When Gwen Driscoll’s longtime clients moved into their East Memphis home 15 years ago, their children were young and their tastes traditional. Gwen helped the family pull together a design that perfectly met their needs. They loved the house and lived in it happily for years, raising their two sons in it. But as those young boys grow into young men, the family knew they needed the home to grow with them.
“Before the renovation, they really didn’t have a playroom or any space that was designed for active teenagers,” says Gwen, interior designer and owner of Driscoll Design & Decoration. “It’s not that it’s a small house, it’s just an old house that didn’t have the extra spaces that we seem to need with the way we live today.”
Gwen’s challenge was to update the space in a way that expanded the family’s living areas without detracting from the home’s graceful architecture by T. Douglas Enoch Architects & Associates. Her side goal? To marry her clients’ love of traditional design with their playful spirit and desire for a home that functions well with modern life.
Both the husband and wife are traditionalists, says Gwen. “But she also has a very quirky, interesting eye, and that’s one of the reasons I love working for them. She loves art and is always adding to her collection of art.” The wife’s preferred palette includes purple, chartreuse and teal, as well as oranges and reds — not necessarily a traditional combination. She also loves graphic black-and-white textiles and art. “That was really the essential design goal — to use all of those colors she loves and continue the design in the new spaces while keeping some of the original design, like the family room with its brick wall and fireplace,” Gwen says. “It was integrating the design that we’d done years ago, refreshing some of the spaces that we didn’t renovate and then incorporating the new, renovated spaces with the existing design.”
The renovation included the addition of several new spaces, namely a playroom, media room and screened-in porch. “The whole back of the house was added onto and renovated,” Gwen says. “And then some work was done with the plant room, the garage and laundry room.” The “plant room” is a hobby area-turned-showplace for the wife, who loves gardening and wanted space to store equipment and carry out her planting projects.
To create the space, Gwen played on its botanical theme using unexpected colors and materials. The room’s black-and-white wallpaper gives a nod to the homeowner’s love of all things floral while allowing actual flowers and plants to bring color to the space. “We decided to put a graphic geometric tile that she likes on the floor, and we used a wallpaper that didn’t have a lot of color — because flowers do. But it is a large-scale floral. And that’s absolutely one of my favorite spaces in their house, for two reasons: I think it looks fabulous, and it’s very functional for them.”
With its whitewashed brick walls, sky blue ceiling and deep, woven sofas, the new screened-in porch is another of the family’s favorite areas. “It’s a fabulous space they use year-round,” Gwen says. “It has a fireplace, and it’s really like another room for them. We furnished it with lots of really comfortable seating, and they spend a whole lot of time out there. Their boys even sleep out there when it’s not too cold. It’s just a great space.”
Though the living room, family room, dining room and built-in bar aren’t new, Gwen worked to integrate the design of the existing spaces with the overall look and feel of the renovation. A new side entrance near the bar adds access from the driveway. The bar’s soft blue hue — Mountain Laurel by Benjamin Moore — threads through the adjacent family room, with its warm brick hearth and comfy red leather chair.
Although the living room has a slightly more urbane feel, Gwen worked to keep it playful and approachable. “It’s a very large room, but it’s not an overly formal room,” she says. “We used that black-and-white silk fabric on the windows and lots of color in the textiles, and overall it’s a beautiful space, but it’s also a space they use.” The violet hues in the painting above the fireplace — a work by Carroll Cloar that the husband inherited from family — repeat throughout the room, bringing a gentle rhythm to the space. That’s by design.
“The main thing when I think about them as clients is that they’re both very warm, genuine, inviting people, and I feel like their home really reflects that,” Gwen says. “They love color, and it’s not a boring house. It’s a happy, fun, really unique — I use the word quirky — just not your run-of-the-mill house. And I think that’s what makes it special.”
Thank you to Julie Wage Ross for today’s beautiful images!
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