Classic With A Twist

Chenault James Interiors refreshes a home with a modern, playful edge


By Sarah Carter Levitch
Photos by Tim Furlong Jr.


Ready to add a contemporary feel while still interweaving her classical style, the homeowner called on her friend Chenault James, whom she had previously worked with, to freshen up her abode. With a strong understanding of the homeowner’s style and aesthetic, James jumped in and got to work on what she does best, interior design. The only request of the homeowner was to incorporate the plethora of family heirlooms and antique pieces from her grandparents. 

James noted, “A part of what makes design fun is getting to incorporate vintage pieces in a new way and give them new life. The starting point for the downstairs space was knowing we wanted to freshen it up and give it a modern feel. The antiques gave the project a heart and soul because we got to use these pieces that have deep meaning.” Many horses appear throughout the house in honor of the owner’s grandfather’s love of thoroughbred breeding. However, my favorite piece was the frog in the living room, which James mentioned was a vintage Tiffany’s piece.

In the kitchen, your eye is immediately drawn to the backsplash above the stove, which James explained: “We wanted the materials to be organic. The wall finish is a natural lime paint, and the hood is plaster with a reclaimed beam. This tile is an encaustic tile, which is handmade cement tile. The design can be interpreted in many different ways, but we interpreted it as birds. We laid out the tiles on the floor and decided which directions they would fly. That goes back to the homeowner’s style, which is classic with a touch of playfulness. It’s part of the balancing act.” In this case, the playful backsplash is balanced with the classic French range, La Cornue, giving the kitchen a certain je ne sais quoi.

This idea of giving the classic style a playful edge continues into the butler’s pantry, “with the walnut top and high gloss black cabinets, and then again, we made it not too serious by putting lemons on the ceiling. It’s a fun surprise,” James added. 

Upstairs, the bedroom serves as a peaceful hideaway with light colors and a beautiful antique screen positioned behind the bed that the room draws inspiration from. James reflected on the different pieces: “The bamboo bed is new but looks like an antique. The lamps are a little funky, and the side tables are more modern, which was the contrast to keep the space fresh. The view outside is the trees, so it almost feels like a treehouse. We wanted to let the outside in, so we kept the drapery light not to obstruct your view of the windows.”


James carried this “bringing the outside in” feel over into the bathroom by adding wood siding on the walls to make it feel like a converted porch. She explained that the steel shower door is in remembrance of a previous homeowner: “Stanley Schultz used to own the house, and downstairs he put in this big steel window and a greenhouse-type ceiling in the kitchen. It was leaky, so it had to be demoed. For the shower, the steel door is a nod to Stanley. The tile is classic subway black and white, and there is this old brass sponge basket from a train car.” 

Coming back downstairs, the living room centers around a contemporary blue couch and the kitchen counter is accented with bright yellow stools, of which James commented that “the homeowner is good with taking a risk and understanding that not everything has to match.” Those slight risks taken to give the design a playful edge produced a distinct character that delicately mixes the soulful family memorabilia into the modern spirit.

Chenault James Interiors, LLC
843 E Market St.
Louisville, KY 40206