Creating a Grayscale Sanctuary

Graham home renovation embraces black and white as unifying aesthetic.

Photos by L.G. Patterson

When it came time to renovate their home, Steve and Jill Graham saw the perfect opportunity to make their home feel more like their sanctuary.

The couple wanted to make the home feel more like an extension of their personality, so Joyce Smith of Joyce Ann Designs got to work on helping create the right atmosphere. Together, along with Robert Morris of Cobra Construction, they worked for nine months on the renovation, ultimately putting together a black-and-white theme that allowed the Graham’s collection of artwork to be the focal point.

The Grahams collected art and other pieces while traveling the globe, resulting in treasured hand-created pieces adorning the walls. The collection also includes local artwork, with pieces from Columbia-based artists such as Joel Sager, Paul Jackson and Kate Gray. The art displayed in the living, dining and kitchen areas manage to fill the room with color, while maintaining a soothing atmosphere, thanks to the neutral backgrounds.

“I wanted their artwork to be the focal point for color and pattern,” Smith says. “(It) added the jewelry needed to complement the black-and-white décor; like the statement made by jewelry against a little black dress!”

Smith says the black-and-white theme plays well with the Graham’s existing furnishings, all shades of black, gray and neutrals. Instead of making a room-by-room color plan, Smith says, “the black-and-white color palette became a unifying aesthetic as the main colors to give it an overall punch.”

The kitchen was updated with all new cabinetry, tile, countertops, lighting and appliances in order to add more space and light without removing any walls. The overall renovation was meant to highlight the Graham’s collection of artwork, which includes pieces by Columbia-based artists such as Joel Sager, Paul Jackson and Kate Gray. The hardwood floors were refinished with a new stain and, around the living room hearth, the floor was laid in the opposite direction with a border of two hand-created Brazilian walnut stripes.

The transformation was meant to bring a more soothing, airy atmosphere that featured clean lines and classic styles. The kitchen was updated to add more space and light without removing any walls. To improve the lighting and give the kitchen a vibrant feel, Smith says a series of recessed cans were carefully placed, along with locally sourced Bright City Lights flush mount and drum pendant fixtures that share the same open space.

The renovated kitchen, and attached laundry room, include all new cabinetry, tile, countertops, lighting and appliances. The hand-built custom cabinets from Brandkamp Cabinets LLC were done in a shaker style design and painted to match the bone white hue used in the existing trim and moldings throughout the house.

Smith says the Grahams enjoy entertaining and wanted the kitchen to flow seamlessly into the living room, allowing Jill to work in the kitchen while guests sit in the adjoining living area or on the stools opposite the main kitchen counter.

“Without a question the kitchen is truly the heart of the home, a place where family, friends and guests feel comfortable,” Smith says. “I wanted to design the kitchen to have a more livable layout to strike the perfect balance for the clients’ lifestyle.”

Smith says the hardwood floors, original to the house, were in need of a simple color change. After refinishing the white oak flooring, an entire morning was spent playing with different stains to get just the right color — a warm gray with a satin finish water base polyurethane, Smith says.

But around the living room hearth, the floor plan changed a bit. Todd Strobel of Strobel Hardwood Floors laid the hardwood in the opposite direction than the rest of the room, something Smith calls a subtle change that made it seem unique and tailored. Adding a border of two different sized hand-created Brazilian walnut stripes completed a new frame around the hearth.

It’s the small touches that unify the overall décor and space of the Graham’s home and make it personal, Smith says. For instance, using the black-and-white backsplash tile from the kitchen around the fireplace in the living room allows the space to feel complete and connected.

“I wanted a clean and fresh feeling that had both a traditional and transitional sense,” Smith says. “A black-and-white theme is timeless, like a tuxedo. The clients’ personal touches are a colorful bowtie that give a dramatic signature to make it their own.”

The living room was put together before the project began by Studio Home Interior Design, which also handled the settee in the kitchen area. A black-and-white dining room rug from Room and Board, bar stools and other décor were selected to complete the black-and-white theme. Smith says the end results were derived from the partnerships between good local sources, great materials and teamwork.

The goal of the renovation was to make the Graham’s home feel more like the Grahams themselves, an extension of the couple’s personalities. After finishing the project, Jill and Steve Graham found what they were looking for.

“I think a home should be a sanctuary,” Jill says. “I did not have that feeling before we did the remodel. Now it feels like me.”


 

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