Subtle Panache Meets Historical Character

By Nancy Miller

Photos by Jolea Brown

A refined aesthetic sense, a sharp eye for detail and an appreciation for historical charm coalesced in stunning harmony in this home that dates back at least 117 years and has had three or four additions.

When Penny Love, owner of Design Innovations, and her husband Steve Canfield, owner/broker of Canfield Realty Group, decided to move from their 10,000 square foot house, they looked at several properties before they visited this Prospect cottage, one of the original homes in the area. “We fell in love with it the first time we saw it,” says Penny. “I can tell within two seconds if a house has potential. I could see a lot of  possibilities with this cottage.”

To follow were structural modifications and a design facelift in parts of the house, particularly the kitchen. While such changes might be daunting for a homeowner who isn’t knowledgeable about construction and design, they were all in a day’s work for Penny, whose business is home building and renovation.

“We had considered building new but I decided it probably wouldn’t be good for our relationship,” she jokes. “I felt like I wouldn’t have known how to stop. Remodeling is so much fun because you constantly have to be thinking of alternative methods to achieve your goal. You never know what you’re going to find behind walls. It’s a very creative endeavor.”

A major redesign of the dark, unappealing kitchen benefited from her professional expertise. No vestiges remain of the outdated cabinets, green Formica countertops, green and white tile floor, poor lighting and appliances that were begging to be replaced. She removed a wall and closed up a window to kick start the total transformation.  The taupe, dark gray and cream color Dolce Vita quartzite countertop drove the color scheme of the room, which is now light and bright and highlighted by a statement-making faux finish light fixture above the island.

Penny may have designed the kitchen but her husband is the one who takes practical pleasure in its appliances. Steve picked out the commercial-style Wolf dual fuel 48-inch range with two ovens, Sub Zero integrated refrigerator, Wolf drawer microwave and Asko dishwasher.

“Steve loves to grocery shop and to cook,” Penny explains. “He’s a real foodie who can remember a meal he fixed or had in a restaurant six years ago. Food just isn’t that important to me. I eat to live; he lives to eat. But I do my part in the kitchen. I clean up. I think that’s a fabulous deal.”

Unlike the original pine flooring throughout the house, new four-inch white oak flooring joins the kitchen and sunroom. Doubling as a breakfast/sitting area, the sunroom has a corner stage of windows that overlook the patio.

Moving from a 10,000 square foot to a 3,300 square foot home meant parting with a great deal of furniture and a considerable inventory of accessories. “We carefully chose which pieces to bring,” says Penny. “We were able to keep everything we absolutely loved, including several rugs we had purchased from Frances Lee Jasper Oriental Rugs. The scale and proportion of what we kept are perfect for this house.”

Declaring that she’s no longer an ardent shopper, she bought only three new pieces of furniture – a corner cabinet and two leather chairs for the sunroom.

“This house isn’t that large but lives bigger than its square footage because all the living spaces are well connected and flow together,” she says. “I’ve told my clients that you don’t want people to drive up to a house and see only one thing. You want the eye to take in the roof, the brick, the shutters and the door. It’s all a package that goes together. Nothing should seem out of sync, and the same holds true for the interior. The flow should feel and look good.”

Choosing colors and patterns can determine whether an interior is exquisitely designed or is a disconnected disaster. A meticulously selected color palette visually unites the rooms of the cottage. The gray trend in home décor never made it inside her front door. Believing that grays are too cool, she’s drawn to soft, warm neutrals, but not to the point of yellow.

She brings in pattern through pillows rather than using it on draperies or upholstery which can become overwhelming. For the same reason, she is sparing with her use of wallpaper.

“Accent pieces are so important,” she says as she points to her online find of ginger jars that flank an antique knife box on a buffet in the dining room. “An interesting mirror, a funky piece of furniture or an animal print stool can make all the difference in a room. Sometimes they can be very simple but outstanding.”

Also in the dining room are three of six prints of the Holy Land that she bought at a Louisville Collegiate School antique show several years ago. “I think they’re magnificent with incredible detail,” she says. Frames with a trace amount of red that pick up the red in the prints are paired with a silk mat.

An appreciation of antiques is evident throughout the house. A demilune with intricate inlay that sat in the entry hall of their former home is a focal  point of the family room. “I couldn’t part with it,” says Penny. “I think it’s wonderful. It has so much detail and a lot of age.” Above it are conversation piece sconces. One is an antique, while the other is a replica that was made to match.

Her fondness of antiques doesn’t define her decorating style. “I enjoy mixing contemporary art with traditional,” she says. “After all, art is in the eye of the beholder. We have such a potpourri of things, and they all have meaning to us.”

An acrylic sculpture by Frederick Hart, who created the bronze Three Soldiers sculpture at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., is one of those pieces and sits on a pedestal in the living room. Penny’s design acumen allowed her to give that room new life by removing a false fireplace and window that prohibited furniture placement. Now on that wall is an antique French chest that sets a tone of historical elegance. 

The home is unusual in that it has two master bedrooms, one on the first floor and one on the second. “The first floor master is only eighteen by twenty feet but has good window and door placement,” she says. “It’s all about wall space.” Buff color walls and soft lighting establish a sophisticated coziness that showcases a brass and brushed steel bed with a nail head leather headboard.

“At first, Steve wasn’t sold on the contemporary rug in the room, but he came around,” Penny explains. “He’ll often say about one of my choices, ‘Penny, I just don’t know. You do.’ And I’ll tell him that he’s right, that he needs to let me do it. He has to have his boundaries. It’s good that he knows that. He’s really very sweet about it.”

In a first floor bathroom, she demonstrates how a small space can have its own dash of dazzle. Removing a chair rail and book design wallpaper left her with a clean canvas with which to work. From there she distressed a vanity to appear old and installed a crema marfil basketweave marble floor for a historic feel. “I like it because it looks like something I would have torn out,” she laughs. “The nickel fixtures, like those in the kitchen, almost look like silver.”

She hasn’t devoted all her attention to the home’s interior. Adding an arbor with a picket fence and random plantings enhances the individuality of the cottage’s exterior.

Is she finished redesigning and decorating? “I admit I do tweak but I’m probably finished except for our upstairs bedroom,” she says. “That will need some attention to get right. On the first floor, I wouldn’t change anything other than some accessories, but any new ones would have to be pretty spectacular.” VT