A tastemaker’s Ardsley Park home proves there’s magic in the mix.
In this day and age—when everything seems like something else and social media provides infinite opportunities to borrow and compare—it is rare indeed to find oneself standing in a room, at a loss for how to describe it. But the parlor of Courtland and Dana Stevens’ red brick Colonial Revival on Washington Avenue is just that kind of room. Beneath two antique iron lanterns, an asparagus-green velvet sofa is accented with pillows in dissonant shades of silk velvet and mudcloth. A locally-built custom lacquer coffee table is covered (enough, but not too much) with design books, trays and a two-tone Chinese porcelain bowl, and fronted by a smaller burlwood drinks table perfectly positioned to catch the extras. Even pairs of things—trim leather barrel chairs, white demilune tables, knobby lamps—feel collected, as though they’re only almost the same instead of exact copies. At the room’s eastern edge, between two salvaged pickled pine columns, a Lucite-and-brass backgammon table is an ideal spot for cocktails and tea parties alike.
Anyone could figure out what to do should they find themselves in such a place—read, or write, or nap, or play— but that doesn’t solve the problem of how to say what makes it special.
Thank goodness for Instagram. In early March, the proprietor of esteemed traditional architecture and design firm Stamps and Stamps posted a photo of a rather English looking scene: a Chesterfield chair, a down-filled sofa scattered with mismatched cushions, some lamps and candles and objets d’art, and a tall shelf crammed with books. The photo was conspicuously appealing, and the caption was gold:
There are some rooms just blessed by the gods of decorating, where all of the perfect things appear at exactly the right moment, occupying their spaces as if they had always been there…even though everything is carefully planned and dimensioned, there is an inchoate element, a little bit of alchemy, magic even, that makes these rooms have more soul than any planning can guarantee.
Throughout the Stevens’ home, that alchemy is evident—perhaps not so surprising given that Courtland is co-owner of Number Four Eleven, Savannah’s beloved fine linens shop. While her store presents a tasteful shorthand for a life well lived, this house reveals a more unbridled design sensibility, a long view where nothing is ever taken too seriously.
“As a retailer, I’m always switching things out,” Courtland says, “but there are 10 or 11 staple pieces that will never leave me. When I plan a space, I always consider those things first, and start with what I have.”
Eschewing the modern tendency toward open floor plans, this house is made up of decidedly separate spaces, which means each room can strike its own note, rather than striving for continuity. Wallpaper, another throwback, has been employed to delicious effect. “I love the impact of wallpaper,” Courtland says, “and I love that it becomes artwork in a space.”
Across the entry from the parlor, a lightflooded dining room wrapped in Swedish blue Stark floral print is grounded by an ebonized wood table with intricate bone inlay. Nearby, a limed oak console is topped by a pair of painted mirrors and Chinese export porcelain flowers, along with quince branches echoing the form of a willowy chandelier.
Tucked at the back of the first floor with French doors leading out to the garden, a library is another study in blues, with the ceiling papered in Pierre Frey Toile de Nantes to complement the existing walls. The rest is a cozy riot of color and texture or, as Courtland calls it, “a mixed bag”—plush antelope carpet, a trio of glass tables, a hammered steel tray, suede-covered columns with nailhead trim and carved plaster lamps. Blue silk and orange velvet pillows pack a punch on the neutral sofa below a T.S. Kist diptych. Along the wall, a stately portrait of Courtland’s paternal grandmother looks out over a cane bench upholstered in a John Robshaw cotton.
At certain points in the tour, it’s difficult to believe that two young children live here, but upstairs in a pretty space shared by Dana and Courtland’s daughters (Poppy, 6, and Cricket, 2), the jig is up. With walls done in Colefax and Fowler’s classic Bowood print, the room’s focal point is a French gray linen upholstered bed dressed in monogrammed Matouk and D. Porthault linens making this possibly the chicest big-girl bed on the planet. A lush tangle of jasmine and clematis outside the window lends a treehouse feel, and the backyard below is a wonderland of potted boxwoods and camellia trees.
While the home and grounds feel entirely settled, the Stevens family moved in less than a year ago. “This has always been my favorite house in Savannah,” Courtland says. “When we finally bought it, everything came together quickly because I’d been planning it out in my head for 10 years.” Now it serves as a meeting place for the various inclinations (color, symmetry, antique pieces from local dealers Jason Thomas and Kevin Johnson) that have propelled Courtland’s recent foray into decorating for private clients. And though Savannahians may soon find themselves at parties and engagements in rooms inspired by these, here’s a cheat from the most consistent page in Courtland’s book: absolutely everywhere—on the mantels, in the entry, in the hall—orchids, lilies, tulips, snapdragons and bells of Ireland spill from ceramic vases and silver pitchers and julep cups. Even in a house so sublime, the flowers take the cake.
Home owners: Dana and Courtland Stevens
Year built: 1940
Year purchased: 2017
Square footage: 3,700
Accommodations: 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms
Contractor/builder: Carroll Construction
Interior designer: Courtland Stevens, Number Four Eleven
Paint: Alchemy Restoration
Wallpaper: Edwina Scarborough
Plumber: Holton Plumbing
Furniture: Allen Brown, Arcanum, Number Four Eleven, Peridot Lee
Accessories: Number Four Eleven
Art: Katherine Sandoz from Location Gallery, Hunt Slonem, Denise Faulk, Karel Appel, T.S. Kist