Laura Stanley and Lizzie Bailey’s clients are the kind most interior designers dream of having. When the Story Street Studio duo presented initial design schemes to the homeowners, a young family in Charlotte, the most daring ideas were the ones that resonated. “From the very beginning, we clicked,” the wife recalls. “We had similar thoughts about the use of space, and they understood my desire to use a lot of color.”
Having outgrown their home in Myers Park, the couple consulted general contractor Ben Collins for advice about their next chapter. Just as they were contemplating new construction for their family of five, Collins learned a house he’d recently renovated would soon become available for purchase. Built in the 1910s, the antique manse was located less than a mile from the clients’ existing home. It also exerted an almost gravitational pull on the wife—she had driven by it many times, admiring its stately brick countenance and green-tiled roof. Upon making it their own, the couple understood and appreciated the responsibility of ushering it into a new era.
“We knew we didn’t want to take this old house and make it look modern,” the wife notes. At the same time, though, she vetoed the idea of stuffy, overly formal rooms where you can’t kick up your feet and relax. “I wanted our family to use every inch of the home.”
On the heels of Collins’ previous updates—which involved revamping the kitchen and adding a family room—the residence would require only minimal tweaks. And everyone agreed that respecting the home’s age and history was paramount. Because he already knew the house intimately, “Ben let us know what was possible,” the wife says. “He remembered every detail, so he understood each barrier and was a wonderful problem solver with endless ideas.” Once architect Piper McKee Warner drew up plans for minor revisions, Collins confidently oversaw the cosmetic upgrades. These included a new bathroom on the second floor, converting another from a Jack-and-Jill design to an en suite version, and installing built-in bookcases throughout the house.
For the interiors, the wife wanted Stanley and Bailey to inject a bit of pizzazz. “She envisioned warmer colors. She loves coral, aubergine and teal, which we knew would add a ton of personality,” Bailey says. The designers learned just how bold their clients were willing to go when their suggestion of an adventurous geometric rug based on a vintage Swedish design—with purple as the predominant hue—emerged as the favorite option for the family room. “We also presented a green-and-blue scheme, and really thought this one would be the outlier,” Stanley recalls. But the fact of that enthusiastic reception gave the designers the encouragement to forge ahead fearlessly.
In the dining room, for instance, the scenic silk wallpaper was a holdover from previous owners; but where the home’s prior stewards had zigged with subdued finishes, Stanley and Bailey zagged with exuberant teal trim and chartreuse curtains. “That color was risky, but beautiful with the light coming through,” Stanley says. “And it’s such an exclamation point in a room where everything was so lovely already.”
The bar’s blue lacquer also was retained, though the ceiling gained new oomph from patterned wallpaper and a starburst fixture. In the primary bedroom, the clients’ antique Oushak rug laid the foundation for a fanciful fabric adorned with flowers and birds on the settee, corralling a palette of rich sapphire and terra cotta. It’s just another example of how the designers blended old and new, allowing inherited pieces to continue telling their stories in a fresh setting.
Weaving an array of seemingly disparate elements—from treasured family heirlooms to striking finds that designer Barrie Benson chose for the owners’ previous home—into a cohesive tapestry was a challenge the designers greeted happily. “When a client has such stellar pieces, we’re delighted to incorporate them,” Stanley says. So, working with existing elements became a benefit for the design duo, rather than an impediment. “When you have a completely blank slate, the question often becomes, ‘Where do you even start when the sky’s the limit?’ ” Bailey explains. “It was fun to create within a framework that gave us a little something to push against.”
The result is an appropriately historical abode shaken up by glorious, livable color. “When I walk through the house, I feel warmth and a lot of joy,” the wife shares. And for the purple-peppered Charlotte home that’s become very much her family’s own, “That’s such a welcoming feeling.”