Interior designer Sean Anderson flips tradition on its side with an unconventional mix of classic and contemporary in his East Memphis home. He transformed this 1960s throwback into an exceptional 21st-century translation of his aesthetic.
Sean describes himself as an interpreter of his clients’ lifestyles: “I truly believe that spaces have their own language—a story. My main goal is to listen to my clients, know their story and individual needs, and understand their language before any work begins. Just as no two people are alike, no two spaces are alike.” Just as Sean translates for others, his personal home is an imitable combination of plot twists and turns that tell his aesthetic story, a winding narrative that, Sean attests, started with an extremely rough draft.
“Wait, this project has ended?!” Attesting to the fact that a designer’s work is never done when the project is their personal home, this was Sean’s lighthearted response when asked to name the end date for his renovation. “Since this is my own home,” he adds, “I am constantly tweaking, editing and refining. And I still have long-term plans I’d like to see happen. For this first phase, though, start to finish, the total home renovation took five months.”
At the beginning of phase one, Sean faced a three-dimensional challenge that many would have deemed hopeless. Not much had changed since the home’s original 1960s state. He faced aged linoleum, shag carpet and an abundance of wallpaper. There had been minimal upkeep, apparent in an overgrown exterior and ancient appliances. This was a whole home renovation from floor to ceiling. Sean has plans for a downstairs master suite, but in phase one, he did not add square footage. However, every room and every surface was touched. He wanted to maximize the current footprint of a modest-size home by turning a choppy 1960s layout into a more open concept with modern living spaces.
To create an up-to-date floor plan, several small rooms with limited flow were converted to open spaces between the living room and downstairs den. Hidden pocket doors are integral to the success of a space that now provides both freedom of movement for entertaining and individual space when needed.
From the outside in, this house has a soothing, neutral color palette. A variety of whites, grays and splashes of black provide the perfect canvas for the home and allow Sean to highlight his true style as a designer. “Since this is my own home, I used a palette that speaks to me personally, that provides a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. This home is a space where I can unwind, relax and entertain those I love most,” Sean adds.
Upstairs, to add the illusion of higher ceilings and larger rooms, the same color paint was used on walls, trim and ceiling in each of the bedrooms. Painting hallway trim and doors black added dimension and historic character.
Important changes took place in the kitchen, which is now a command central space of the home with an adjacent laundry room. By using the same cabinets and countertops in the kitchen and laundry room and hiding the washer and dryer behind lower laundry cabinets, the laundry room became an extension of the kitchen. This added space, storage and functionality to what is now a highly functional room. In the kitchen and laundry areas, Sean used black pearl granite countertops with a leathered finish. He explains, “Its durable surface is totally functional, but it also has a unique texture. And its dark color continues a black accent throughout the home.”
A third-floor room that was originally attic space became Sean’s upstairs den—perfect as a bunkroom, man cave or playroom, which is its current function for his nieces and nephews who visit often.
Two-and-a-half bathrooms also got a total overhaul. Again, it was about maximizing space. In the master bath, he used a combination of timeless Carrara marble and modern subway tile along with a frameless glass shower. The hall guest bathroom combines beadboard, Carrara marble and all new fixtures. “The downstairs half-bathroom is almost everyone’s favorite room,” Sean says. “Instead of a traditional vanity, I used an antique table with a stone vessel, combined with planked walls and ceiling, pendant lights and an antiqued mirror.”
Sean grew up in a small town in Mississippi, and he says he is still a small-town boy at heart. “My family was—and still is—the most important. They are my biggest supporters and have always encouraged my creativity.” Sean brings a bit of heritage into his home’s story with a collection of arrowheads from family property in Mississippi. They are displayed in the dining area, framed for presentation and preservation. “I used arrowheads that have been passed down from my grandfather, to my father and now to me. These arrowheads are a part of me, part of my story, and I wanted to find a way to highlight them in the home.”
One of Sean’s favorite design challenges is adding new function to old, found objects. For example, mirrors flanking the fireplace are repurposed old washtubs that Sean found and converted into mirrors with help from Garner Picture Framing. The coffee table in this living space is actually an old trap door he found in a local antique store.
Thank you, Sean, for highlighting phase one of your home’s renovation. We think the current story is extraordinary, but since you alluded to even bigger, long-term plans, we anxiously await the sequel!