After a six-month stint in New Zealand, Adam and Katherine Thrower of Birmingham, AL, were struck by the culture of living with less space and less stuff. Inspired by this aesthetic, the couple craved a simpler style of living in their next home when they returned to the States. They wanted simpler, smaller, with more outdoor living spaces for playing, walking and biking. This made Homewood — an idyllic neighborhood of historic bungalows with mature trees over sidewalk-lined streets — the perfect place for their family of four.
“I love that we were able to take a choppy, historical cottage and make it feel like a low-slung, sprawling, modern retreat,” says interior designer Fran Keenan.
“We knew we wanted something primitive here to mix with the clean lines of the architecture,” says Fran. “The Throwers found the perfect source during their travels to Colorado and sourced this table from a Swedish antique dealer. It is an antique workbench. The juxtaposition of the traditional Louis Philippe mirror over this piece is what really makes this vignette sing.”
“Katherine comes from a very musically gifted family, so it was a priority to incorporate her piano into the furniture plan. Katherine plays beautifully, along with her daughter, Audrey,” says Fran.
“The original home was a rambling American cottage built in 1940,” says interior designer Fran Keenan of Fran Keenan Design, who partnered with architect Marshall Anderson of Design Initiative on this and the Throwers’ previous home. “Marshall and I visited this home while it was on the market and brainstormed how it could be transformed into the Throwers’ new home, then offered our thoughts. The Throwers decided to take the leap from abroad so that drawings could begin immediately.”
Much of the historic cottage’s footprint didn’t change, but the home was gutted and the roofline raised to accommodate two bedrooms and a playroom upstairs for the children. A separate garage with an upstairs apartment for guests was also built. The design team made these additions with a minimalist’s eye, respecting the scale and style of the historic cottage and its neighborhood while also turning an old-school bungalow into an airy, light-filled, modern retreat.
A 1940s Italian sofa, reupholstered in Rebecca Atwood fabric, is from ABC Carpet & Home in New York. It brings a sleek juxtaposition to the vintage rattan chair and custom suede cushion, both from Dixon Rye in Atlanta. A cube-shaped ottoman of spun wool completes the textured yet quiet vignette.
“It’s hard to choose a favorite room, but probably the family room, anchored by the exquisite custom sofa from Dixon Rye with the found 1960s Swedish love seat,” says Fran. “Each piece of furniture was test driven for comfort and durability.”
Design tips for styling bookshelves: “If a bookcase isn’t singing, it probably doesn’t have enough books. Secondly, mix in accessories that have a variety of shapes, colors and textures to add interest and give it a more personal touch. In this case, the black backdrop really makes the shapes shine,” says Fran. “Keep stacks of books clean with small shapely objects at the top of your stacks and intermittently through the books. If you want a modern look, give the books and accessories room to breathe.”
“The architect and homeowners and I worked together on building and decorating their first house, so we already had a great working relationship. It was fun and exciting to reinterpret this family in a new and different way from the first house and see their family, and thus their dwelling, evolve to reflect who they are,” says Fran. “Their goals were different in this house, they wanted simpler, smaller, and now that their family was more established, they knew more about how they wanted to live.”
Fran describes the aesthetic of the interiors as edited, undecorated and honest — a mix of clean, crisp upholstery, modern art and timeworn pieces for an overall European vibe. She says the idea was less is more. And she set about creating a sleek but warm space for the family to call home.
“This is the most deconstructed and undecorated project we’ve ever done,” says Fran. “As an underlying theme, we kept the decorating restrained — no trims, no pleats, no embellishments — allowing the streamlined structure to breathe. Our client, Adam, who served as the contractor for the renovation, wanted to celebrate the structures and workings of the house for what they are, instead of masking over everything with a perfect façade.” This deconstructed approach influenced many of the design choices, such as the decision to expose the floor joists of the second floor for the first floor ceiling, lending height and a loft-like feel.
“Our first challenge was given to us by the client: to use the same paint color throughout the house. Since we are known for our use of color, I embraced the challenge and sought to find the perfect shade of white,” says Fran, who landed on a breathable hue that laid the perfect backdrop for the home’s streamlined modern vibe. “I love that the inside of the house feels like a snowy day, but it’s still warm and cozy. You’re encapsulated in a crisp white cocoon with strong contrasts and loads of texture.”
