Artful Living

A design duo’s home is the perfect marriage of their passions

Matthew S. Hallett and Daniel E. Smith are veteran homeowners well-versed in the three most important words in real estate — location, location, location. Which is precisely why, when the couple stumbled upon a dysfunctional ranch house in the Habersham Village neighborhood, just minutes from grocers, restaurants and a yoga studio, they were sold.

The structure itself had little to recommend it, the yard an unremarkable mix of lawn and aged plantings, the interior a mélange of design styles fighting for attention and a floor plan composed of small, separate rooms and hallways abutting hallways. “We liked everything about the property except the house,” jokes Matthew, founder of HALLETT & Co., a full-service design management firm in downtown Savannah, who purchased the house in 2019 with his husband, Daniel, an abstract and landscape painter.

For their pièce de resistance, the couple chose to gently emphasize the façade’s mid-century features by painting the soffits and window casings black, extending the lines of the front steps to create a walled garden bed, and increasing functionality by removing the front lawn and replacing it with a dynamic array of deciduous plantings bordered by a semi-circular driveway.

Inside, however, Matthew and Daniel were less precious, combining their design sensibilities to completely gut the house and conceive the perfect floor plan for entertaining with space enough for Daniel’s extensive oeuvre.

Gone are the cramped hallways and squat ceilings that greeted guests upon arrival, replaced with a generously sized sitting room featuring an inviting mix of mid-century furnishings upholstered in warm leathers and rich, blue velvets. Reclaiming unused attic space, Matthew elevated the room with a smart, pitched ceiling that slopes down to meet a gallery-style hall punctuated by Daniel’s sizable paintings on the far side of the room.

“A lot of mid-century design is about materials, so we referenced those things,” says Matthew of the finishes and colors that appear throughout the home. Tweedy woven upholstery, velvet and leather, wide plank oak floors and stained wooden furniture look fresh and marry the duo’s tastes and need for functionality.

Understated, white cabinetry wraps the chef’s kitchen, elevated by a combination of vertically stacked, black tiles and a mirrored backsplash. A double refrigerator sits opposite a handsome pantry clad in heavily grained walnut — another mid-century reference — providing ample space for trays of chilling glasses, hors d’oeuvres and tableware. Heavily veined marble drapes the island in a shocking mixture of black and white, adding a dose of drama to an otherwise airy space.

The couple’s favorite party trick is down the hallway, beyond the entertaining space. The guest bathroom always “leaves guests gobsmacked.” Says Daniel. The room is an unexpected, enviable temple of tile. Here, custom blue-and-white glazed squares shimmer on every surface, wrapping the daring, barrel-vaulted ceiling — an extraordinary detail conceived by Dan. An embellished piece by artist Kamryn Shawron enlivens this jewel box of a room with a pop of bubblegum pink. 

Outside, the rear garden is a far cry from the stagnant lawn the couple inherited. Together they created a verdant oasis designed as a series of public and private “rooms” defined by layered plantings and impressive architectural features, ensuring no two rooms share the same view. Cocktail parties have space to spill from the living room onto the adjacent deck and courtyard, outfitted with plenty of places to sit and set down a drink. An elegant waterfall and koi pond border the outdoor living room, providing visual interest for guests and nourishment for beds full of banana trees and palms.

Off the kitchen, Matthew deftly incorporated a hidden vegetable garden for his husband. “They are rather unattractive,”
Daniel says with a laugh. But the utilitarian beds are beloved for herbs and summer produce. “He got the vegetable garden, and I got the koi pond,” adds Matthew.

Matthew and Daniel’s favorite place to unwind is a secluded garden adjacent to the master bedroom, hidden from view by a wall of thick bamboo. The private space boasts a patio and brick-paved Buddha garden with a comfortable combination of teak furniture and garden stools.

As they endeavored to do from the start, the couple created a home remarkable for the marriage of its mid-century considerations and modern sensibilities. Matthew cleverly wrapped utility in beauty, creating space for art and entertainment without any unnecessary fuss. Daniel has plenty of space to feature his paintings and garden space to work, while Matthew gets a hardworking home that is equal parts elegant and practical. 

“It is so comfortable to live in,” Daniel says. 

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