Gracious Living

At home with designer Jane Schwab, we learn what it means to be authentically timeless in design.

Creating a home that looks effortlessly timeless, through and through, is an arduous task – even for an experienced interior designer. A timeless aesthetic has universal appeal; it’s not too trendy but not dated in the least. It’s elegant yet comfortable; It’s refined but not pretentious.

It’s inviting but can take you to another place while you’re inside.  It’s a wonder, but no surprise that interior designer Jane Schwab’s home is a master class in timeless design. “Our goal was to create a home that was comfortable and inviting for our growing family,” Schwab says. “The design of the home is equally perfect for casual dinners with friends as it is for larger gatherings.”

Originally built in 1923, Schwab and her husband, Nelson’s, Myers Park home is an architectural gem. It is grand and intimate at once, with the open floor plan and light-filled rooms inviting guests to relax and feel at home. This is by design, of course, because Schwab’s priority is making a home as comfortable as it is beautiful – something she’s an old hat at, having written her 2013 book, The Welcoming House: The Art of Living Graciously, with her former design partner, Cindy Smith of Circa Interiors and Antiques. The home was purchased in 1999 and began major renovation in 2000.      Architect Bobby McAlpine of McAlpine Tankersley in Montgomery, Alabama, worked closely with Schwab on the extensive renovation, which took two years to complete. First and foremost, McAlpine’s design paid homage to the home’s original architecture. But together, they redesigned the kitchen, family room, master bedroom, and bath and added a guesthouse.    

“We kept the bones of the house the same,” Schwab explains. “We simply made the layout more functional and family-friendly for the way we live and entertain.” The 1923 house came with an impressive history. Former owner Mrs. Frank Dowd, Sr. rescued architectural details like the current mantle, pilasters, and crown molding from a soon-to-be-demolished 18th-century home in Annapolis, Maryland, and gave them new life in her Charlotte home – something Schwab didn’t dare touch in her redesign.  The other part of honoring the home’s original design was covering the new brick in a special lime wash to complement the original brick from the 1920s. The soft, well-worn patina of the home’s exterior carries through on the inside. Schwab kept the interiors light and monochromatic to create a soothing environment using a soft palette of cream, taupe, blue, light corals, and pale greens. 

Throughout the home, the architects made the most of its natural setting. The garden room feels particularly close to nature. Its oversized arched French doors allow sunlight to stream in each morning and the sound of running water can be heard from the poolside fountain. Schwab chose Pennsylvania bluestone for the floors in this room and extended them to the outdoor terrace and pool area to tie these spaces together. “When the weather is pretty, we love opening all three doors to bring the outdoors in,” she says. In fact, light-filled rooms characterize the home, whether it’s sunlight from oversized windows during the day or candlelight from amber and amethyst hurricanes at night.

Added during the renovation, the family room right off the kitchen is where the Schwabs spend most of their time. The room was designed for functionality, comfort, and maximum seating. A sisal rug lays the foundation for the room’s warm textures with beadboard ceilings and hinged wooden doors on the fireplace, which conceal the television, adding dimension and charm. Two English walnut chests flank the fireplace accented by natural still life paintings and antlers found on her travels. A white hide hair upholstered ottoman with nailhead trim provides additional seating. 

Travel fuels the inspired surroundings in Schwab’s home with many of her pieces discovered on trips and vacations. One of her favorites is the painting that hangs over the sofa in her living room by German sculptor Gunnar Theel, which caught her eye at a designer showcase.  Schwab’s artistic side can be seen in the textural finishes she used on the walls of several rooms featuring hand-mixed strié treatment painted in soft hues for added light.

Well-worn texture. Flowers. Art. It’s all part of a layered approach to creating a timeless, classic interior that brings the Schwabs joy and makes their family and friends feel comfortable and welcome. If her home is anything, it is a testament to the fact that classic and timeless interiors done expertly have staying power.