“If you’re going to renovate, the project should absolutely transform the way you live in your house,” says architectural designer Stephen Wells. Stephen and interior designers Sandra McDonald and Austine Fleener collaborated recently on a renovation project in Nashville. We caught up with them to see the results of what creative problem solving and beautiful design can accomplish.


The curb appeal and spacious floor plan immediately appealed to the homeowners, who had spent the early years raising their family in a smaller dwelling.

Interestingly, when Sandra arrived to meet with Stephen and the homeowners, she recalled that this was a house she had helped decorate twenty years ago. “I remember talking with the prior owners years ago about what a ‘dream addition,’ would look like, which, ironically, is exactly what the new owners have built. I had imagined what I thought this already-great house could use to help it live up to its potential, and what serendipity to come in with the project underway to discover that Stephen’s vision and my earlier one were the same!”

As the saying goes, necessity is truly the mother of invention, and when the homeowners discovered this house, they were so enthralled with it, they overlooked that it didn’t, in its original state, have a family room. When their oldest child stopped by to see the new house, shortly before departing for college, he asked, “So where’s the family room?” The house suited their needs perfectly–it was a traditional style that they liked, it had great curb appeal and was situated in an ideal location–but that one question launched the homeowners on a quest to make this house their forever home, which inspired the complete renovation that we all get to enjoy in these photos today.


To the right of the pool, you can see the addition to the home. Though not visible from the street, the renovation concept involved adding a family room and a proper back door. In the process, the family also gained a pool house–perfect for this busy family with three children–and a garage in the rear, as well as a new master suite and kitchen.

Below, you can see the family room interior. This room is the cornerstone of the whole project. Would you believe that in its former life, this space was actually a garage? Stephen and builder West Cook devised a plan that was sheer genius here: the floor of a bonus room above the former garage was dropped, allowing a much-needed family room to emerge adjacent to the kitchen. Though not an easy feat to execute, this strategic change has quite literally transformed the way the family lives in their home.


Two decor notes we can’t overlook: Above the fireplace hangs a gorgeous painting by local artist Charlotte Terrell, which is lovely visual counterpoint to the Audubon print over the sofa.

The family cat claims this as her favorite perch most days, and we can see why, given how appealing this cozy corner is.

The family cat claims this as her favorite perch most days, and we can see why, given how appealing this cozy corner is.


The homeowners are collectors of antiques and art, and here you can see a favorite chest that lives in the entry.


Another look at this fine piece of furniture and focal point of this wide hallway, shown here with a more contemporary pair of pillows.

The couple wanted to use as much of their existing furniture as possible, and Sandra and Austine were able to work their magic throughout the home doing just that:


In this photo of the couple’s library, you can see a pair of wing chairs that belonged to the husband’s grandparents. They live on here dressed in a sumptuous, deep navy silk velvet that adds to the cozy feel of this room. Notably, the room faces the pool and patio and reflects the light beautifully, making this an inviting place to spend time.


The back hall is home to a New England Chippendale mahogany chest, a gift from Roupen Gulbenk, a Nashvillian and an authority on American antiques.


The decor for the living room evolved from these four antique French blue matted prints that were a beloved aunt’s. In fact, throughout the house, you’ll see the reiteration of blue in many shades. It’s the couple’s favorite color and provides a thread of continuity in the classically appointed space.


Notice the Pierre Frey curtains in the pool house. They were part of the original house and were repurposed for this space–proof that a classic print really is timeless. Also, notice also the soaring ceiling that brings extra light and views.

Kitchens, bathrooms and master bedrooms are always favorites in any renovation project, which proves to be the case here as well:


This is a cook’s kitchen, designed and built for the lady of the house who claims this as her favorite space. The fixtures all came from Artifacts and were selected by Stephen to provide sufficient light for the kitchen, as well as maintain the traditional feel of the house. Decorative painter Robin Campbell softened the original black finish to a softer gray. She added special finishes to the island and bar stools, as well.


Here you can see a portion of the butler’s pantry, adjacent to the kitchen. At 14′ x 16′, it’s large enough to allow for big crowds and overflow during parties, but for everyday use, this space is smartly designed also as the laundry room.


The Waterhouse wallpaper used in the powder room is a replica of a vintage pattern and incorporates every shade of blue used throughout the home.


This serene master suite is the ultimate space for relaxing.

A quiet alcove in the master suite, perfect for reading.

A quiet alcove in the master suite, perfect for reading.


A free-standing tub was an addition to the master bath that anchors the space visually.


The master bath is the perfect mix of old and new: the shower Stephen designed includes classic marble tiles used years ago, offered in today’s scale.

Happy clients are the best reward, says Sandra, in thinking about the end result of this fun project. “When I asked my clients what they wanted to say about this project, their answer was the ultimate compliment: They said they love their home so much, they never want to leave, which is why I make a point to go over and visit often!”


Thank you Stephen and Sandra. And thank you to the homeowners for letting us enjoy a tour of your marvelous home!

Today’s beautiful photographs are courtesy of the talented Wiff Harmer. See more of her work here: wiffharmer.com