Aged to Perfection

Designer Kristin Bartone creates a functional yet stylish home that allows a Chapel Hill couple to age -in-place graciously.

KRISTIN BARTONE LIKES TO START AT THE VERY BEGINNING. “We’re involved from day one, from the design plans to the layout, before a shovel is ever put in the ground,” the designer says. Such was the case for one couple, who were moving to the  Chapel Hill area to be closer to their two daughters and their families. “They wanted an aging-in-place home, one that would transition with them as they got older.”

Working alongside Chapel Hill–based Will Johnson Building Company, Bartone and the architectural team designed a home that accommodated the couple’s principle requests: a first-floor primary suite, a shaft for a future elevator, wheelchair-accessible bathrooms and hallways, and other details that would allow them to comfortably care for themselves as they age. When it came to the architecture of the home, “They really wanted a storybook home; a modern Tudor,” explains Bartone. More commonly referred to as Fairy Tale Architecture, it is a nod to Provincial Revivalism, which was popularized in the 1920s and 1930s. As such, Bartone and the builder designed the interior architectural details to complement the facade of the home. “The biggest thing was having the home be open and inviting. They wanted a traditional feel but not super contemporary.” Stone archways and wooden beams give way to more modern and transitional furnishings, and, most notably, the homeowners’ collection of print artwork as well as their collection of artisan craftwork. “The true focus of the interior design was to allow their artwork to play center stage while the accessories and furnishings simply complement,” Bartone says.

The oversized artwork by notable printmaker Mauricio Lasansky is most prominent between the kitchen and family room, where two large pieces flank the doorway. As an artist herself, the homeowner worked closely with Bartone on the exact placement of  each piece of art, something the designer loves doing during the design process.

“I loved working with them to ensure that the artwork really shined in this space,” she says. “In their last home, their artwork was spread throughout a 7,000-square-foot span. Here, we wanted to consolidate it a bit so they could enjoy it on a daily basis.” A neutral backdrop with pops of color in fabrics and accessories allowed each piece to stand out, while elevating the overall aesthetic. “Originally, they wanted the entire home to be all neutral,” Bartone explains. “I convinced them to do a tiny pop of color, this mustard yellow. I told them the whole space will read as a neutral, but that one touch of color gives the space more depth. It doesn’t stand out too much, but it adds variety and interest. The color palette was created using natural tones and textures inspired by nature to create variety, depth, and interest.”

In the living room, Bartone added a large Visual Comfort chandelier, a move she says was critical for the design of the room. “It was the jewelry of the space,” she says. “It would feel unbalanced if this giant light wasn’t there. If we went with just plain fabrics or a super simple light fixture, it would almost feel out of place. But now you can look almost everywhere in this room and catch your eye on something without it being overwhelming.”

The adjacent kitchen was kept minimal, as well, with wooden beams running throughout, drawing your eye into the family room and back, each time catching a glimpse of the artwork at the threshold. “The owners spend a lot of time in the kitchen and host weekly family gatherings,” Bartone says. “We needed a space to accommodate everyone comfortably.” The owners also wanted a smaller, more intimate dining setting for smaller groups, so Bartone and Ian Herdell, owner of the Cambrian Company, custom designed the expandable breakfast table, situated at the end of the island.

With kid-friendly everything a high priority, counter stools by Woodbridge Furniture are swathed in a durable Sunbrella fabric. Off of the kitchen is a smaller family room, where the couple spends most of their time reading and relaxing together. “We wanted a  comfortable space for engaging with the kitchen during meal prep and cleanup,” Bartone says. “This space was planned for adults and small children, so we wanted beautiful and durable furnishings.” A custom-designed rug from Perennial Rugs ensures easy cleanability for grandkids and pets, while the custom Roman shades by Anna French for Thibaut in an embroidered linen fabric create just enough detail to enhance the otherwise neutral space. The custom built-ins are home to several of the couple’s sculptural pieces, as well, giving them yet another opportunity to engage with their artwork regularly.

“The whole house is a balance of calm, scattered with these little whimsical surprises and unexpected things like their artwork,” Bartone says. “As you turn a corner, there’s something that catches your eye or something you wouldn’t expect to find in a more architectural house like this.”

“Kristin has a wonderful eye,” the homeowner adds. “There’s nothing we would change, and that speaks to how deliberate every decision was. That’s why it works. It’s gorgeous, it’s beautiful, and it functions exactly as we wanted it to function.”