Every once in a while you come upon a house renovation that is truly a work straight from the designer’s heart—this is one of those houses. This beautiful home in the North Carolina mountains is the work of architect and Designer Keven Hawkins of Cashiers, North Carolina. Here is a Q & A with Keven about this gracious home.
What was the most unique aspect of this project?
This project was unique in so many ways. In particular the house was a combination of an existing summer house from the 1940s along with a new addition to the existing main house. Other features included an existing guest house that had once held a former owner’s toy train collection and an outbuilding used as a workshop. It became almost a small compound of three free-standing structures.
Did your client have existing pieces or did you provide all new furnishings?
This was really a dream project. My client was a dream to work with, and we became close friends over the course of this project. She already had a collection of family antiques as well as artwork. We incorporated her existing items and edited them down to the most beautiful pieces. We then added new upholstery new curtains and finishes to enhance her existing collection.
The kitchen is most impressive. Tell us a bit more about that room.
The kitchen really became the focal point of the entire house. We decided from the beginning that we did not want any upper wall cabinets. All of the storage and true kitchen functions take place below the counter tops. The tall items that would normally be associated with a kitchen such as the refrigerator are all placed in a butler’s pantry below the staircase.
The countertops are massive pieces of brown rainforest marble. The marble is very, very busy and has a lot of movement with beautiful rich tones of golds and browns. The marble counters take center stage but the remaining portions of the kitchen are calm and in solid tones of creamy white and almond.
The backsplash behind the Viking range is made from a collection of terracotta tiles that were salvaged from a convent in the south of France. We installed them in a herringbone pattern to again give an interest of pattern and texture to the kitchen. The floor in the kitchen is a series of cast concrete pavers. The lighting in the kitchen is very special. We used fixtures that became objects in their own right and the pair of copper fixtures over the island were custom-made for the client in England.
I I love the plaster wall finish. How did you manage that finish here in the mountains?
We worked with a talented young artist from near Sylva, North Carolina. I explained that I wanted a wall finish that was soft and had a very low luster with a very dry appearance. We decided on the undercoats that are normally used for Venetian plaster. This technique gave us the dry and soft effect that we were looking for.
I really like the antique wood that you carefully used in both the dining room and living room. Tell us about that.
The wood is actually antique white oak from the exterior of several barns in central Pennsylvania. We purchased the wood from a company in Virginia. The wood is a very high quality solid antique white oak paneling system that is kiln dried, cut to fit and shipped to job sites.
This house is full of beautifully upholstered furnishings. Tell us more about these unique pieces.
All of the upholstery in this house harkens back to my days working in New York. It is a great luxury to work with a client who appreciates finely upholstered custom furniture. I designed the upholstered pieces based on historical models from England. I had each piece custom made to my specifications and measured drawings.
The large-scale lounge chair in the living room is what I refer to as an English lounge chair. It is extra wide and extra deep for curling up with a book by the fireplace. It is covered in a custom printed linen fabric made for the client in London.
The tufted chair is the middle-scale piece in that room. It is covered in a peacock teal blue strié velvet.
The third-scale chair is what I refer to as the English library open armchair. The open armchair is covered in a harris tweed wool fabric.
I designed the over scale ottoman to act as a coffee table. It is also covered in the peacock blue strie velvet; however, the centerpiece has a wide stripe down the middle using a 19th century piece of Portuguese needlepoint.
The lighting in this house is interesting—you must really like lighting.
I love lighting. I’m often asked how to lighten up a dark room; my standard response is “add lamps.” Lighting really sets the mood for every room in the house. You may be surprised to know that there are 19 light fixtures in the kitchen alone. They are all on dimmers and all provide different types of lighting.
What is going on with this collection of purple upholstered furniture in the family room?
My client owned an antique oriental rug that contained various shades of dark and light purple. I went out on a limb and suggested that we use cotton velvet in a color called “Grape”. She loved the idea and the result is quite stunning. To complete the run we added throw pillows covered in printed linen ikat fabric in shades of purple and yellow.
The house is full of beautifully made millwork and built-in furniture. Did you design that as well?
Yes, I designed the custom millwork, and it was made specifically for this house. I depend on high quality solid maple and poplar for custom millwork. I then have it painted in a semi-gloss finish to provide a bit of a contrast to the surrounding painted walls and plaster surfaces.
All photos by Lissy Parker for lissyparker.com. You are welcome to borrow my photos—just please credit the source.