“Instead of covering the ceiling in sheetrock, we exposed the floor joists and subfloor from the second floor to add texture and grit to a home that might otherwise feel a bit too pristine due to the newly finished walls and floors,” says Fran. “This brought a ‘loft’ element from so many loft-living images that were inspiring to this project. We also made this choice in order to give the look of more ceiling height, as the original ceiling height in the home was 8 feet.”
The Throwers’ wish for the decluttered New Zealand aesthetic resulted in this sleek kitchen, which forgoes the usual cabinetry above. The design team created functional lower storage space and an adjacent pantry with additional appliance storage. Custom white oak cabinets are by MDM Design Studio and the countertop is poured-in-place marble composite by Concrete Farmer.
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“The Throwers had a cozy banquette in their previous home, and it was important to them to repeat this lifestyle element as a great place for dining, homework and games,” says Fran. “The reproduction Saarinen-style table brings a sleek modern element to the warmth of the kitchen, and the vintage bistro chairs complete the look to bring some grit to the mix. We all wanted to keep the view uninhibited to the landscape, so we settled on this unobtrusive cluster of hanging bulbs over the table.We used a durable indoor-outdoor fabric for the custom banquette cushion, which is accented with leather straps crafted by Adam’s father who is a retired cobbler,” says Fran.
Just outside the kitchen’s banquette area is a gorgeous outdoor dining space. French metal chairs are made to look like leather sling chairs, which Fran’s team found at Garden Variety Design in Nashville. The table design began with vintage bases, found from Eneby Home in Nashville. Fran had a custom resin top made by Elegant Earth to complete the vision.
“This is the guest room that is on the main level of the main house. It is gloriously flooded with three sides of light, which made it so fun to work with. The drapery provides an ethereal backdrop to let the other elements speak clearly,” says Fran. “The William McLure abstract painting over the bed is a home-run in bringing a modern and sophisticated touch.”
“The Moroccan rug was a leap of faith because it has more color than anywhere else in the home, but it truly makes the room so warm and inviting. The vintage wallpaper lamp adds warmth to the modern console,” says Fran.
The stunning master bath is awash in natural light by day and a warm glow from the banana leaf chandelier by night.
Striking dot-shaped pegs in various colors and sizes provide a creative storage solution in the playroom.
The Throwers’ daughter, Audrey, fell in love with this marble-topped coffee table and uses it as a nightstand and play table for her bedroom. “As kids exit the toddler stage, they often look for a play surface as opposed to playing on the floor. Low tables in a child’s bedroom or play space are great at this age,” says Fran.
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“The boy’s room also has a secret play area in a finished attic space, mostly used for assembling Legos and Nerf gun wars,” says Fran.
“The garage opens both to the driveway and to the yard to provide a flow for entertaining and toys. Above the garage is a guests’ ‘apartment’,” says Fran. “In the Throwers’ previous home, the kids had a well-loved modern tree house. When laying out the footprint of the garage, the Throwers were careful to protect this wonderful old oak tree as the future site of the new tree house for the kids.”
The result is a home that is unpretentious and unfussy. It forgoes the frills for a subdued space that — while elegant and polished — leaves the personality to the humans who dwell within. “It was fun and exciting to reinterpret this family in a new and different way from the first house and see their family, and thus their dwelling, evolve to reflect who they are,” says Fran. Taking on this European design approach, the true decoration is found in its inhabitants giggling together, the aromas of cooking in the kitchen, boisterous footsteps running through the house, the clanking of piano practice, homework studies at the banquette, the subtle murmurs of bedtime — the family learning, growing, laughing, loving and living together.
Thank you to Graham Yelton of Graham Yelton Creative for the gorgeous images of the Throwers’ home.
And thank you to the Thrower family and Fran Keenan of Fran Keenan Design for sharing this gorgeous home with us!
Architecture: Marshall Anderson of Design Initiative
Interior design: Fran Keenan of Fran Keenan Design
Landscape architecture: John Wilson of Golightly Landscape Architecture
Landscape maintenance: Father Nature
Custom cabinetry in kitchen & master bath: MDM Design Studio
Plumbing & hardware in master bath: Fixtures & Finishes
Kitchen countertop: Concrete Farmer, John Ward, (205) 790-1481
Outdoor furniture: Bobo Intriguing Objects, YLiving, Garden Variety Design, Eneby Home, Elegant Earth
Sofa in front living room: ABC Carpet and Home
Custom sofa in den and rattan chair in front living room: Dixon Rye
Banana leaf chandelier in master bath: Anthropologie
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