Partners in Design

Designer Jolee Fennebresque and client Kelly Hopkins are longtime friends, which made working together on Hopkins' family home a joyful labor of love.

AS KELLY AND RICK HOPKINS’ CHILDREN MOVED into a home that was a little more private and set back from the road than their previous Myers Park renovations. When some friends off of Forest Drive put their home up for sale, the Hopkinses jumped at the chance to start a new renovation project on a quieter street and make it their own. But after discussing the changes they wanted to make, the couple discovered that building a new home made more sense. 

“I was driving around admiring the design of homes in their high school years, the couple decided to seek worked on for a neighbor of mine, I knew I needed to connect with him for ours.” With that, they enlisted the expertise of Charlotte architectural designer Garrett Nelson, homebuilders Thompson Custom Building, and longtime friend and designer Jolee Fennebresque to collaborate with them on the perfect home for their most current phase of life.

“Jolee and I have been friends for a long time, and I have seen her work in various friends’ homes, including in the beginning when she worked with Bill Cooper,” Hopkins says. “Over the years, I feel like I’ve developed an eye for talent and really like working with up-and-comers, and I knew Jolee would not only execute a brilliant design but allow me to be a partner in the process with her.”

Hopkins envisioned a home that would be equal parts comfortable and great for entertaining, with formal touchpoints punctuating the design—nostalgia from her childhood homes. “I wanted to keep the essence of what was here originally but also incorporate my vision of a New England beach home into the design,” Hopkins says. “Now, I have never been to Nantucket, but images of the homes there have always inspired me, and after renovating several homes in Charlotte, I felt it was time to make this inspired architecture part of my own home in the South.”

Nelson elaborates by adding, “This home has an eclectic style, drawing influence from Nantucket-inspired homes and E.L. Lutyens’ English manor styling. Lutyens-inspired double-side gables alongside traditional Nantucket principles like a cedar shake roof and siding and prominent chimney masses really evoke that emotional connection integral to the project.” 

The “dream team,” as Hopkins refers to them, agreed on an open, clean, and fresh design, from architecture to interiors. This shared vision made it easy to bring things together, even as some elements morphed during the process, as happened in the keeping room and the family room. “We enlarged the family room after construction was underway, so the layout of the room was challenging,” Hopkins recalls. “I wanted the space to be welcoming and family-friendly, but also to have formal elements and room to entertain. We also wanted a TV in the room (I know, I know), and these changes resulted in rethinking the scale of the furniture and the connecting patio. But Jolee and Garrett were wonderful.”

Fennebresque commiserates, discussing a few challenges with the keeping room during the project. “The keeping room was tricky because there are no windows, which means you can’t warm the room or make a statement with drapes,” she says. “Instead, we searched elsewhere to create a wow moment; we thought we landed on it by bringing in hot pink with the pillows or a sofa, but it never felt quite right. So we held off and kept reworking the space.”

Eventually, Fennebresque found a unique basket-weavepatterned seagrass wallpaper that brought the perfect amount of Florida-cozy to the room—a nod to Hopkins’ roots and “Palm Beach fresh” aesthetic. For symmetry, a pair of leather-clad doors with nail-head trim was added (one side accessing the back staircase, the other a hidden bookshelf), along with a pretty wool rug. “Scale was critical in the small space, and though we considered four chairs and a table in the middle, we settled on two perfectly scaled sofas on either side,” Fennebresque says.

Hopkins brought in several works of art to consider in the keeping room, and the pair chose a piece from a friend— London-based artist Selena Beaudry, represented by Hidell Brooks Gallery. “We brought in the purple from the art in the pillows, and voilà! The keeping room came to life!”

Despite any hiccups, Fennebresque maintains that the team’s combined efforts gave the project an overall smooth feel while making challenges seem minor at worst. “Kelly and Rick were really thoughtful about planning each room based on its function,” Fennebresque says. “That level of teamwork, from the creatives to the homeowners, really allows a process to go smoothly, and even when you need to adjust, everyone can easily transition, which makes a project joyful.”

“You’re only as successful as the people you surround yourself with,” Nelson adds, “and I think this project became a true reflection of all of those partnerships.”

Since Hopkins and Fennebresque shared similar tastes in furniture, fabrics, and style, designing schemes for the interiors was a breeze. And though Fennebresque was not involved in the architectural design phase with Nelson, their collaboration resulted in connected yet distinguished spaces, familiar yet fresh. “Garrett is incredibly gifted,” Hopkins says. “He is amazing to work with and tapped into the look we wanted. He is great with details.”

By adjoining repurposed pieces with a fresh design, Fennebresque created the lived-in, everyday look that the Hopkinses hoped for, with the updated look that made it exciting. “Kelly had a wonderful collection of furniture and art from her previous homes, including homes I worked on with her in Palm Beach and Roaring Gap, and incorporating those pieces was elemental and easy,” Fennebresque explains.

The working relationship between client and designer meant that each could push the other when needed, and rules of design could be broken for fun. Her husband’s blue den, for example, was a call back to Hopkins’ living room as a child growing up in Florida. Incorporating the couple’s love for Carolina, their honeymoon in Africa, and even a little reminder of Rick Hopkins’ Texas blue-jeans roots, brought the room to a gathered and authentic level.

“Interestingly, the hallways in this home turned out so incredibly beautiful. Some have stone floors and thin metal console tables and unusual iron light fixtures, while others house incredible works of art layered onto carefully chosen unique wallpapers,” Fennebresque says. “The silver lanterns hanging in the circular hallways are particularly special.”

Together, Fennebresque’s expertise in design and Hopkins’ flair for color and fabrics created spaces that speak volumes about the family’s love for entertaining, comfortable living, and a style that is all their own.

“Our goal was to make sure every vista within the home has an intention behind it,” Nelson says. “Our challenge was to make a large master-plan home feel intimate and charming, and by being thoughtful about how this family lived, we were able to achieve that, making sure that every space has a specific function.”