It was time to make a decision about where to live. Interior designer Marianne Jones was living in a condominium in Birmingham, while her soon-to-be new husband, Tim Griswold, was residing in a small 1950s Cape Cod-style home on a pleasant, tree-lined street in the same city. As they were beginning a new life together, they needed to review options on what made sense for the couple, who each has grown children.
“We were looking for real estate and then we evaluated the situation,” says Jones, whose company, Marianne Jones LLC, is based in Birmingham.
“A realtor walked through some options with me, and said we were better off living where Tim lived and working with that.” The two preferred something where they could both live comfortably, stylishly, and, most of all, efficiently. After much thought, they opted to live in Griswold’s home — but not without first launching a major renovation.
Enter the combined design acumen of Jones, Griswold (who has a building license), architect Glenda Meads of Glenda Meads Architects in Birmingham, and Ben Templeton of Templeton Building Co., also in Birmingham.
In about six months (not the norm), the team transformed a dark bungalow-style Cape Cod with one bathroom into a chic residence that’s perfect for the couple and their visiting families. Fashioned with inviting neutral colors, a variety of textures, meaningful accents and accessories, and long-lasting — as well as efficient — furnishings, the home is not only 100 percent effective; it’s beautiful, too.
“I knew I wanted another bathroom because there’s no way, if the kids are visiting, that we could live with one,” Jones says.
On the first floor, which previously had two bedrooms, walls were removed, the tiny kitchen was expanded and doubled in size, a bedroom space was converted into an office, and a bathroom was entirely overhauled. Meads’ design included a pocket door to separate the back hallway, bathroom, walk-in closet, and bedroom, creating a first-floor master suite. “We can close it off if we have guests,” Jones says.
What is now the office had a 36-inch-wide door leading to the outside. “You had to go through that bedroom to get outside,” Jones says. “Now there’s a 6-foot doorwall looking out to the yard and allowing a lot of light, front to back. It also brings the outdoors in.” Meads notes that the outdoor access is one of her favorite parts of the renovation. “Convenient and aesthetically pleasing access to the backyard doesn’t exist in these post-war Cape Cod-style houses because they all had two bedrooms on the ground floor,” she observes.
In addition to the not-so-convenient layout, the dark home had angled archways and clipped ceilings. “Glenda did a great job — she brought light in,” Jones says. The new light sources include a front door with glass, doubling the number of windows in the kitchen, and removing a wall to take advantage of southern light.
“The moment we opened up the downstairs by removing a wall and door, we got natural light coming from upstairs,” Jones says. “It now feels like a complete house. Before, the upstairs, which was simply one long bedroom with a closet, seemed like an afterthought.” The team resized the second floor’s duct work, and zoned the heating and cooling. “I don’t think it was meant for someone to actually spend time up there,” Jones says. The upstairs now includes a chic bathroom and two inviting bedrooms. Griswold suggested taking the ceilings in those bedrooms to cathedral height, and the team added plenty of storage and bumped out a space to gain the bathroom.
“The large added dormer provides curb-appeal and creates more space for bedrooms, which now have charming sloped ceilings,” Meads says.
Meads came up with the idea to change up the home’s footprint. “Instead of the house running east/west as it did, it now runs like a cross,” Jones explains. “By doing that and raising the roof, it gave us what we needed. We only added 200 square feet, but we have so much more usable space.”
Adds Meads: “The challenge was to create rooms on the second floor (to free up space downstairs for a master suite), while keeping the footprint and elevation of the house in scale with the original design and the neighborhood.”
As for interior design, the couple aimed to create beauty by combining their favorite pieces and adding a few new touches along the way. “In a smaller home, continuity and flow from one room to the next are important,” Jones says, “so we wanted the living room and office to feel like one design. I like a neutral palette, and I add interest with great, one-of-a-kind rugs.”
Jones says she also likes to mix antiques with clean edges, and blending old and new. The “old” in the office includes an oil painting from the late 1800s, found at the Golden Fig Gallery in Birmingham; a cigar tin mold, now framed, that Griswold discovered; and chairs passed down from a grandparent that have been newly reupholstered. The “new,” meanwhile, includes a large mirror from Baker, a console desk from Schumacher, a beautiful hide rug, and lighting fixtures from Circa Lighting.
In the kitchen, the Calcutta marble beehive-pattern backsplash from Ann Sacks echoes the palette used throughout the home. “It has warm and cool tones and soft whites,” Jones says, adding that blending warm and cool is currently a popular theme. “You want that mix; it creates interest.” A gorgeous weatherstone gray marble countertop complements the neutral tones.
Most of the furnishings and window treatments are constructed of wool or linen. “I like subtle, layered texture and tone, and if I’m going to live with something for a long time, I want good fabric that wears well,” Jones says. In the living room, plenty of seating for visiting family and friends was a must. She loves flexible seating and has little benches “where a person can perch.” She also opted for swivel chairs that you can watch TV from, or can turn to easily engage in a conversation. “Everything has a purpose,” she says.
The couple also opted to put in wood floors and take the wood upstairs, as well. “The cost is really no different than carpet,” Jones observes. “The cost is in the rugs, but I love decorating with rugs.” A herringbone runner from Stark Carpet enhances the new staircase opening.
In the end, Jones and Griswold are walking on sunshine, and have a lot more of it in their newly renovated home. Besides bringing light into the house, they also wanted a well-appointed home that would meet their family’s needs.
“We didn’t want a house to hold us so that we can’t travel and do things,” Jones says. “We didn’t want to feel like the house was managing us. We did everything right.”
Order in the Kitchen
For interior designer Marianne Jones, it’s all about easy living. That comes with being organized, Jones says. She created proficiency in her kitchen by giving each drawer a purpose. “There’s a cooking drawer, a baking drawer, a table-setting drawer,” she explains. “Service pieces are stored near where they will be used.
“I try to do the same thing for clients. I keep plates down low; that way, it’s easier on your back — but also, kids can help set the table.”
She prefers all-white pieces (these are from Juliska, Crate & Barrel, and Williams-Sonoma). Items for large gatherings, like linens and platters, are stored in the basement. “We were clear with what we needed and how we wanted to live,” Jones says. — MS