Walking past Kristin and Jenkins Williamson’s Forest Acres home, it’s hard not to stop and pause for a moment. Resembling an English cottage, the house is enveloped by beautiful gardens. Banking the front porch, roses in full bloom create a cloud of cherry red blooms. Around the side, cheerful zinnias in deep gold, magenta and cotton-candy pink fill a garden plot; morning glories, black-eyed Susans and daisies spill out of beds. A pathway of flat stones leads through the lawn to a set of wide steps set with pots alive with greenery. Lush ferns decorate the shady front porch. It’s hard to believe that the house is just a few years old.
“We looked at dozens of house plans and always found ourselves going back to the small and cozy cottage-style homes,” says Kristin. “Since we knew we’d be having children, we decided to translate that look and feel into a larger home.”
They’ve succeeded. Just inside the front doors, an antique desk topped with family photos in silver frames sits in a tiny alcove that looks like the type of charming nook found in many older homes. Beyond the foyer, there’s a central den that opens onto the kitchen and a large back porch, creating a huge living space of three distinct rooms that flow easily from one to the next.
“We used color — green, turquoise, blue and tan — and texture to unify the main living areas,” explains Kristin, pointing to a pillow in one room and an ottoman in another covered in the same fabric. They’re so subtle that they’re easy to miss, but they work, visually unifying the rooms while allowing them to maintain their status as separate spaces.
With its glossy wood table, antique sideboard and graceful, airy chandelier, the dining room is the most traditional room in the house. White wainscoting covers the lower half of the walls; the ceiling is pale blue.
“We wanted to keep the house casual, but with a formal dining room,” explains Kristin. But that doesn’t mean a lack of personality. The seat cushions on the mahogany dining chairs have been covered in a textured tone-on-tone leopard print; the chandelier has been draped with elegant crystal beads. Light streams in from two sets of French doors that open onto the front porch.
“My goal is to figure out a way to screen the French doors so we can open them up when we have a dinner party without letting bugs in,” says Kristin. The couple’s passion for the outdoors led them to find as many ways as they could to bring the outside into their home. The bedroom windows, for instance, overlook the flower garden.
It worked in the den as well. With its large, soft sofas and rustic accessories, the den is comfortable and inviting — and it opens onto the back porch. On pretty days, Kristin and Jenkins open the doors and let the breeze flow through the house.
In keeping with their décor plan, the couple chose heart pine flooring and washed pine paneling to give the room an older look; fun details like an acrylic side chair add a modern edge. The wood-burning fireplace, which dominates a diagonal wall and was constructed from old brick, is decidedly old school. Artwork, mostly of the birds that Kristin adores, decorates the walls.
“Darby Schroeder helped us with a lot of the planning,” says Kristin. “She has a great eye for fabrics, texture and color, which provided a fountain for what we were trying to create.” Kristin found a lot of the furniture herself, scouring flea markets for suitable pieces. Some she refinished, others, she left as she found them, letting their slight scuffs add to the layers of life in the house.
Knowing that people always end up in the kitchen — either at parties or when it’s just family — the Williamsons designed theirs with plenty of space. At the entrance, a round kitchen table gives the family a place for casual sit-down meals, and in the future, homework and school projects; just beyond, a large granite-topped island divides living and working space.
To make the island feel more like a piece of furniture, the couple chose to have it stained a rich, deep brown. The color matches the backs of the bar stools lined up along one side. Like all of the stone and metal in the house, the granite has been honed to a soft glow, giving it a more lived-in feel. It’s functional, too.
The pretty rugs are actually made from indoor-outdoor materials and the granite hides fingerprints. “With babies and children, it’s tough to commit to a major rug right now,” Kristin says with a laugh. “Maybe later.”
Sleek, modern light fixtures bathe the room in a warm glow. “We love the ‘cottagey’ look, but didn’t want it to be a cliché,” says Kristin. “The light fixtures definitely help keep it modern.” There’s also uplighting on the tops of the cupboards, which she has found works well at night.
In the living part of the kitchen, a chocolate brown sofa piped in avocado green sits in front of a wall of windows that overlooks the tree-filled backyard. A pair of matching lamps sit on unmatched side tables on either side. A tufted ottoman — easy to move — serves as a coffee table, leaving plenty of space for toys. “I can be cooking and everyone can be comfortable, either at the bar or on the sofa,” says Kristin. “We took our time with the furniture so we could find just the right pieces. We started from scratch and wanted to make sure that everything we chose would work together.”
That’s true even on the back porch, where colors and textures blend effortlessly with the rest of the home, transforming the space into an outdoor room. “Good, usable porches were very important to us,” explains Kristin. Accessed through a pair of dark-stained, oversized French doors, the porch does exactly that. Set around a wood-burning fireplace — it shares a chimney with its mate in the den — antique garden furniture has been livened up with a coat of blue paint and pillows covered in a jazzy animal print.
Artwork and mirrors on the walls transform the breezy space into a true living area. Since the porch is fully screened, on nice days, the Williamsons can keep the French doors open, bringing all that fresh air into their home. “When the doors are open, the entrance from the house to the porch is so big that you almost don’t notice you’re inside,” says Kristin. “To us, that’s true outdoor living.”