A creative couple marries Old World elegance with present-day panache in an 1853 town home renovation. By Allison Hersh. Photography by Richard Leo Johnson.
When gallery owner and fine art photographer Jeanne Campbell purchased an 1853 town home overlooking Calhoun Square back in 2007, she knew the house had potential.
“It was livable,” she recalls, “but very dated.”
The Adams Short House had undergone a significant renovation in the 1970s, which included an addition on the rear of the structure, but it desperately needed updating for the 21st century. Rusted-out kitchen cabinets, an overgrown courtyard and a yawning six-inch gap between the main house and the addition were just the beginning.
“As we got deeper into the house, we uncovered structural issues,” Jeanne explains. “It started out somewhat simple—just changing out some paint colors and renovating the kitchen—but it turned into something much more ambitious.”
Partners in Craft
While renovating the house in 2011, Jeanne met R Campbell, an industrial design professor at SCAD who originally hails from Stillwater, Oklahoma. They fell in love. (Read about their gorgeous “I do” in the fall 2015 issue of Savannah Weddings magazine.) R joined Jeanne on the home improvement project, contributing valuable insight into the renovation process.
Together, this creative couple masterminded a sophisticated sanctuary in the heart of downtown Savannah, combining their love of open spaces, their affinity for the outdoors and their passion for blending the old and the new. Today, exposed brick walls, marble fireplace mantels, dark pewter walls and lightly stained wood floors lend a sense of warmth to this well-appointed haven. The décor blends quirky antiques with sleek contemporary details to create an undeniably artistic, family-friendly home.
“When it’s a beautiful day out, you feel like you’re almost part of the square,” R explains, as cats Pollack and Minou roam the quiet, sunlit living room on the parlor level. “We love that feeling of bringing the outdoors inside.”
Jeanne and her mother, a Louisiana horticulturalist, selected elegant, understated paint colors and designed richly layered interior spaces. Using a neutral palette of taupe, sand and gray, the home took on new life, infused with fresh energy.
“It was a team effort,” Jeanne admits. “And it’s still a work in progress.”
The Campbells’ loving renovation of this Greek Revival-style home won a Historic Savannah Foundation Preservation Award earlier this year.
“Preservation is in my blood,” Jeanne explains. “My grandparents restored a historic plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana, that was built circa 1808.”
Jeanne, a native of Baton Rouge, operates Galerie 124 on the home’s garden level, where she showcases a wide range of contemporary art. Just across the bluestone-paved courtyard, R works on industrial designs from his office in the home’s renovated carriage house.
The couple’s growing personal art collection provides inspiration throughout the home, offering pops of color and texture in every room. A true labor of love, this renovation serves as both a respectful tribute to the past and a fearless investment in their future. United by a common vision, Jeanne and R are making final adjustments and last-minute preparations as they await their new baby.
As momentous as these changes are, somehow it all seems effortless. Throughout the renovation process, Jeanne didn’t need to look far for guidance on important decisions.
“The house sort of told me what to do,” she confesses. “We knew we wanted to be here for a while and to raise a family here. This is home.”
Look Deeper. In the home’s foyer, Jeanne discovered an elaborate trompe l’oeil fresco, hidden beneath a layer of outdated wallpaper. “That was unexpected,” she says of this buried treasure. “I couldn’t not save it.” Jeanne and R brought in preservationists from Charleston to analyze the paint. Although portions of the fresco were damaged, the walls were meticulously restored to their original splendor. A few homes on Calhoun Square have similar patterns, painted by itinerant 19th-century artisans who traveled from city to city. With its earthy hues and intricate detailing, this trompe l’oeil treasure still brightens the home’s foyer.
Linger Over Dinner. Jeanne loves to mix and match place settings on the dinner table, boldly combining china, glassware and silver patterns. That same spirit of adventure infuses the home’s dining room, which blends vintage and modern details. “I don’t like everything to be so matchy,” she explains. A round dining table serves as the room’s focal point, surrounded by eight neo-gothic antique chairs. Foregoing traditional lace, Jeanne tops the dining room table with a gold-flecked cowhide. R purchased an 1883 Belgian painting depicting a battle scene at Arcanum, lending gravitas to the space. Unexpected details combine to create a comfortable, inviting space to linger at a supper club gathering or an intimate family dinner. “We’ve had dinner parties and enjoy sitting around the table in the dining room,” Jeanne says. “It’s a fun space.”
