Something old, something new
Roger and Karen Hale merged households in a new house with a nod to Old World style. With the help of designer Buff Fallot, they’ve created a home that suits their lifestyle and even accommodates their four grown daughters and their children.
By Robyn Davis Sekula
Kentucky Homes and Gardens | March/April 2007
Roger and Karen Hale watched the house down the street as it was being built with the fascination of children. There was something about the house that they both liked. Each in their second marriage, they wanted to start over again, and wouldn’t it be great if they could do so right across the street from Karen’s home?
After all, they liked the neighborhood, with its easy access to downtown Louisville, shopping and other amenities. And it would give them a chance to redecorate, too, with some new things that weren’t loaded with personal history, things they could agree on, together.
They took a close look at the house and decided that with some changes, it would be a great fit for them. That was 10 years ago. It’s proven to be the perfect choice, even as they’ve both retired, and their four daughters have grown up, moved out and started families of their own. The house easily accommodates everyone without being too cavernous for just two people. It’s child-friendly, and an easy flowing home for entertaining.
It also has met the different criteria both Roger and Karen Hale had: Roger liked new. Karen liked old. So the house’s design blends the best of both. It is indeed new, with all of the great conveniences that provides, but it has the soul of an old house, including some of the lived-in look Karen craved in both furnishings and the style of decorating.
“Roger had moved constantly through his career as an AT&T executive and then BellSouth,” explains Fallot. “He wanted new because it went faster. Karen had lived in one area most of her life and was used to being settled.”
Once they decided to buy the home, the Hales had to make some changes. Working with Karzen Langan Burrus Construction LLC and landscaper John Korfhage, the couple made a list of changes, starting with the outside. The backyard, which dropped off into a steep slope, needed some filling and leveling to make it functional. It also needed a more formal terrace, rather than a deck, to create a more elegant appearance. Korfhage took the Hales on several field trips to other homes where he had built terraces to help them choose the type of material and look they wanted. They ended up with a limestone terrace and balustrade that is a great spot for entertaining or just relaxing in warm weather.
The Hale’s other goal outside was to keep as many of the older trees as possible. “It’s beautiful back there in the summertime,” Karen Hale says. “It’s like being in the woods back there.”
On the front of the house, they chose white flowering annuals and perennials for a matched, formal look.
Inside, the first thing that needed work was the staircase. Karen thought plans for staircase to have wooden balusters was too Colonial for the house, which she saw as more French in style. So the wooden balusters were replaced with wrought iron. A later change to the foyer was switching out the plain glass sidelight and transom with a clear leaded glass design to give privacy but also add some glamour to the foyer.
Hale, working with Fallot, made some changes as they went. The great room was built with bookshelves along one wall that were mostly created for entertainment center amenities such as a television and stereo. They removed the doors from some of the cabinets and changed it into display space for antique books and other collectibles. The great room has one of many antique rugs in the home, and a muted green gives the room the Old World feeling Karen Hale loves. The large window along one wall baths the room in sunlight. Karen displays one of her favorite antiques, a stone-topped French baker’s table with a cast iron base, in front of the window that mimics the look of the large, hand-forged, curved curtain rod along the top of the window.
This room also has some of Karen’s favorite engravings, a set of four, 17th century European botanicals, hand colored, by Basilius Besler, purchased in Louisville from Geneva Archibald Antiques. They are set at center stage above the couch.
When it came to furnishings, it was a group hunt. Karen loves to shop for antiques, as does her cousin, Dr. Forest Kuhn, who would see things in stores, call Karen and ask her to go to a particular store to check out a piece. Most often, the piece he had found was exactly what Karen was looking for. Condition didn’t mean much to Karen, or to Buff Fallot. They bought pieces for their shape and form, and changed cosmetic features so it could suite their needs. “One of the neatest things about this house was that it was a blank slate,” Buff Fallot says.
To create ample space for entertaining, Buff Fallot had a dining room table made at Bittner’s to fit the room. Neutral-toned wallpaper with the subtle design of rectangular stone blocks is another touch of Old World elegance, and the perfect canvas for Karen’s engravings. A family heirloom secretary was revamped with glass shelves and fabric in the back to turn it into a great display cabinet.
The kitchen is where Buff Fallot injected some whimsy into the design. With a bright coral on the walls and trim painted white, the kitchen is cheerful and pleasant, and a favorite gathering spot when family is visiting. The adjoining breakfast nook received lots of creative energy, with a chandelier created especially for the space and a table faux-painted by Melissa Wilson. The nearby hearth room is where the Hales spend much of their time in the home, and it contains some of Karen’s favorite collectibles.
Karen’s study has a decidedly French theme. Two comfortable, Gainsborough wingback chairs were a mess when Karen and Buff Fallot found them, but the shape worked, so the chairs were purchased, restuffed and upholstered with Fortuny fabric.
Though Karen loves engravings, she went a different way in the master bedroom. She purchased a silk Chinese embroidered fabric, framed, from Steve Tipton Antiques, and used a Chinese robe as decoration on the foot of the bed. The headboard is covered in the Fortuny fabric and the drapes have Fortuny banding. Karen’s collection of netsuke are displayed in the bedroom. Netsuke are small ivories that dangled from the cords of Japanese men’s robes. The adjoining master bathroom has his and hers vanities and a generously sized glass shower, and aqua wallpaper.
Upstairs are rooms used by the Hales’ daughters. Misty Hale directed the décor for her room. She liked the movie “Sense and Sensibility,” and wanted her room’s design to have some of the same elements and style. Artist Melissa Wilson painted a faux worn beaded board wainscot in the room and used a pale aqua color above it. A four-poster bed that once belonged to Karen enhances the romantic feel of the room. Other rooms upstairs include Roger’s study, which recently had hardwood floors installed, and daughter Ginny’s bedroom.
For the Hales, the house has succeeded in transitioning with them --- from a dual career couple with four daughters to a retired couple enjoying visits from grandchildren.
“Karen’s request was that it would look like a house that had been lived in, that it would look like an older house,” Buff Fallot says. “We worked very hard to make it have the charm of an older home.”