Text by Charlotte Safavi
When Mary Hannah Giebel, a Wilmington, North Carolina, native and interior designer, was enlisted to help her parents, Ellen and Dennis, refurbish the family home, something old and something new had to be part of the redesign.
“The house is very traditional, with its red-brick exterior, graceful rounded columns, and double front porches,” says Mary Hannah of the family home. “I wanted to echo the traditional Southern roots of the house, both inside and outside, while giving it a thoughtful and refreshed update,” she adds.
Previously, every room in the house was painted a different color, so Mary Hannah chose to paint all the walls a soft gray with contrasting bright white trim and a neutral blush as an accent color. In her words, the new paint allowed “color to shine in the artwork, accessories, and furnishings in a focused and intentional way.”
For updating the furnishings, the dining room best exemplifies the perfect blend of old and new. Mary Hannah refinished a classic buffet with glossy white paint, while keeping its original brass hardware, and layered in a pair of contemporary table lamps. The new dining room table, with its brass base and marble top, is ideal for hosting family and friends, which is just what Ellen and Dennis like to do.
The showstopper is what Mary Hannah calls “a pair of gorgeous glass-fronted china built-ins with curved tops, holding a small portion of this Southern belle’s large china collection.”
She stylishly organized the built-ins to showcase the heirloom and antique china wares, using some of the plates and platters as wall art in a carefully mounted display on a dining room wall.
“I wanted to get creative in not only storing but displaying my mom’s gorgeous collection, some of which she’s inherited from her mother and aunt, and some of which she’s collected over the years from antiques shops around the state,” she says.
Indeed, some pieces have found their way into the adjacent formal living room, a jewel-toned room tucked behind a glass-paned door. This space is decidedly feminine with a rose-hued ceiling, crystal chandelier, and a pair of mismatched velvet-upholstered sofas. Two tall bentwood cane armchairs flank an old chest beneath a vintage mirror and antique sconces. With a custom rug underfoot, the space is fresh and bright while remaining traditional.
“Mary Hannah was really great about validating my personal style, yet at the same time helping me to venture out and allow my home to be more current,” says Ellen. “The twist of being open to something different that displayed the pieces I’ve lived with and loved made my heart sing.”
The kitchen remodel combined polished brass hardware with crisp white cabinetry. A quartz with rich veining was the countertop selection, and the original bar peninsula was lowered, making it flush with the other counters and opening up the space. “The French brass-and-glass chandelier above the island echoes the one over the breakfast nook, where we used a pedestal-base antique oak table and paired it with contemporary chairs,” says Mary Hannah.
In the breakfast nook, a carved mirror sits above a cane-front sideboard for added storage and, according to Mary Hannah, “the perfect stash away for linens, dessert plates, and other Southern belle entertaining essentials.”
The refresh has been a great success, and the mother-and-daughter team are continuing to work on the home, hoping the project doesn’t end.
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