A “Magical” House

By Nancy Miller
Photos by Jolea Brown

Becky Terry was cocooned in a bubble of good karma when she made the decision to sell her house and move to another.

“A couple walked into my house and said they wanted it. Just like that,” she says. As if that weren’t enough of an amazing stroke of good luck, she was about to encounter another. Knowing her buyers’ house was for sale, and she was in the market for one, she went for a visit. It was a short visit. “I walked in and told them I wanted it,” she says of what essentially became a house trade. Adding to the unusual circumstances was the commonality of colors used in both houses. Clearly, she and the couple have similar tastes. The buyers further solidified the connection by purchasing some of her furniture that now remains in their house.

Terry, a partner in the medical practice Women First, thinks of her new Federal-style Highlands home as perfect for her objective of downsizing. She turned to interior designers Rick Jenkins and Virgil Vaughn for their vision and expertise. Especially intrigued with the design duo because she had been told Rick was “good with color,” she expressed to them that she hoped the house would be comfortable and cozy, a place where guests would feel welcome and would not be in a hurry to leave. 

“I wanted my home to be like a salon in Paris where Gertrude Stein would have held court. I thought of the rooms in my house as being spaces that would prompt conversations about art and other interesting topics,” she says.

She and the house “swappers” moved in and out on the same day. She hates the moving process but relishes the chance to create a totally new environment. Jenkins and Vaughn took many of the headaches out of moving. Familiar with the furniture she was relocating from her old house to the new one, they had planned out furniture placement before the van was unloaded.

“I’m not just a pop of color person. I love to be surrounded by color. Maybe that’s from being a brunette,” she says. Color in the house comes primarily from artwork, rugs and upholstered pieces. Other than in the den and kitchen, all of the walls have been painted a soft cream color.

A collection of antiques, such as the English sideboard in the dining room, and an old table that was restored by her father permeates the house with history.

Purple/brown walls and a red sofa lend an intimacy to the den, making it her favorite room. Formerly a bedroom, it still serves as a bedroom for visiting family to utilize a pull-out bed and appreciate the convenience of the adjoining full bath. On the wall is art of Café Tortoni, a tango club in Buenos Aires. “I have been to the club twice. I don’t do the tango because I have no coordination, but I love Buenos Aires. It’s so beautiful. Going there is like going to Europe without having the jet leg,” says Terry.

She and the designers converted the sunroom to a study that has the benefit of its light-filled predecessor. Off the study is a powder room where a touch of bling is introduced by lights from Turkey. Several lamps she had in her former house were given a refreshed appearance with new shades while several additional fixtures were integrated into the décor. One in particular reflects how she and her designers often thought alike. She had seen one in Pottery Barn that appealed to her although she didn’t buy it on the spot. Jenkins and Vaughn called to tell her they had found a light she should see. “When I realized that they were talking about the same one, I said, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s the one I liked!’”

Her attraction to color is evident in the living room where a cream color sofa and chairs allow rugs from Fran Jasper Oriental Rugs to provide a distinguishing character in reds, greens and blues. Terry chose to retain the original tile around the fireplace where the eye is drawn to two inserts of Medieval knights. On the wall are photographs by Julius Friedman and Chuck Swanson of the Ohio River. Had it not been for Jenkins’ and Vaughn’s suggestion of making two tweed chairs part of the living room décor, the chairs would have languished upstairs. “The chairs were in my other house. They’re so comfortable, but I never would have thought to put them in the living room here. But once they were, I realized they look great,” she says.

The dining room is distinctive for its apple green walls that the designers waxed. Occupying a prominent position is a painting by Carlos Gamez de Francisco. Traditional meets contemporary in the light fixture over the dining table.

Terry had the existing cherry wood kitchen cabinets painted a light cream color and changed the pale green walls to melon. The house’s former owners, GE executives, previously installed all GE appliances. “The range was electric, but I prefer to cook with gas. The owners knew that, and much to my surprise replaced the electric range with a gas one. I couldn’t believe they were so gracious. Who does that?” asks Terry. She is such a fan of the GE appliances that she, her dog Charlie, her daughter Nora and one of Nora’s friends were asked to be photographed in the kitchen for GE marketing material.

Opening off the kitchen is a breakfast area in which a daybed made by her grandfather provides seating for a distressed wood table from Arhaus. African accessories and personal mementos contribute to the space’s interest and warmth.

Not all of the redesign took place inside the home. The red brick exterior was painted white and the classic cedar, Chippendale-style fencing in the back yard was stained creamy gray and topped with copper finials.

A hectic schedule limits the amount of time she has to garden, so she selects plants that require minimal care. A plethora of hydrangeas dress up the garden with lush color.

As she walks through the house and looks over the garden, she says, “I have owned only three homes and I’m only the third owner of this house. To me, it is magical.” VT