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A Traditional Savannah Home Gets a Modern Infusion

A Traditional Savannah Home Gets a Modern Infusion

When Savannah interior designer Chuck Chewning first toured the 1880s Monterey Square townhouse recently obtained by his clients (and friends) restaurateur Johno Morisano and his wife, Creative Artists Agency CFO Carol Sawdye, it was most definitely not love at first sight.

“My clients were thrilled—it was over 8,000 square feet and it had a pool, which is rare in Savannah’s historic district—but it was so depressing! Everything from the trim to the walls to the wood was painted dark brown, with some of the previous owners’ leftover Victorian French/Continental antiques scattered about,” says Chuck. “It looked like the Addams Family lived there, and not in a cool way; there was no patina or historic interest. This was just bad ’70s and ’80s decorating.” The challenge: creating a cheerful, livable space with a nod to Southern tradition and comfort that also complemented its new owners’ hip, New York energy.

 

 

Chuck had the entire house painted over in white primer to better understand its spaces and proportions. “Johno and Carol didn’t really have a vision for the house, and the Danish Modern furniture they owned wasn’t going to work here, so my mission was to not only furnish the house but to make it reflect them and their lifestyle,” he explains. Getting rid of all of that brown and most of the heavy antiques instantly brightened the space, welcoming the glow of the soft Savannah sun.

Then it was a matter of painting, personalizing, and furnishing. “We didn’t alter the interior architecture of the house at all—all the traditional details, like the classic Southern double parlors, are original,” Chuck says. As a further nod to a Savannah sense of place, he incorporated some of the inherited antique pieces—mirrors, a piano—mingling them with contemporary and midcentury pieces. Almost all the artwork in the house is modern, commissioned from Savannah artists.

Warm, welcoming, and just a tad irreverent, the family room exudes a fun ’70s vibe with its terracotta walls, plush leather sofa, and poufs. A trio of Jean de Merry side tables and a contemporary ceiling fan bring sculptural energy to the room. Works by Savannah artists Betsy Cain (above the fireplace) and Marcus Kenney (left) offer modern, local color.  

Warm, welcoming, and just a tad irreverent, the family room exudes a fun ’70s vibe with its terracotta walls, plush leather sofa, and poufs. A trio of Jean de Merry side tables and a contemporary ceiling fan bring sculptural energy to the room. Works by Savannah artists Betsy Cain (above the fireplace) and Marcus Kenney (left) offer modern, local color.  

The music room incorporates an inherited piano as well as Johno’s extensive guitar collection, an amp, and conga drums. The Empire chandelier, framed intaglios, and French painting, all from the 19th century, anchor the space in tradition, brightened by a 1960s Charles Hollis Jones Lucite chess set, Warren Platner for Knoll wire side tables, and game-table chairs by L.A. designer Natasha Baradaran.

The music room incorporates an inherited piano as well as Johno’s extensive guitar collection, an amp, and conga drums. The Empire chandelier, framed intaglios, and French painting, all from the 19th century, anchor the space in tradition, brightened by a 1960s Charles Hollis Jones Lucite chess set, Warren Platner for Knoll wire side tables, and game-table chairs by L.A. designer Natasha Baradaran.

A breath of fresh light: A 19th-century French chandelier, Donghia chairs, and a custom sofa bring whimsy and elegance to the sunny dining room. Perched on a Lucite stand, a papier-mâché camel by Savannah artist Marcus Kenney is one of the homeowners’ many pieces commissioned to support and celebrate local artists.

A breath of fresh light: A 19th-century French chandelier, Donghia chairs, and a custom sofa bring whimsy and elegance to the sunny dining room. Perched on a Lucite stand, a papier-mâché camel by Savannah artist Marcus Kenney is one of the homeowners’ many pieces commissioned to support and celebrate local artists.

A stately 19th-century Eastlake mirror and an antique French chandelier add romance and glamour to the master bathroom, providing compelling counterpoints to the coolness of the gleaming marble walls and tub. The vintage George Nelson bench offers both practicality and a sleek Mid-Century Modern touch.

A stately 19th-century Eastlake mirror and an antique French chandelier add romance and glamour to the master bathroom, providing compelling counterpoints to the coolness of the gleaming marble walls and tub. The vintage George Nelson bench offers both practicality and a sleek Mid-Century Modern touch.

One of the biggest challenges for Chuck was the kitchen area. “It’s an extremely vast space that opens to a sort of family room, so we needed to define each room with its own mood,” says Chuck. The sleek kitchen was designed to echo that of Johno’s restaurant, The Grey, a converted bus station. For the family room, “my theme was a sort of louche ’70s den, very loungy and fun, and perfect for Johno’s great vinyl collection,” says Chuck. When Carol first saw the orange walls she freaked out, comparing them to pumpkin spice latte. But once Chuck layered in the details—incorporating all the furnishings and painting the wood detail in a dark charcoal—the wall color became more of a warm backdrop, and she fell in love with it.

Another favorite space in the house is the music room, a perfect blend of grace, formality, and character. “We inherited the piano from the previous owners and incorporated Johno’s guitars and conga drums,” Chuck says. “I’m a big believer in comfort. I wanted everything in the house to be inviting and loungy, especially the upholstery. I also believe that spaces can have an element of whimsy and theatricality and should look collected, not like they were ordered from a catalog. I love that Johno and Carol really use, live in, and love every room in the house—that was my mission.”

 

 

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“We wanted everything in the house to be loungy and comfortable, especially the upholstery, like the giant white ottoman in the middle of the living room that you can just perch or lie on,” says Chuck. With a combination of traditional touches such as the 19th-century chandelier and more-modern furnishings such as Saarinen side tables and the Vladimir Kagan for Ralph Pucci sofa, the space radiates an eclectic, timeless energy.

“We wanted everything in the house to be loungy and comfortable, especially the upholstery, like the giant white ottoman in the middle of the living room that you can just perch or lie on,” says Chuck. With a combination of traditional touches such as the 19th-century chandelier and more-modern furnishings such as Saarinen side tables and the Vladimir Kagan for Ralph Pucci sofa, the space radiates an eclectic, timeless energy.

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