Matthew Carter and Brent Bruner had always had their eye on an historic Ashland Park home when it surprisingly came on the market two years ago. They’ve created an interesting mix of old-style, 1940s glamour, rich textures and functional spaces inside.
By Robyn Davis Sekula
Kentucky Homes and Gardens | July/August 2007
Two years ago on a beautiful fall Sunday morning, designer Matthew Carter and his partner, architect Brent Bruner, decided to drive down Richmond Road in Lexington for nothing more than the pleasure of seeing a beautiful neighborhood in the morning light.
Then, Carter spotted something that made him come to a full stop, and turn around. It was a “for sale” sign in front of a home they had long admired. The 1928 house had great proportions and was a comfortably larger size than the bungalow they had been renovating. Carter called a real estate agent friend, yes, at 8:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning, and asked the agent to help them get into the home as soon as possible.
By noon, they were opening the front door and walking into the gracious foyer of the home, imaging how beautiful it could be. And by that evening, they had a contract on the attractive property. “When I think of what I want in a house and my personal style, this is it,” Carter says. “It’s not too large for two people, but the spaces feel grand. We can have a party and have 80 to 90 people in the house and spilling out onto the terrace and it doesn’t feel cramped.”
Built in 1928, the Colonial Revival house had been owned entirely by one family. But for the last 18 years of its life, it had functioned as rental property, with the owner living in Frankfort. The original house plans even came with the house.
For Bruner and Carter, this was a well-maintained home mostly in need of redecorating, a house they could put their stamp on and make work for their lives without doing a great deal of messy, tedious construction work.
The partners’ largest changes to the home included replacing light fixtures, refinishing floors and bumping up some of the home’s small moldings to grander heights. They hired a carpenter to add more decorative moldings to the home, all in keeping with its historic style. A stacked, nine-inch molding in the front parlor is in a Greek Key design that looks as if it might be original. They chose more modern low-voltage, recessed lights to highlight pieces of art and other decorative pieces throughout the house. Other light fixtures were replaced with ones that clearly have some age, but still work with the house.
The couple worked with a soothing palette of natural colors in varying shades of stone for the walls and complimentary tones for accessories. Natural fibers complement the earthy palette. Carter says he wanted his home to be a restful retreat.
A tour begins with the gracious foyer, one of Carter’s favorite architectural elements in the home. It gives the couple a welcoming space to receive guests. The center hall plan of the home also allows them to open the front screen door and a back screen door to pull in breezes throughout the entire house. Walls in the foyer are very subtly painted to look like limestone block in shades of pale beige, gray and other stone colors. The look of paneling and a large, oval ceiling medallion were created by the same artist, Kim Comstock, who created the limestone-looking walls. The light fixture in the room looks like a large lantern. The fixture originally had panes of opaque white glass, but Carter removed the glass to make the fixture look more modern. A Gothic-inspired mirror was actually a window that Carter placed mirror glass in. Tortoise shell desk accessories create a stylish vignette on a marble-top, pear-wood inlaid chest that Carter says was one of his first antique purchases.
In the home’s living room, the couple’s combined furnishings happily mingle. Carter tends towards traditional shapes, and Bruner towards more modern, so their styles complement and add layers of interest to the room. A black and white cow hide rug tops a patterned sea grass rug in the room. Carter likes the rough-textured sea grass because it shows off the furnishings and accessories in the rooms. “It’s a great foil for antiques and the kind of things we like,” Carter says. “Everything is pretty off of it.”
The walls are painted pale platinum, and antique metal occasional tables at varying heights add glamour to the room. Natural fibers take center stage, with richly patterned Italian cotton drapes and brown flax shades behind. Carter likes the shades because they provide privacy from the busy street but also allow some light inside the home.
The mantle is the room’s focal point. A formal-looking portrait of a man over the mantle was purchased in Washington, D.C., simply for its looks. The portrait is flanked by two tole agave plants that the couple purchased in Paris and sent home to Kentucky. Another painting in the living room, this one a 17th century Flemish oil, shows a hunt for a boar, but its tones are dark and muted, keeping it from being garish.
The largest renovation project to date was replacing the home’s central downstairs bathroom. Carter and Bruner replaced its pink, 1950s décor with a more classical bathroom in keeping with the age and style of the home. For the shower, the couple chose large slabs of gray and white honed marble and created a generously sized space. For the bathroom’s fixtures, they chose stylish pieces with classical lines that match the style of the home. The tile is polished Calcutta marble laid in a brick pattern highlighted by polished black mosaic marble, all designed Carter and Bruner and created by Waterworks.
The dining room is one of the home’s central gathering spots when the couple is entertaining, as the room can extend its reach by opening the doors at the back onto the bluestone patio. A built-in china cabinet that likely dates from the home’s construction provides a display for some of the couple’s favorite objects, and a favorite painting by Marco Logsdon, formerly of Lexington, provides a focal point in the room. The wall color in the room runs from gray to blue to green, depending on the light, and the couple likes its ever-changing nature.
Outside the dining room doors is the terrace, where the partners spend most of their free time on nice days. Future plans call for landscaping and other major work to the terraced back yard, a kitchen renovation and redecorating some rooms. Having some rooms completed, though, gives them that retreat that they so wanted from their hectic working lives.
Faux painting in foyer: Kim Comstock
Bathroom tile: Waterworks
Paint colors: Farrow & Ball
Engravings: Geneva Archibald
Antiques: The Century Shop, Steve Tipton, Andrew Gentile & Co., Trace Mayer Antiques