A True Hollywood Story

_EBV1154The best of historical architecture meets the best of contemporary elegance.

Written by Brett Levine 

Photography by Edward Badham


Renovating a historic home can come with many challenges, and for the homes in the Hollywood district of Homewood, this is often the case. From the building perspective, these homes were often originally constructed with concrete block, making renovations a particularly messy process. From the preservation perspective, homeowners in this neighborhood are committed to retaining the area’s unique character and preserving its qualities for generations to come.

Such was the case when the homeowners purchased this home in December 2013. Previously renovated, the home had excellent bones but some unusual original characteristics. “The confusion began right from the front door,” the homeowner says with a laugh. “There was the main entry door, a door to the porch, and a series of French doors onto the patio. While they all worked, it simply felt like there was no focus to the approach and no clear idea of where guests should go.” The simple solution was to enclose one door off the entryway and to replace the French doors with a series of windows custom-made to match the period windows throughout the house. “What happened as a result was that we were able to create what I would describe as an informal living room,” she continues, “since we regard every room in the house as informal.”

A storage nook on each side of the fireplace was enclosed, but the most challenging aspect of the living room renovation was the arch inset into a curve. “It doesn’t seem like it should be so complex,” the homeowner says, “but the geometry of it means that it has to be done by eye. It was a plaster, step back, look, and plaster some more type of situation. The end result looks like it was original.”

The redesigned living room opens into an expansive kitchen created by removing a wall that had previously separated the spaces. This was not an easy feat. Contractor Bo Butler and Harmony Remodeling installed a 20-foot beam to span the newly opened space. “Louis Nequette did the design for the interior layouts,” the homeowner explains, “which also involved removing an existing pantry and an interior arch to open up the space.” The kitchen was then fitted out with custom cabinets from Village Woodworks and one piece that the homeowner describes as her favorite in the house. “I love to cook,” she says, “so I had this chopping island built for my precise height.” It is these simple details that make the kitchen such a pleasure to use.

Anchoring the kitchen is the four-by-11-foot island that replaces a traditional kitchen table. “We eat almost all of our meals at the island,” the homeowner explains. “The dining table seems to be reserved for the children to use for studying or a game table for the family.” Made of walnut, it contains numerous drawers instead of traditional cabinetry. “My preference was for doors to not open into the passageways if possible, so drawers were the perfect solution.”

_EBV1203To unify the space, the various existing floorcoverings were removed and replaced with an oak floor from River Bottom Pine. Past the kitchen is a sitting room that overlooks the pool and the garden. The doors leading to the powder room are stained and polished to recall woods traditionally used in gunstocks, a subtle nod to the homeowners’ family business. “In general,” the homeowner explains, “this was simply an opportunity to add another beautiful color and texture. My design aesthetic is one that I would describe as clean and simple, but I do have a love for natural materials. I also love period pieces, as long as they are first comfortable and livable.”

Also tying everything together are newly installed or recently uncovered windows, including one that emerged from behind a wall in the kitchen during the renovation process. “I think a key consideration for the house is that it feel light, open, and inviting while still keeping the characteristics of a historic home,” the homeowner says. “Since we like to entertain, we wanted a home that shared qualities of open-plan living with the intimacies of various seating areas that could be more comfortable or more private over the course of an evening.”

One of the most unexpected alterations is the stair rail. “We wanted to change the baluster,” the homeowner explains, “but it was a really difficult job. Instead, we simply changed the post at the bottom step. It allowed us to alter the look and feel of the approach without having to redo the entire rail.”

Upstairs, new floorcoverings created a quiet play space for the children in anticipation of a larger renovation project in the future. For now, they are simply content to enjoy a home that seems as if it has stepped out of the past but been built for the future. Clean, open, and elegant, it blends the best of historic architecture with the best of contemporary restoration and renovation, resulting in what can only be described as a true Hollywood gem.

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