaper by Nobilis. She kept potential spills in mind when designing the sofa, covering the base of the LEE Industries sectional in Sanders Oyster and the cushions in Nolan Marigold. "If you love a sport or activity, celebrate it," says Sarah, who hung vintage tennis rackets and brought in Oomph Home game tables that are ready for backgammon tournaments.
The media room's French doors open to a morning deck for indoor-outdoor entertaining and a bird's-eye view of the landscape. "You can capture some rays during the day and watch the sun set over the Ohio River in the evening," Jason says. A scalloped awning in Sunbrella's Oyster fabric can be rolled out to offer shade or provide shelter on rainy days.
Designate a Spot for Kids
Adjacent to the all-ages media room, the children's study doubles as a playroom and homework space thanks to the individual built-in desks. The Namay Samay fabric from Ainsworth-Noah used for the window treatments inspired the room's unexpected color combo of red and pale green. Sarah painted the walls Sherwin-Williams' Emerald Designer Edition Barely Pear (SW 9666) and chose a red-and-white ticking stripe for the window seat's cushion. "When red is used sparingly, it can make a space feel fun and still be sophisticated," she says.
Play the Blues
Almost every inch of this guest bedroom—from the ceiling and the floating nightstands to the bulletin board and light switch—is covered in a hand-painted stenciled pattern (Sherwin-Williams' Emerald Designer Edition in Azure Tide, SW 9684) by artist Ken Dean. "Keeping the design small prevents it from becoming overwhelming," says Sarah. She continued the blue-and-white scheme on the scalloped Capri Platform Beds by Oomph Home (covered in a playful striped fabric by Les Indiennes from The Lot Contributing Vendors).
A freestanding tub adds an old-fashioned touch. "Play with the floor as another surface," says Sarah, who carried on the blue-and-white scheme with Daltile tiles. With the sink framing the only window in the space, Brandon built in a sliding mirror that can be pulled out as needed.
Create Comfortable Guest Spaces
A Reid Classics walnut cannonball bed anchors the upstairs guest bedroom. Sarah swathed the walls in brown (Sherwin-Williams' Emerald Designer Edition in Tea Leaf, SW 9604). A bed topped with a comfy cotton matelassé from Taylor Linens is a soft place for visitors to land. To contrast with the dark walls, Sarah layered neutral textures and patterns like the rope-wrapped Kaipo Nightstand by Currey & Company and the lumbar pillow in Lee Jofa's Indian Zag fabric in Bark. She carried the scheme into the adjoining bath (shown below).
Listen to the Location
The home is oriented around the scenery to the rear, taking advantage of the panoramic views. "There's a connection to the outside from almost every room," says Jason. Landscape architect Josh Myers used manicured boxwoods and other shrubs from the Southern Living Plant Collection to incorporate the patio into the lawn.
Create an Outdoor Attraction
The rear covered porch (with over 500 square feet of living space) is divided into two sections: a dining room and a sitting area. "Typically, you see an outdoor living room attached to the main living room and an outdoor kitchen attached to a kitchen. We flipped that notion and set the outside living room right behind the kitchen," Brandon says. The Summer Classics Home teak furniture can withstand the elements, while low-maintenance Zuri Premium Decking in Hickory by Royal Building Products mimics the look of hardwood. A signature Southern "haint blue" ceiling is painted Sherwin-Williams' Emerald Rain Refresh Exterior in Misty (SW 6232). Centering the hangout zone around the fireplace keeps the space inviting year-round.
Located right outside the main bedroom, the Metropolitan Signature Kitchen by Kindred Outdoors + Surrounds is designed for weekend cookouts. Between the dining table, the lounge area on the patio, and the broad brick steps, there are plenty of places for guests to gather.
Enjoy the Setting
A bourbon pavilion in the backyard offers front-row views of the river.
To get a full list of sources from this year's Idea House, click here. If you're in the Louisville, KY area you can check it out in person.
Our 2021 Idea House Sponsors
Discover the difference Clopay garage doors make. Stunning styles and bold colors can't be ignored and make homes stand out.
Discover the endless design possibilities, trusted protection, and long-lasting beauty of exterior solutions by James Hardie, the #1 brand of siding in North America. jameshardie.com
Kerrygold butter and cheeses are made with milk from grass-fed cows that are raised the natural way—nurtured on small, family-run Irish dairy farms and free of growth hormones. The all-natural milk our cows produce is what makes our products so flavorful and creamy. We put the same care, quality, and craft into our all-natural cheeses as our beloved, richly flavorful pure Irish butter.
Log Still Distillery
Honoring a rich tradition of pre-Prohibition bourbon, Log Still Distillery is reviving the Dant family legacy one pour at a time.
Motivated by the reality that we now spend 90% of our time indoors, Marvin has married its 100 years of building expertise with a forward-thinking, people-first design approach that delivers an immersive experience and enhances the connection with the outdoors, promoting happier, healthier living.
At Monogram, it's not just one detail—it's many. We create appliances that look, feel, and perform as if they were designed perfectly for you. monogram.com
The PEDIGREE Brand
PEDIGREE feeds more dogs than any other brand and is committed to dog adoption.
Royal Building Products
Zuri Premium Decking combines the natural beauty of exotic hardwood with the durability and low maintenance requirements of PVC.
The Sherwin-Williams Company
Emerald Designer Edition paint and primer in one offers the finest in color with a virtually flawless appearance and our best hide yet.
Quality sleep is essential for your well-being. Sleep Number 360 smart beds deliver proven quality sleep through effortless, adjustable comfort.
Southern Living Collection Exclusively at Dillard's
Shop the complete Southern Living Collection for bedding, bath, home decor, and more. Available in store and online.
Southern Living Plant Collection
Want your gardens to look like the pages of Southern Living? Selected specifically for our Southern climate, these plants deliver.
Summer Classics Home
At Summer Classics Home, we've been turning our passion for breakthrough design and superb quality into original luxury home furnishings for generations. Family owned and operated, we continually innovate to bring you beautiful living, outdoors and in. Life's Best Moments. Furnished.
Sunbrella fabrics are the complete performance standard, with best-in-class comfort, color retention, cleanability, and quality that lasts—inside the home and out.
Wellborn Cabinet, Inc.
Wellborn has high-quality kitchen and bath cabinetry made in the USA. Offering both frame and full-access frameless cabinets, we offer wood, MDF, textured veneers, and matte and high-gloss acrylic doors from traditional to modern design.