A Jones Street home serves as a multigenerational retreat
Photography by Richard Leo Johnson
ELISSA AND MITCHELL Habib got to know Savannah during their annual trips to the University of Georgia-University of Florida football game, electing to stay in the Hostess City rather than Jacksonville during the infamously raucous rivalry weekend held at the end of every October. Sadly, dear readers, as proud University of Florida alumni, they weren’t rooting for the team most Savannahians would prefer. But allegiances aside, the Habibs fell in love with the city, so much so that just last year, they decided to purchase a historic Jones Street property sight unseen (save for FaceTime) as their second home, arriving just after the Georgia-Florida game, but just before winter took hold at their primary residence in Cincinnati.
“We had talked about purchasing a second home for many years, but my husband was never keen on it,” shares Elissa Habib, who wanted a space for her adult children to come stay. Then, the pandemic hit. “We were looking forward to having a winter home where we could enjoy the outdoors, which is not always possible in Cincinnati.”
The time was now. The place, Savannah.
From Cincinnati, the Habibs worked with Seabolt Real Estate’s Staci Donegan to view several homes via online property listings and FaceTime. They ultimately settled on an expansive, meticulously renovated 1848 home on Jones Street, then, at Donegan’s suggestion, hired the team at Hultman Interiors to outfit the place to their transitional tastes.
“The timeline was ambitious,” recalls Hultman Interiors owner and principal Carolyn Hultman: they had about three months to complete the design and decor for seven bedrooms, seven full baths and two half baths, a formal dining room and several living spaces. But with such spectacular bones — thanks largely to Homeline Architecture, Kuhn Construction and Kingdom Woodworks — it was more about gilding the lily, so to speak, and Hultman was clearly up for the challenge. Hultman and associate designer Taylor Hart set about adding luxurious custom draperies along with furniture, accessories and artwork, including pieces by Katherine Sandoz, antique finds from Peridot Antiques and global street photography from the Habib’s youngest daughter, Ilana. The Hultman team also added charming wallpapers, including a Ferrick Mason design in the first-floor powder room (outfitted with a heavily veined marble sink) and a sweet, illustrated pattern from Milton & King replete with French landmarks in a top-floor bedroom, creating a chic nursery for the Habib’s infant granddaughter, Elliott, who was born just a few months after they moved in.
Although some COVID-related holdups proved a challenge, Hultman says most of the work was completed just before the world was mired in manufacturing delays for raw materials, furniture, upholstery and the like. Some pieces, like the dining room table and chairs and a large secretary on the top-floor landing, came from the Habib’s home in Cincinnati, a welcome addition for Hultman — who added custom upholstery to the dining room chairs — and Habib alike. “When we moved in, it felt familiar, and it felt like home,” she says.
The lower floors offer quintessential views of the city, including a side porch overlooking the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist and elevated front steps that provide a charming vista of Jones Street. The home’s upper floors, however, allow for a different vantage point: Ilana’s en-suite bathroom, for instance, feels incredibly private, with a view of oak boughs and Spanish moss all around. “There was definitely a little bone of contention between my daughters,” says Habib, laughing, “because we all think that’s actually the best room in the house.” (The room eldest daughter Sarah shares with husband Eric features a modern four-poster bed and convenient access to Elliott’s nursery next door.)
Another favorite spot, Habib says, is the kitchen. The family loves to cook, and the space meets them more than halfway, featuring vaulted ceilings, plentiful natural light, custom cabinetry, an attached barrel-ceilinged wet bar and beautiful finishes throughout in marble and tones of brass. Often, when family and friends come to visit, the Habibs migrate from the kitchen out to the porch, listening to the peal of bells or the slow clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages on Jones Street’s original, red vitrified brick. “When we’re all here, it gets a little competitive with people trying to stake out their space on the porch,” she says. The experience is one they’ve enjoyed year-round, too, with the fans on in summertime and a stack of blankets at the ready come fall.
For Elissa and Mitchell, the best part of the home is the fact that their tightly knit family has actually been able to enjoy it together, a surprise silver lining of COVID. “Now, with people working remotely, my daughter and son-in-law come, Elliott comes, and my youngest daughter is planning on staying in the winter with us,” she says. It’s the kind of relaxing, inviting space that the couple plans to enjoy for decades to come, but Habib can’t help but think of a more immediate need — one that puts a happy wrinkle in Hultman’s sumptuous design: “Elliott is probably going to be toddling around very soon, so before you know it, the baby gates will go up.”
Owners: Mitchell and Elissa Habib
Year built: 1848
Year purchased: 2020
Number of bedrooms and bathrooms: 7 beds, 7 full baths, 2 half baths
Time to complete renovation/remodel: 16 months; about 3 months for decor and design
Architects/planners: Homeline Architecture
Interior designer: Hultman Interiors
Contractor/builder: Kuhn Construction
Paint/wallpaper: Paint: Glen Davis; Wallpaper: Dan Grovenstein
Kitchen design: Homeline Architecture, Cabinetry: Kingdom Woodworks, Stone: Creative Stone
Bath design: Homeline Architecture; Cabinetry: AWD of Savannah, Charles Heydinger of Kingdom Woodworks
Lighting design: Hultman Interiors
Landscape design: John McEllen
Hardscape design: John McEllen
Electrician: OECI & Crout
Audio/visual: Custom Audio Video
Plumber: Hutson Plumbing
Furniture: Hultman Interiors, Earl Ginn Custom Furniture, Jere’s Antiques
Art and accessories: Hultman Interiors, Laney Contemporary, Ilana Habib, Arcanum, Peridot Antiques, Katherine Sandoz, Atwells Framing, Ellis Hepburn, Emily Jeffords
Organizing: House of Von
All details supplied by interior designer