A Family Treasure Chest
Lisa and Terry Brown complete their Columbia homestead
When Lisa and Terry Brown were preparing to move their family from Atlanta to Columbia, Lisa was immediately drawn to a stately home on Adger Road in Heathwood. Columbia contractor Charlie Craig built the house in the mid-1950s as a personal residence, and Lisa recognized that it had good bones. She remembers telling her husband, “Terry, if you buy me this house, I will not change a thing.”“Now, almost 16 years later,” Lisa admits good-naturedly, “there’s not an inch that we haven’t changed.”
On the day the Browns moved to Columbia, everyone but Terry — who was looking forward to a new position in commercial real estate — was crying in their tightly packed Suburban as they followed the moving truck. At the time, the Browns’ three sons ranged in age from 4 to 11. Lisa remembers, “As we were crossing over the Georgia/South Carolina border, I said, ‘Boys, we are about to go meet our new best friends’ … and when I said that, everything just got better.”
High school sweethearts in Elberton, Georgia, Lisa and Terry ultimately put down deep roots in Columbia, though sons Taylor, 27, and Cole, 24, both alumni of the University of Georgia, now live in Atlanta. Banks, 20, plays basketball at Sewanee. Though the Brown boys have ventured away from the nest, every common area of their childhood home remains redolent with their presence.
In Terry’s office, which he calls his quiet drinking room, full bookshelves on one wall complement peacock blue velvet chairs, and, on the opposite side of the room, large, sepia-tone portraits of each son on the baseball field adorn the other wall. Photographer David Erdek captured the beautiful images of Taylor and Cole in Atlanta, then traveled to Columbia to photograph Banks at the same age, 10. Designers Anna Kemper and Marnie Clayton of MACK Home brought in the luxurious chairs and balanced them with metallic finishes on the coffee table and a reflective finish on the light fixture, tempered by a linen shade. Anna and Marnie also added antique Oushak rugs to the foyer and study that allow the blue chairs, as well as the fresh blue runner on the grand staircase, to shine.
An exuberant collector and a gifted artist in her own right, Lisa says, “My personality is collections. Treasures, I like to call it.” Some of Lisa’s treasures are fun splurges, such as brightly painted Italian glassware by Carlo Moretti that she gives to Terry on special occasions. Others are much-loved heirlooms, like an amazing set of emerald Anchor Hocking tea goblets that Terry’s father, Joe Brown, collected for free with the purchase of Luzianne tea in the 1940s. Lisa also gave her sons monogrammed silver mint julep cups each year until each had his own set.
A priceless group of black-and-white family photos displayed on her Steinway piano tells a thousand stories about aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Majolica plates add splashes of color to the walls, and century-old vases inherited from Lisa’s maternal grandmother grace the mantel underneath a thoughtful gift that Terry gave Lisa, a full-length portrait of her father, who died just two weeks after the Browns moved to Columbia. In the den hangs another favorite painting, this one a gift from Lisa’s parents, a joyful portrait of all three boys with their Boykin spaniel, painted by Gary Pound of Columbus, Georgia.
Works by local artists, including James Calk, Charlene Wells, Debbie Martin, and Mike Williams, provide esteemed company for Lisa’s own paintings. In an otherwise traditional dining room, with its original built-in corner cabinets and dining table from Charlton Hall, Lisa’s portrait of her sons dressed as golfing cowboys adds a capricious touch, setting a tone from the front room that even the formal spaces in the Browns’ home are fun.
For nine years, Lisa has hosted three friends once a week for art lessons in her sunroom with Camden instructor Patricia Adelman; they celebrate birthdays enjoying Champagne and painting Georgia Bulldog and Clemson Tigers art side by side. Every year, Lisa donates a painting to the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business.
Terry, who graduated from the university in 1984, received the 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award, and the Browns are avid Georgia Bulldog fans. In her studio is an impressive giclée (the original is in the Brown’s Athens condo) of a Lisa’s Originals current UGA coach Kirby Smart as a college player, as well as an unfinished scene from a favorite vacation spot in Nantucket and a painting of Lisa’s niece’s dog.
Architect Michael Haigler reworked the center of the home about eight years ago by creating an arched passageway between the foyer and the kitchen and enlarging the entrance to the formal living room, drawing the eye toward the beautiful backyard. Although the Browns initially intended to do what their neighbors had done — sell the back half of their lot so that another home could be built on Tanglewood Road — they ultimately decided that their three boys and two dogs needed the space. As their first renovation project, they enlisted the help of Paradise Plants Plus to landscape the yard, adding a fresh-water pool, built by Price Aqua Tech Pools in Florence, surrounded by crape myrtles, palmettos, Indian hawthorn, forsythia, camellias, and a magnolia. “Typically, there is something in this yard that is blooming year-round that I can enjoy,” Lisa says. And Lisa’s “favorite painter in the world,” Felix Chapman, painted a backyard basketball court for the boys in their Hammond School colors.
