A Hidden Gem
The Livingstons’ tranquil neighborhood
The den is merely a remnant of its former self before renovations but is now a space that flows effortlessly from sunroom to hallway to stairs.
Photography by Robert Clark
Quietly off of Forest Drive sits a beautiful, secluded neighborhood that rebuffs the busyness of the bustling area — a serene community that envelops the tranquil Mill Pond neighborhood which is located on land once owned by James Hammond. It’s here that Becky and Jimmy Livingston call home. While their home was built in the late 1970s, there is no sign of the disco era in this beautiful, completely remodeled residence.
The Livingstons purchased the home in 2006. A family friend had developed the land, so, unlike most, they had been aware of the private area. “We knew the neighborhood was back here and always had an interest in it,” says Jimmy. “Becky and I were looking for a property that had large rooms, and when we saw this, we fell in love with it.”
While Becky and Jimmy knew they wanted to make extensive renovations to the home, they were careful not to start too soon. They lived in the home for six months to get the feel of it and were glad they did, as they changed some of the design plans they initially had in place. Once the renovations began, it took 18 months for the Livingstons to turn the home into the one of their dreams. Now, the 4,000-square-foot home has all of the personal touches the Livingstons had hoped for and the large expansive rooms they desired, not to mention 1,000 square feet of unused attic and storage space.
New millwork throughout the home allowed for an open floor plan that easily flows and is more conducive to entertaining. Gone is the claustrophobic hallway running through the home. Instead, grand columns separate the rooms, still providing a formal elegance, but one that is much more livable.
The traditional formal living room features an eclectic mix of furniture, complete with wingback chairs, ornate wall sconces and interesting accessories. The room serves as a music room and is home to a beautiful baby grand piano, which is the heart of the space.
The spacious dining room glows from the light of a stunning chandelier that is truly a conversation piece and the center of attention in this often-used space. The grand scale of the room enables it to accommodate a large number of people, making it the primary area where guests tend to congregate during a party.
Of course, as in most homes, guests will also venture into the expansive kitchen, which is highlighted by a butcher-block island and granite countertops with a classic subway tile backsplash. The kitchen features the finest appliances, including a Sub-Zero refrigerator and a Wolf cooktop. With a kitchen this well-appointed, it’s a surprise to learn that the Livingstons don’t cook. “We are not good cooks, but we know everyone gathers here, so we wanted to create a beautiful, welcoming space,” says Jimmy. The bright room is complemented by a rich, dark wallpaper that is creatively extended onto the ceiling of the large breakfast room, creating a trellis-like quality overhead. The unique design elements found throughout the home are all of Jimmy’s creation. “I am a frustrated designer at heart,” he says. “I have always loved picking out colors, and Becky has no interest in it whatsoever, so she just lets me do whatever I want, and I go with it.”
Jimmy’s eye for design is unmistakable in the glorious sunroom. While much of the Livingston home is traditional in nature, the sunroom evokes a more retro, mid-century modern impression. Two of the club chairs were purchased off of eBay and were previously in Lucille Ball’s home. Now since re-covered to replace the previous orange fabric, the chairs are a beautiful light blue that blends with the peaceful pond that the chairs overlook. The additional space found in the sunroom also provides ample space for displaying the Christmas tree each year.
The den/study in the home is a remnant of its former self, having been taken down to the studs during the remodel. This room has seen dramatic changes, with walls being removed, doors widened and columns erected. The space flows effortlessly from sunroom to hallway to stairs.
“A friend of mine looked at this house when it was on the market and said that her realtor told her there was nothing she could do with the layout of the home,” says Becky. “She walked into our house after we completed the renovations and said, ‘Please call my realtor and tell her to look at this!’ The changes were very dramatic.” The room also features expansive bookcases. “I love what bookcases can add to a room,” says Jimmy. “It’s a large room but it feels cozy because of the way the furniture is grouped along with the corals and yellows in the room. It’s really refreshing.”
One thing that won’t be found in the den — or any other room besides the kitchen — is a television. At least not to the naked eye. “I hate the look of TVs,” says Jimmy. “I keep them all hidden. I finally relented to one on the kitchen counter, but all others are behind closed doors.”
The bright colors found in the den — yellows, corals and aquas — can also be found throughout the remainder of the home in fabrics, accessories and on the walls. Many of the color cues have been pulled from the rugs and paintings featured in the house.
Before the renovations, the home had a very large room that served as the bar. The Livingstons created a much smaller bar that is hidden behind closed doors in the den and turned the former bar into a large convenient powder room that better serves their needs and that of their guests.
The expansive master suite features a spacious bedroom and sprawling master bathroom. The bathroom has a huge walk-in shower that is tiled from floor to ceiling and designed to be deep enough that it doesn’t need a door or shower curtain. Multiple showerheads provide a relaxing way to unwind from the stressors of the day. Jimmy, thinking ahead in the design of the bathroom, shied away from a bathtub so that as he and Becky get older, they are able to easily navigate the shower and don’t have to worry about stepping into a deep tub.
Downstairs is also home to a guest room that belongs to Lily Livingston, their granddaughter. The smaller room with its antique twin bed and small settee provide a quaint, classic setting that is perfect for little girl and adult alike.
Jimmy removed the spindles on the staircase and added a beautiful Chippendale railing. The stairs lead to a larger guest room, which features a beautiful covered headboard and elegant fabrics. The bedroom has its own bath as well. Off of this room is an office, in which Becky and Jimmy hide away their computer.
A nice array of art is found throughout the home — some found at their son’s auction house, others picked up along the way, and still other pieces that have been passed down in the family, including genuine Confederate money that once belonged to Jimmy’s grandmother. “I used to play with it,” he remembers. And now it is a story on his wall. The beautiful art work and abundance of books found throughout the home provide a comfortable yet sophisticated vibe.
While the interior of the home is stunning, comfortable and welcoming, Becky and Jimmy are most at home outside on the back patio. The patio overlooks the pond and provides the peace and tranquility that the Livingstons were longing for when they decided to live in this quaint, gated neighborhood. “You really feel like you are living in the middle of the country but you’re a stone’s throw from Trenholm Road and other places,” says Jimmy.
Becky and Jimmy can often be found on the patio having breakfast and watching the herons as they patiently wait for their meal to pop its head out of the still waters. The herons are always welcome guests at the Livingston home.
“Mill Pond really is one of Columbia’s secrets,” adds Jimmy. That was, until now …