Arthur Suggs has fond memories of the old house on North Trenholm Road that stood two doors down from his own home. “As a kid, I’d sneak into the yard and eat the grapes Mr. Reeves had planted,” he recalls with a sheepish grin. “No matter how careful I thought I’d been, at dinner, my dad somehow always knew when I’d gotten into those grapes.”
(Left) Arthur and Laurel Suggs with their grandchildren, William, 4, Hannah, 6, and Mae Walker, 3.
Although Arthur moved out of the neighborhood years ago, he remained in Columbia. Over the years, he watched the house fall into such disrepair that it was finally demolished. “I expected a new house to be put on the lot, but nothing ever materialized,” he says.
As time passed, Arthur didn’t think much about the lot. But it popped into the forefront of his mind a couple of years ago as he and Laurel Moxon Suggs, his wife, were considering where they’d live as they got older. “My parents had to move to a retirement community sooner than they wanted to because their house on Laurel Spring Road had so many steps to navigate,” explains Laurel. “Arthur and I realized that we might have the same problem some day, so we decided to avoid the situation by building a one story home and moving now. The North Trenholm Road lot just seemed to have it all. We’d both grown up in the neighborhood we loved, and it was close to our children, Hunter Suggs and Caroline Milliken, and their families. It made perfect sense.”
Decision made, the couple got to work creating a layout that would not just accommodate them as they aged, but would also give their three grandchildren – six year-old Hannah, four year-old William and three year-old Mae Walker – room to play, storage for lots of toys and their own rooms for sleepovers. Separate home offices were a must, but Arthur was happy to let his space double as the official playroom. Closets were to be large and plentiful. “It was more of a re-size than a down-size,” notes Arthur. They also took the neighborhood into account, building a house that, while new, would fit into its surroundings.
As they worked through the process, Laurel and Arthur also discovered that their new home would give them the opportunity to get organized and refresh their style. “We didn’t start out thinking we were building our dream home, but then we realized that we could work in everything we’d always wanted in a house,” says Laurel. Arthur, a homebuilder and renovator, agrees. “As we worked through designing every nook and cranny, I gained a renewed appreciation for my clients,” he says. “It’s so easy to overthink every decision.”
Although the house has a classic vibe, contemporary accessories and fabrics add splashes of interest and the occasional jolt of bright, cheerful color. “Laurel mentioned aqua as a possible color, and we went with it,” says Brandon Davidson of Brandon Davidson Interiors. “It works throughout the house, with orange as a fun accent in the den and, softened, in the bedroom. It really ties the whole house together.”
Color isn’t the only unifying theme in the home. Throughout the house, memories abound, from the diverse assortment of paintings they’ve collected over the years to photographs and family treasures. Soft rugs are easy on tiny feet and oversized chairs and sofas encourage snuggling. “It’s a very inviting home,” says Brandon. “Nothing says ‘don’t touch me.’”
But while the house is comfortable, style reins. In the foyer, horizontal stripes in deep bronze and cream set a dramatic tone that’s tempered ever-so-slightly by an antique bowfront chest. Matched with striking accessories — an abstract painting, animal-print rug, colorful art glass and contemporary lamps and light fixtures — the room’s cool-meets-classic aesthetic is a microcosm of the rest of the house. “Even though it’s the first thing you see, the foyer was actually the last room we did,” says Brandon. “Working backwards gave us a chance to pull elements from the rest of the house into a single space.”
In the foyer, horizontal stripes in deep bronze and cream set a dramatic tone that’s tempered ever-so-slightly by an antique bowfront chest.
Although it’s punctuated by turquoise and orange, the den sends out a come-hang-out invitation, thanks, in part, to a large, granite-topped wet bar and a pair of brown leather recliners that sit side-by-side on a tweedy cream rug. “I had to have a comfortable recliner,” says Arthur. “When Laurel sat in it, she had to have one, too!” The blank-slate recliners also let Brandon have some fun with the rest of the room: chairs are covered in flax-colored fabric jazzed up with a graphic orange design, brightly colored throw pillows are scattered about and, on either side of the sliding glass door that leads to a covered porch, drapes in a green, orange, red and blue ikat patterned fabric form a bright picture frame. Built-in shelves showcase family mementos and a small cluster of ceramic pieces. “I’m a collector and a vintage shopper,” says Laurel. “I let things I see inspire me.”
One inspiration is her collection of colorful ceramic dinnerware. Organized by color and arranged on shelves that fill one of the kitchen walls, the varied pieces — mostly old, some new — form a textured mosaic that not only anchors the room, but makes it easy to set the table for dinner as well. “They’re the dishes we eat on,” explains Laurel. “We mix them up every night. It’s more fun that way.”
The kitchen itself was built around a memory that Arthur wanted to keep — doing dishes with his grandmother, who lived with his family when he was growing up. “Our kitchen sink faced a window,” he explains. “Every night, my grandmother and I would wash dishes together and look out the window. Now, when I’m standing at the sink, I can almost look into my old back yard. It’s a wonderful reminder of her.” Laurel, too, has her share of memory-inspiring touches, including a wall in her office that she decorated with 60-year-old postcards that her father sent her mother when he was stationed abroad and pieces of coral that her dad collected when the family lived in Hawaii.
Laurel Suggs’s collection of colorful ceramic dinnerware inspired her kitchen.
Aside from its stylish design, the home is filled with why-didn’t-I-think-of-that innovations that save space and keep nearly everything orderly. Take the pantry. Designed to hold everything from oversized vases to canned goods, the room is outfitted with extra-tall spaces along the top and shelves of varying widths and heights. Not an inch is wasted, and Laurel can easily grab what she needs. Holiday decorations get their own closet. In the kitchen, a specially-built cabinet over the refrigerator holds a television; others hold a surprising number of trash bins. One custom cabinet was designed with space for mail baskets, hooks for keys, a place for Laurel’s purse and a charging station for phones and other small electronic accessories. “We always know where our phones are, and there aren’t cords all over the place,” says Arthur, who also hid television cords and outlets behind each wall-mounted television.
Although the house has a classic vibe, contemporary accessories and fabrics add splashes of interest and the occasional jolt of bright, cheerful color.
In the master bedroom closet, a set of slanted shelves displays sixty pairs of shoes; in the bathroom, a custom cubby hides a small television and Laurel’s hair dryer. To streamline planning, Laurel chose one style of hardware — knobs, pulls, towel bars and the like — and used it in the kitchen and all the bathrooms. “At this point in our lives, those kinds of details just don’t matter,” she explains. “We have more important things to think about, like whether our grandchildren are having fun here and building new memories with family and friends. That’s what’s really important to us right now.”