Michael Haigler designed a unique addition to serve as the family’s breakfast room. Shaped like a gazebo, it adds an interesting element to the back of the house, while fulfilling Lisa’s wish for the space. “I wanted it to be open and airy and to feel like I was outside,” she says. Designer Margaret Carter worked with Marnie to bring in a custom-made round walnut table, surrounded by Belgian linen chairs by Verellen.
“I knew I wanted a round table just to promote lingering conversation,” recalls Lisa. “These chairs are so comfortable. I was worried about it being fabric with three boys and spaghetti, but they’ve been great. We haven’t had one stain issue. I always had a linen-cloth napkin with every meal when the boys were growing up, just to teach them manners.”
Lisa ordered eight chairs for the table, but typically the family keeps only five in the room. Margaret and Marnie placed a European carriage lantern at the apex of the stained, natural wood ceiling. “It’s natural rust with a hand-finished verdigris,” Marnie says. It is designed to seem like an indoor/outdoor fixture.
Because Lisa has so many collections, Anna and Marnie encouraged her to simplify the formal living room, while continuing the architect’s vision of bringing the outside in. “She had a lot of color in her rugs and in her art,” Marnie says, “so we wanted to let that speak for the room.” Using a neutral wall color, they brought in a pair of neutral sofas from Lee Industries, two vintage caned arm chairs painted black with gilded accents, and an imposing stone coffee table. Breezy, custom-made linen drapery is anchored by a fanciful wooden drop trim in muted shades of blue and green. On the mantel where the portrait of Lisa’s father hangs, Anna and Marnie placed a pair of contemporary metal sculptures on Lucite bases with organic stones, bridging the gap between traditional and contemporary elements.
Marnie and Anna like to employ a simple trick that adds a special touch to the Browns’ high, smooth ceilings: they asked Felix to paint the ceilings with a high gloss finish. “Felix will do it, because he knows us, but painters usually don’t want to because the higher the gloss, the more the sheetrock imperfections show,” Anna says. “It looks beautiful, very reflective of light.”
The Browns’ most recent home improvement project was a complete kitchen renovation, finished this past September. Because the house is very traditional, Marnie and Anna explain, they wanted to make the kitchen more contemporary and sleek, so they proposed an entirely new design and gutted the kitchen to start again from scratch.
Marbled quartz from Distinctive Surfaces covers the countertops and continues up the back wall. Anna says, “That quartz material is so beautiful; we wanted that to be the focus and then everything else to be quiet in that room, because all other rooms open up to it.” An integrated sink is lined with quartz, and the kitchen counter features a perfectly executed waterfall edge.
Celtic Works custom-made and installed sleek, flat cabinetry with soft-touch close drawers, a high-gloss finish, and metal hardware, and Lisa loved working with these builders. Anna and Marnie particularly intended for the cabinets to serve as a transitional element.
“It definitely brings a little bit of a modern touch to the house,” Anna says. To draw another natural element into the kitchen, the finish on the custom range hood is a thin, real wood veneer, which also appears on the pantry’s barn door. “That was a way of bringing a more transitional element in,” Anna explains. Lisa admits that she had to be talked into the barn door scenario, but now she likes that the door does not get in the way of the pass-through to the formal dining room.
Retractable doors hide a cabinet that houses a microwave oven and coffee center, and thick, high-end acrylic shelving holds favorite coffee cups that Lisa found at non(e)such. She also upgraded the lights in the kitchen, opting for custom-made fixtures with hand-strung, natural quartz beads and hemp tassels.
The kitchen renovation inadvertently spilled over into the adjoining den. “We added floating shelves in between the kitchen and the den,” Lisa says. “We had just a little shelf there, and I said, ‘Oh, we need to do something a little funky,’ and Terry was like, ‘We were only doing the kitchen,’ but then that just made the biggest difference, too.”
Adding that design element prompted Lisa to replace the drapery in the den with natural shades. Marnie and Anna freshened the paint color in conjunction with the kitchen renovation, and they added some vases to the mantel. “If you think about what the room looked like seven years ago,” Anna says, “it is actually very much transformed, but that was more of a gradual process, whereas the kitchen was gutted.”
While the new decor makes Lisa happy, she continues to place a higher value on sentimental treasures. Marnie will come over occasionally and help her fluff a little, rearranging her many collectibles. She keeps in the living room an heirloom wedding cake topper from her parents’ wedding 63 years ago of a bride and groom, just as her parents did; and now, she and Terry hope to pass it down to the next generation when their eldest son, Taylor, marries his own high school sweetheart, Ali Hymson, in Cashiers, North Carolina, on June 2, the day after Lisa and Terry’s 33rd wedding anniversary.
Lisa now realizes the importance of her words to her disconsolate sons as the family drove over the Savannah River 16 years ago. She and Terry have grown quite attached to their Heathwood neighbors, and Taylor met his fiancee in the 11th grade at Hammond School, just six years after the family came to Columbia. So, where there were once five linen chairs around the breakfast table, there will soon be half a dozen, and the Browns could not be happier.