Open Up. An outdated kitchen posed a number of challenges during the renovation process. The Campbells removed walls to create a more open layout, chipped off plaster to expose original brick walls and relocated a powder room to make room for an intimate breakfast nook. Sleek metal cabinets with matte black facing, gray ceramic floors and marble countertops now give the kitchen a modern flair. A funky armoire found in a Texas antique shop, paired with mounted ducks and snowgeese Jeanne bagged during hunting expeditions, give the space a quirky edge. “A party always ends up in the kitchen,” R laughs. “It’s a great, open space.”
Work from Home. R is passionate about the home’s carriage house, which doubles as his office. “It’s cozy and it reminds me of a mountain cabin,” he says. Together, Jeanne and R decided to gut the 19th-century structure, taking it down to the studs. They removed a low drop ceiling, revealing dramatic exposed wood beams and a spacious cathedral-style ceiling they painted a clean shade of white. R, who has designed innovative products for the car audio industry and other clients, considers the carriage house to be a meditative space.
Make Room for Baby. Once they found out they were expecting a baby, Jeanne and R focused their attention on creating a second-floor nursery in a bedroom with dramatic views of Calhoun Square and the stately spires of Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church. Because they didn’t want to know the gender of their baby in advance, the couple chose a neutral palette of pewter, coffee and ivory. R selected the baby furniture, while Jeanne chose the art that lines the walls, including a taxidermy deer head adorned with beads, pearls and silver paint, created by accomplished Savannah artist Marcus Kenney. “This room has really great light,” R observes, “so we decided to bring in darker furniture.”
Indulge Masterfully. The master suite, Jeanne’s favorite, includes a spacious bedroom with a luxurious adjoining bath. A four-poster bed and Oriental rug anchor the room, with its dark sand-colored walls and impressive art collection. The couple removed interior walls to open up the bathroom, exposing brick and adding a 10-foot-tall custom shower with stone accents. They also added a soaking tub, mirrored wall and sleek cabinetry. Curtains emblazoned with oversized moth patterns, a custom stained glass window based on a dragonfly wing, and a rainforest-inspired palette underscore the couple’s shared appreciation for nature.
The CAMPBELL Referrals »
Architects/planners: Linda Ramsay, Ramsay Sherrill Architects
Interior designer: Mary “Moo” Svendson and Jeanne Campbell
Project managers: Mark Fitzpatrick and Bill Mock
Mural preservationists: Catherine Rogers and Craig Crawford
Mechanical engineer: Charlie VandenBulck, Smith and VandenBulck
Structural engineer: Frank Martin, RWP Engineering
Tile/flooring: Sabine Smith, Garden State Tile; M.T. Adams Tile and Stone; Antique Heart Pine Flooring and Accessories, Bluffton, South Carolina
Paint/wallpaper: Armstrong Painting; powder room, Piero Fornasetti malachite wallpaper selected through Arcanum
Windows/doors: Guerry Lumber
Kitchen, bath and lighting design: Linda Ramsay, Ramsay Sherrill Architects
Landscape design: Jan VandenBulck
Hardscape design: Nimrod Long of Nimrod Long and Associates; installed by Earth and Stone
Electrician: C.S. Hurd
Carpenter: Southern Builders Group of Georgia
Plumber: Oates Plumbing and Hudson Plumbing
Landscaper: ATA Landscaping
HVAC: Galbreath and Sons
Appliances: Ferguson’s and Livingood’s
Art and accessories: Alex Raskin Antiques, George Davis Antiques, Paris Market, Roots Up Gallery, ShopSCAD, Taylor Clark Gallery, Lucullus Antiques, Yossi Milo Gallery, Ann Connelly Fine Art, Arcanum, Galerie 124 and personal collection