Gracious in Gray
A designer’s delight
Photography by Robert Clark
When Leah and Michael Davis were in Charleston, where Michael was finishing his medical residency, they looked forward to coming back to their native Columbia area. During their time in Charleston, they made wonderful friends and enjoyed entertaining in their house, which Leah describes as a new, clean construction with an old Charlestonian flavor. They wanted to replicate that style and newness.
Realtor Mary Lane Sloan, with The ART of Real Estate, understood the couple’s desire to live in the Columbia area. When visiting friends who live in the neighborhood around Brennen Road, which mostly features older quaint homes, they noticed some houses with strong curb appeal on a newly developed street. However, nothing was available at that time. At a later point, Mary Lane called Leah and said she had to show her a home right away. Leah was thrilled when they turned onto Katherine Park Court, the very street she had been drawn to earlier.
What Leah saw was the result of years of change in that area. For many decades, duplexes and quadraplexes lined this expanse of Brennen Road, and they had become quite rundown. A developer bought the property and built several new houses, but the real estate crash in 2008 halted the project. A few years later, while investors and buyers were still cautious, Bill Theus and Walter Taylor, owners of Lady Street Builders, learned of the property’s availability.
Walter says, “We are always looking around for small pocket neighborhoods with around 25 lots.”
Walter and Bill knew the location and school district were good, but the market was still slow. They bought the property with the realized goal of offering quality custom homes at a favorable price. Even before they sold the first lot, Walter and Bill decided to build and furnish three homes on Katherine Park to display to people what the neighborhood would become. “We wanted to show the market that we were going to finish the neighborhood with beautiful, compatible homes,” says Walter.
Soon after Leah walked into the charming, inviting home, she called Michael, who was out of town and unaware of the sudden prospect. “Leah kept calling me, and I was concerned that something must be wrong, so I called her back as soon as I could. She told me she had found a house that we had to buy,” he says.
Leah adds, “Then I said, ‘Are you okay with that?’”
After looking at the pictures Leah sent Michael, he agreed that it was a super opportunity. Soon they were the proud owners of a new cottage-style house in the area they wanted. Leah says, “We love the location and newness.”
Leah got busy looking for the perfect items to fill the Katherine Park home. She visited Compositions by Steven Ford Interiors on Devine Street to discuss ideas, and with the help of Steven Ford’s team, Leah began with the living room since it was the active center of the two-story, 2,300-square-foot home. The gray-walled, neutral space that opens to the kitchen and dining area is a serene mixture of textures and components. A soothing abstract painting by South Carolina artist Crystal Miller hangs above the mantle, and glints of silver and gold in the lamps, coffee table, and accessories blend with pops of black in the area rug, lamps, and fireplace surround. Gold candlesticks floating on acrylic bases flank an interesting side console made of white lacquered wood and three doors with carved fish scales in a silver leaf finish.
While the decorating in the living area was moving forward, the front room also needed to be considered. Steven suggested a plan for radial seating in the square room off the wide entrance hall. In particular, he suggested a set of four blue leather chairs studded with handsome nail heads. Leah was keen on the seating idea and especially the chairs, but she had to wait on that purchase.
Leah says, “We put the front room on hold and went ahead with building a detached garage.” Michael smiles and says, “Well, ‘garage’ is not really the right name for it.” And he’s correct. “In Charleston we had a 1 1/2 car garage, and I had taken it upon myself to make it a place to hang out.” Leah remembers how Michael nailed paneling to the wall and hung his sports paraphernalia all around. “Yes, it was very non-professionally done,” says Michael.
No one is ribbing Michael about the new man cave, which is as attractive on the inside as it is on the outside; it was designed and built by Warren Propst of Propst Construction. Originally, the concrete slab driveway extended to the back yard, and Jake Mize of Mize Landscaping began by tearing that out and laying down Belgard pavers. This blends the short distance from the back porch to the covered grilling area, and now the space is complete with plenty of seating. French doors open up for easy passage into the man cave. Three carefully mounted televisions, a bar, a mini fridge, a kegerator, and Michael’s collection of hunting and sporting treasures span the room. “I acquired all this stuff over the years, and it was in a storage unit. Leah told me it was not going in the house, so she hung it all up in here.”
A mellow brown acid wash on the concrete floor offers a masculine look and easy cleanup. Leah says laughingly, “People can hang out in here and watch three different games all at once, while enjoying the separate sound system.” Outside the French doors, a covered patio offers the perfect place to congregate while preparing food on the beautiful bricked grill. Once this project was complete, the Davises turned their attention back to the main house. Steven found the Davises’ file and, picking up where they had left off with Chase White, immediately fell in love with the home. “They have created a contrast of the pretty, light open house and the man’s area out back so that there are two different feels within one house,” he says.
In the front room, they decided upon a different painting, rug, and table, but the set of four blue leather chairs were still available, and Leah was ready to make the investment. They are now the statement piece in a gorgeous room.
“The great thing about a radial seating in a square room is that no one’s playing ping-pong, looking back and forth. It’s easy to communicate as your eye moves around the room easily,” explains Steven.
Sunlight weaves through the banded, textured linen and silk window treatments and picks up the shimmer in the triptych on the opposite wall. The funky silver chandelier with the star-like canopy echoes the effect for an overall welcoming space right by the front door.
Throughout the house, the walls are painted with a Benjamin Moore color named “Classic Gray,” which works well with the warm hardwood floors. Leah says, “When Steven suggested this color, which is close to the former color, it was hard to spend money on painting such a similar color. We had to go all the way up the open stairway and throughout the house. But it really did make a difference. It was a good decision, and I love it.”
When the Davises first saw the kitchen, they knew it was already perfect for them. They left it alone and focused on the dining table and chairs. Steven showed Leah a table that he thought would be ideal; ironically, she had been looking at that very table for more than a year. They chose a set of wood chairs with a beautiful inlay that spans the back of the chair, as that is most visible from the living room and kitchen. The host and hostess chairs can easily be picked up and moved to other areas for added convenience, and another seating option is provided by two bar stools at the tall kitchen counter where Leah and Michael have breakfast. A 5-foot empty wall space between the kitchen counter and window, which Steven calls “no man’s land,” became functional with the addition of a mirrored-front chest that adds more storage for china and glassware.
In the meantime, the couple acquired a yellow lab puppy, Marley, now 2 years old, who shows her appreciation for all the lovingly chosen items as she lazes in the sun-filled rooms as if they were all made especially for her. “Yes, she runs the house,” says Leah.
And now, they enjoy entertaining in their home in Columbia as much as they did in Charleston. Katherine Park Court has proven to be the perfect fit.