Artful Living

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

Photography by RICHARD LEO JOHNSON

MATHEW S. HALLET 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.

Daniel E. Smith, left, and Matthew S. Hallett

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.


TOP LEFT: A credenza from Universe Trading Company and Daniel’s own artwork make a statement in the home’s entrance.
BOTTOM LEFT: The front entrance features a semi-circular driveway and plenty of greenery, a nod to the Daniel’s knack for gardening.
RIGHT: Materials like walnut, steel and heavily veined marble all reference the home’s mid-century origins.

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.

Although the TV room incorporates rich textures like velvet and leather, the overall effect is still light and airy, thanks to a sloped ceiling “borrowed” from the attic.

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.


Understated, white cabinetry wraps the chef’s kitchen, elevated by a combination of vertically stacked, black tiles and a mirrored backsplash.


“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.

Tiny, custom blue-and-white glazed tiles arranged floor to ceiling always leave guests “gobsmacked.”

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.


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.


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. 

The family room showcases more of Daniel’s artwork, along with a wooden sculpture by Edward Jones.

DETAILS*

Owners: Matthew S. Hallett and Daniel E. Smith 
Year built: 1950 
Year purchased: 2019 
Square footage: 3,000 square feet 
Number of bedrooms and bathrooms: 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms
Time to complete renovation/remodel: 1 year 
Design manager: Matthew S. Hallett of HALLETT & Co. 
Structural engineer: Cody Tharpe, P.E., S.E. of Tharpe Engineering Group 
Planner: Matthew S. Hallett, HALLETT & Co. 
Tile: Garden State Tile, Soho Studio
Tile installation: Cornermen Custom Tile 
Flooring: CA Floors 
Flooring supplier: The Rug Shoppe 
Paint: Sherwin Williams, Lukscolor Painting  
Windows/doors: Sierra Pacific Windows, Guerry Lumber
Window installation: Reddin Construction 
Door hardware: Emtek 

Baseboards: Garden State Lumber Products Corp.
Deck: The Azek Company, Reddin Construction
Masonry: Terry Wright 
Electrician: Next Generation Electric 
Plumber: PlumbPro 
HVAC: Arctic Air Heating & Cooling 
Kitchen cabinets: IKEA, Custom Cabinets 
Kitchen counters: AGM Imports, Counter Fitters
Appliances: Livingood’s Appliances & Bedding
Lighting: Pace Lighting, Arteriors 
Landscaping: Herb Creek Landscape Supply, Savannah Secret Gardens, Savannah Surfaces (Buddha sculpture)
Furniture: CB2, Design Within Reach, Jere’s Antiques, Havertys, Lee Industries, American Leather, Arcanum, Bernhardt Furniture Company, Father & Son Antiques
Art: Daniel E. Smith, Edward Jones, W. Gerome Temple, Kamryn Shawron, Derek Goddard

*All details supplied by homeowners

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