Sitting in the living room, looking out over the waters of Lexington’s Sterling Lake, a visitor might first notice some slight movement in the treetops as a bald eagle takes flight. This glorious sight is an everyday occurrence for Cathy and Tim Monetti, who live here in a dream home that took nearly three years to complete.
“I used to run past here, and I thought the property was so beautiful,” Tim says. “When I saw the road being cut in and a house going up, I knew I had to bring Cathy to see it.”
The Monettis started with an existing floor plan, then worked with architect Tim Hance to flip the house, making the most of the lake view. They also customized much of the design to better meet their lifestyle. A hallway is now a dish pantry. A large kitchen (with a keeping room) allows dinner prep to be family time. Sliding doors in the living room disappear into the wall, opening the center of the house to a “ridiculously large” screened porch.
Cathy admits that she wasn’t always so enthusiastic about the build.
“Early on, I got a call that our builder, Rusty Kehl, needed us to choose the brick for the exterior of our house,” she says. “I was completely overwhelmed. That decision was so significant, so permanent, I knew from that moment I needed to hire an interior designer to keep us from making some huge mistakes,” she says. “Still, I was intimidated. I didn’t know how to hire a designer, and I certainly didn’t know if we could afford one.”
A friend recommended she talk with Pam Plowden of Pulliam-Morris Interiors. Eventually, Cathy did. Both she and Tim are glad she made that call.
“Hiring Pam was, by far, the best decision we made about this house,” says Tim. “She not only kept us from making mistakes, she brought Cathy’s vision for this house to life. And she made the process fun.”
“Building, itself, is overwhelming,” says Pam. “A part of my job is to eliminate the thousands of options that simply aren’t right in the first place.”
A founder of Columbia-based brand consultancy Riggs Partners, Cathy decided the best way to articulate her vision for the house was to do so in the way that came most naturally to her: via creative brief. It’s the same process she uses when developing creative strategies for Riggs Partners clients, and she finds it a great way to zero in on what is most important.
“In going through the creative brief exercise, what I discovered was how important it was to me that the house feel effortless — as if a there was always a gentle breeze blowing through it from an open window somewhere,” Cathy says. “Pam did an amazing job capturing that spirit.”
Another great Pulliam-Morris tip is to keep a sketchbook or notebook filled with magazine clippings, photos, things you see that appeal to you. “What a perfect exercise for a ‘big idea’ person like me. It helped me focus, and it allowed Pam to look through my lens. My sketchbook made it clear to both of us that I wanted to bring the outside in.”
That discovery resulted in fabrics, colors and textures from nature. In addition to lots of windows and natural light, the shower floor is tumbled marble, the floors are dark and wide-planked hardwoods and a copper sink dresses the wet bar.
Another benefit of working with Pulliam-Morris was the ability for both Cathy and Tim to simply go to work on move-in day, then come home — for the first time — to a new house that was already put together.
“I walked in, and I’ll never forget that feeling,” recalls Cathy. “I was able to see my house in a way that wouldn’t have been possible had I been there all day, hassling over the blinds or where to hang the pictures. It was all done when I came home from work. To see it for the very first time, all put together, was amazing.”
It’s a wonderful moment for Pam, as well.
“My team and I are there all day, rolling out rugs, hanging draperies, placing furniture, arranging bookshelves,” says Pam. “Then the client walks in and gets that first look at all we’ve created together. It’s a magical moment for them, of course, but also for me.”
The living room is Cathy’s favorite, with her writing desk tucked under an Old Masters oil painting by her nephew, Ben Rigg. A pair of pale blue linen-covered armchairs face another pair in windowpane tan — creating an easy conversation pit. Built-in bookcases in a Quiver Tan glaze flank the raised marble hearth of a wood-burning fireplace.
Cathy’s favorite room is the living room, which features her writing desk and comfortable seating for guests.
The home does feel easy.
“I wanted it soft and casual,” says Cathy. “And I love Pam’s juxtaposition of the old things I already owned, with the new things mixed in.”
“I spend lots of time talking, getting to know my clients,” Pam says. “I want my design to be a reflection of them. I want it to look as if they have collected these things over a lifetime. In many cases, they have.”
For example, Pam discovered a charming old print with a broken frame in Cathy’s attic. She hung it, along with several others — including two street paintings from Prague, where Tim lived for a while — on an expansive wall in the living room.
“It gives the home a collected feel,” she says. “You take what you have, add to it, and then accessorize.”
Another of Cathy’s favorite spots is that “ridiculously large” screen porch. Overlooking the pond and spanning the length of the house, the porch sports expansive glass doors that slide into the walls when opened.
“I wanted the wall to disappear so that the living room and the screen porch could become one area,” says Cathy. “And I wanted the windows as big as I could get them.”
The master bedroom features French doors that also lead onto the porch. “The sun comes up from the corner of our room,” notes Cathy. “We often sleep with the blinds open so we’re greeted by sunshine in the morning.”
The master bedroom features French doors that lead onto the porch. “The sun comes up from the corner of our room,” notes Cathy. “We often sleep with the blinds open so we’re greeted by the sunshine in the morning.”
The couple chose not to put a tub in the master bath but opted instead for larger closets and a roomy shower. Glass tiles line the wall behind a “his and her” vanity. Custom cabinetry includes wire racks with drawer slides mounted vertically, so that a display holding earrings and necklaces simply slides out of the cabinet.
The library/office is claimed by Tim, a capital projects consultant who spends many work days there.
“I do a lot of traveling, but when I am in town, I work out of my home office,” he says. “It suits me perfectly.”
The dining room offered another opportunity to mix some of Cathy’s inherited furnishings with new pieces. An oil portrait of her daughter, Eliza, blends with the heirloom furnishings, including both her mother’s and grandmother’s china. A bay window fills the room with light, in keeping with Cathy’s wish for bright spaces.
The kitchen adjoins the keeping room and features a six-burner professional cook top and grill on a large island, letting Cathy spend time with friends and family without having her back to them while she is cooking.
The kitchen is a chef’s dream, with granite countertops, a slide-out microwave oven, prep sink and six-burner professional cook top.
“I knew I wanted lots of prep space, and I didn’t want to cook facing a wall. So we created a large island and put the cooktop there,” Cathy says.
A few little extra touches add great appeal to the house, including a wet bar with a built-in wine cooler, and the dish pantry.
“This was supposed to be a hallway that I didn’t really think we needed,” Cathy says. “So we enclosed it and created storage for my large pots, oversized bowls and dishes, and vast collection of vases. It was such a good idea. I can see everything I have, and since I can actually get to it, we use it all.”
Cathy and Tim sometimes can’t believe they are living in their dream home.
“So many people come to this house and tell us it looks just like us. I think that is just the nicest compliment,” Cathy says. “I give Pam 100 percent of the credit.”
And as happy as she is to get to live there, Cathy is grateful for something else the experience brought her. “Pam and I became dear friends in the process of working on this house. That’s the very best thing of all.”
Editor’s note: Not many interior design firms reach the half-century mark. But that’s just what Columbia firm Pulliam-Morris is doing this summer. We congratulate this female-owned business on 50 great years!