Six Degrees of Separation

Contributing Writer

Once a year, Sarah Mitchell puts on the Julep Ball for 1,400 people at the Yum! Center.

Most other nights during the year, Mitchell puts on a dinner for six people at her Reserve Estates home in Oldham County.

Guess which is her first priority.

When Sarah and Tommy Mitchell built this 5,800-square-foot home, it was with the intense focus on the needs of family in mind. It began with a desire to live in the Oldham County public school system as her three sons began to grow. And it culminated with the birth of their fourth child, and first daughter, just three years ago last weekend.

That meant lots of space and the kind of wide open traffic patterns that four active children and all their friends would need. Also the ability to entertain friends and family, a big part of Sarah’s and Tommy’s lifestyle.

So they sat down with builder Tom Waller of Tom Waller Signature Homes to customize exactly what they wanted.

“Three boys need their space in order not to kill each other,” Sarah said. “And a little girl needs her own space, too. She doesn’t need to share a bathroom with her brothers.”

And it was even more than the four kids, she noted. “With four kids really comes 10 to 15 kids, because everyone has two or three friends every day. We wanted them to have the space they needed.”

The first floor, then, was created as the adult level – spacious kitchen, room for entertaining, and a place for Tommy to sit comfortably and watch Louisville basketball and Steelers football on the television.

The second floor is the kids’ level – and probably that’s all you need to say when there are three boys right in the middle of their most rambunctious stage. Nathan is 12, Jack is eight and Henry is six. Picking up and straightening up is not high on their priorities lists.

Ella Rose has what they call her “own wing,” to keep it separate from the boys.

Then Sarah brought in Natalie Officer of Natalie O Design to help furnish according to Sarah’s style, which is – what?

“I tried as hard as I could to put some character of the older homes into this house,” Sarah said. PC Home Store in New Albany provided all the windows and lighting in the house, including the chandeliers that provide the character and elegance she was after.

“If you know Sarah, it’s a Sarah Mitchell house,” Officer said. “Stylistically, Sarah’s probably the most traditional client I have. That’s not my style.”

Officer said clients tend to come to her when they want to be pushed out of their box a little bit, but “Sarah knows what she likes and what’s comfortable to her.”

Like pink. “Nobody would say I ever design using the color pink,” Natalie said, “but Sarah was adamant” – especially the bright patterned wallpaper in her home office, where as Director of the Julep Ball she works full-time planning every aspect of the University of Louisville’s annual Derby weekend fundraiser for the James Graham Brown Cancer Center.

Why pink? “I don’t know,” Sarah said. “Maybe it’s living with four men for such a long time. I wanted something for myself that’s a little girly.”

Otherwise, the palette is neutral, light and airy, dominated by a Benjamin Moore color called Revere Pewter. “In a big open floorplan like this one, there’s no great way to stop and start with a new color,” Officer said. “The transitions have to be super subtle.”

Other than pink, everything was fair game. “I always start with two questions,” Officer said. “What do you have, and what do you love that we can make new again and build around? I don’t believe in just getting rid of and replacing everything.”

One priority, for obvious reasons, was comfortable, durable, practical furniture. Another priority was a big master bedroom with lots of closet space and a huge bathroom. A large, freestanding tub allows for long, leisurely soaks.

Still, much of the house plan was done with the kids in mind, like a large mud room and cubbies for each child in the back and even a small shower to wash them down.

Also, Sarah said, “in the summer I do my work at a large island in the big open kitchen with lots of windows onto the back, so I can keep my eye on the kids out at the swimming pool while I work.”

After all, what is it they say about a woman’s work?

Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune