As an enthusiastic designaholic, interior designer Brandon Branch already has bought and renovated seven houses — yes, seven — in Savannah, Georgia. And he just turned 40. “Houses really are my passion,” he says. “I have a real love for the process of taking a home in need of love and turning it into a showplace.”
Savannah is ideal for architecture aficionados, after all, with its shady town squares lined with historic houses. The coastal Georgia town is home to the artsy school SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design), so although interiors may be rich with antiques, there’s usually a bit of a bohemian vibe, as well.
Brandon’s seventh house is pure Savannah charm — with a colorful history. “My home was built in 1886 and has a New Orleans feel to it with iron railings,” he explains. “It was originally a boarding house on the top two floors, the first floor was a candy store and in back was a barber shop.”
The 1886-built Savannah house has its original iron balconies, giving the façade a New Orleans flair.
An elegant foyer sets the tone at Brandon Branch’s house. “I put in the black and white marble floor because it’s classic and appropriate for the home,” he says. “I just love wallpaper, so I put Thibaut’s grass cloth on the walls for texture.”
Brandon found this striking antique rug on igavelauctions.com and built the whole room around it. As a contrast to darker antique pieces in his house, he chose a sand-colored sofa and chairs from Restoration Hardware to anchor the living room. As for that piano? Brandon says: “(Husband) Jim and I love a sing-along after a dinner party!”
Floor-to-ceiling drapery panels also are from Restoration Hardware.
Leopard-print pillows (fabric from Brunschwig & Fils) add a cheeky element to the formal living room.
An abstract painting by local artist Daniel Smith energizes the dining room. The table and chairs are from local antiques source, Jere’s Antiques.
Pale green kitchen cabinets are accented with a unique mirror-and-stained-glass backsplash tile from Garden State Tile in Savannah.
“The kitchen sitting area is where we spend most of our time,” says Brandon. “It’s so nice to sit there with a cocktail and watch the news while one of us cooks.”
A lot of architectural features were intact in the house, giving Brandon a good starting point. He and his realtor husband, Jim Johnston, did some key remodeling — putting in a new kitchen and bath, and new flooring for the first-level foyer, for instance—but they never lost sight of the fun part: decorating.
Antiques fill the historic home, each with a provenance that appeals to Brandon. “I love anything that has a story or a history,” he says. “I’ve always enjoyed collecting antiques and I buy most of them in Savannah.” To avoid the house feeling like a museum, the designer mixed in modern art, fresh pillows and the occasional unexpected accessory.
The second-floor foyer showcases an Empire sideboard from the 1840s that was made in Savannah. “I had the ottoman custom made to fit underneath it,” says Brandon. “I love the great pop of color with the rug.” The artwork is by a SCAD student.
The master bedroom features neutral, masculine colors.
“I have carried that zebra rug from house to house for years,” says Brandon. The master sitting area also highlights a painting he bought from igavelauctions.com.
“I love having a fireplace in the bathroom,” says Brandon. “On a cold winter night … to soak in the tub with the fire going and a glass of wine is perfection!”
Gray tones in the master bath are warmed up by touches of brown and gold.
Brandon bought the chandelier in this second sitting room from a mansion on Forsyth Park. He enjoys the hunt for one-of-a-kind pieces, such as this Louis Phillip mirror he found at a favorite antique store in Savannah called Seventh Heaven; the rug was an eBay find.
“The bar in this room is from the 1800s,” says Brandon. “It has a silver tray built in and, when you close the sides, the tray goes down into the cabinet to hide the liquor.”
“I think the key to blending antiques and keeping a fresh look is not to completely fill a room with antiques,” Brandon advises. “I like a nice blend … I try to stick with a mix of 60 percent new and 40 percent antique. I do feel in Savannah you can push it to 60 percent antiques and 40 percent new,” he says, adding, “We are, after all, a city rich in history.”
Thanks to Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn for today’s beautiful photography. See more of her work here.
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