Tucked among traditional homes just off of Devine Street is a contemporary dwelling. However, the home did not always exude modernity. It was a 1970s traditional-style farmhouse where Charlie Peluso grew up after his parents moved to Columbia from Atlanta in the 1980s. When his parents announced their intentions to sell the house and build another on the next street over, Charlie decided to buy it from them and, from 2003 to 2011, lived there with his two children.
Steven Ford of Steven Ford Interiors, Inc., a Columbia native with a 25-year career as an interior designer, worked with Charlie’s parents on their new home project. During that time, Charlie became acquainted with Steven’s design skills and creativity. What Charlie truly desired was a cutting-edge home.
“I’ve always liked clean lines with no intricate moldings,” says Charlie. “I like stainless steel — a California look.”
He says that he thought about moving and finding a contemporary home. As Steven points out, contemporary is hard to come by in the traditional South — especially in a city as historic as Columbia. Plus, Charlie says the location of his childhood home is ideal: one street away from his parents, across the street from an arboretum, in a quiet neighborhood and close to shops on Devine Street. He installed the Houzz app and began exploring home design ideas to transform the interior and exterior. Charlie sent many of his ideas to Steven, who made sense of them.
“He often came up with better ideas,” Charlie says. “He would tell me, ‘No, you don’t want to do that, but you can do this.’ He brought my thoughts to a place where they hit the bull’s eye. It became a great collaboration.”
They hired Contractor Matt Gilpin, of Gage Construction, who Steven says was professional enough to understand and bring to fruition ideas for transforming a traditional farmhouse into a contemporary designer showcase home. “It’s not always easy to find people who are willing to think outside the box and do the work,” says Steven, “but Matt was willing to go the extra mile.”
The greatest challenge, Steven says, was finding some of the modern materials and suppliers. “There are limited resources in this area,” he says. “You have to look for them, and most were brought in from outside of Columbia.”
Charlie’s house was gutted on the inside. No additional square footage was added to the approximately 2,800 square-foot residence. Instead, walls were removed or relocated, spaces were opened, the main staircase was taken down and window areas were enlarged. “Before we did this, there wasn’t much closet space or light in the house,” says Steven. The complete transformation took at least a year, but they still continually add something small here and there.
Presently, what Charlie wakes up to each morning is still Charlie’s childhood home — just different. His master bedroom, for example, used to be the darkest room in the house. Now light floods it from several angles. There is a low room divider that separates his bed from a sitting area with a full wall of closets, and the bed faces a wall of windows overlooking a pool area. The master bathroom has a “floating” tigerwood vanity and a shower with sliced pebble flooring and walls.
Distinct artistic lighting defines spaces. There is a globe chandelier in the stairwell, a metal and fabric hanging light over the dining table, and Hollywood-style spotlights in the den — which also has a wall-size television and a sectional with two end chaises. Window treatments throughout are sheer white hung from grommets on stainless steel rods to soften the stricter lines of contemporary styling.
“There is a lot of play with textures and materials in this house, which makes it feel warm and inviting, not cold,” says Steven. Spots of colors in pillows, art or rugs soften as well as add contrast to the whites, neutrals and metal.
The main focal point of the home is the open kitchen. A dramatic stainless steel bar, with no seams, is the centerpiece, and there are floating shelves for glassware and other kitchen necessities. Plus, there are streamlined cabinets with sleek pulls. The backsplash is glass tile in a brick pattern. The sink is farmhouse style, but in stainless steel. The stainless steel refrigerator includes a side wine cooler, and the stainless steel bar area separates the kitchen from the family sunroom room. Tempering all of the stainless steel is distressed, rustic flooring and oil-rubbed bronze lighting.
The living room features a wall of windows and a glass door leading out to a covered deck and the pool area. Around a white painted fireplace with a simple, narrow wood mantle is primarily Vanguard’s contemporary “Michael Weiss” furniture that Steven helped Charlie select.
In order to pull off the transformation of a farmhouse from traditional to modern, design elements on the interior had to flow to the exterior and vice versa. One of the same design essentials that is included outside and inside are the louvered panels. These are inside — the door to the home stereo center, for instance — and in several places outside, including for privacy on the covered porch, as fencing, and for privacy around the pool area’s bathroom/bar. Another novel design aspect is metal rod railings married with wood; this feature was added to the home’s front and side entrances, and as the main interior staircase. Steven says that even though the front steps and porch appear much larger than they were originally, the illusion is due to the removal of the traditional railings and pickets. “Doing that really opened up the space,” he says. “Opening the side walls of the staircase and using open risers visually expanded the entrance halls. And we used a cable system instead of pickets.”
This house’s real panache is defined by the pool area, completed a little over a year ago. In what used to be a typical backyard with a metal garage, Steven designed the L-shaped pool space with a corner Jacuzzi and a swim-up bar with underwater pool stools for bar seating. The swim-up bar is equipped with an under-counter fridge, a sink, an ice-maker and a beer tap. Behind the expansive bar is a bathroom, storage area and an outdoor shower. “I’ve never designed anything quite like this,” he says.
Besides just a functional, fun outdoor space, the pool area’s myriad of textures and design elements bring distinctiveness to the home. There are glass mosaic tiles decorating the pool and surrounding the large television over the bar; the swim-up bar’s surface area is made of honed, polished slate and a slab of the same slate separates the Jacuzzi. Surrounding the pool is sea-shell embedded tile. The fencing offers privacy and combines the louvered panels, stucco walls and artsy staggered tile columns. The flooring of the bar and bathroom area is a smooth sliced pebble surface. Shrubbery and plants also provide screening for privacy around the pool. Sleek teak pieces furnish the outdoor living space. Softening the exterior space are pillows made of indoor/outdoor material which are water and stain resistant.
“The garden and pool area is very clean and modern,” says Steven. “The contrast and combinations of materials keep it interesting.”
What do Charlie’s parents think about the alterations to their old home? “They like it,” says Charlie. “They still live in a traditional home, but it’s okay with them that I changed the house where they raised me.”
“He’s made this his house,” says Steven. “It’s not just ‘the house where I grew up’ or ‘my parent’s old house.’ It’s his house.”
“I’m just so glad I decided not to move,” says Charlie.