A creative couple returns to Savannah, revamping a 1957 home while honoring its original aesthetic.
There’s the Taj Mahal in India, but there’s also one right here in Savannah. At first glance, it’s not a fitting sobriquet for the home of Joe Bush and Steve Stanley, a mid-century-modern space lacking the hallmark domes and minarets of Mughal architecture. But the large sign on display in their living room — the one literally emblazoned with the name of that 17th-century masterpiece in Agra — makes it perfectly clear you’ve traveled somewhere far from ordinary.
The sign belonged to Stanley’s grandparents and was originally from an old hotel in Alabama. “As my grandparents got older, they asked us what we might want of theirs,” Stanley says. He only wanted the sign. “Since then, it’s followed me everywhere,” he says.
The home’s majestic nickname notwithstanding, its owners are wholly down to earth. Stanley and Bush are quick to reveal (and reiterate) that while the house is a pursuit realized after many years of research, cross-country moves and hard work, they simply couldn’t have done it alone.
“Our house is a collaboration of people who have become friends over the years, who have influenced us, from whom we have purchased artwork, whatever it may be. It’s a joint effort,” Bush says.
Though many friends had a hand in helping Bush and Stanley settle into their new home, Matthew Hallett gets top billing. His design management firm, Hallett & Co., managed the entirety of the restoration process, from pre-purchase consultation through renovations to selecting furnishings and art. Less formally, he also served as cheerleader-in-chief, along with his husband, artist Daniel E. Smith.
“Buying a home is so overwhelming,” Bush says. “You look at house after house, and you wonder, ‘Am I making the right decision?’” he says. “Matthew and I have known each other for 18 years, so he helped so much with the process. I could talk about anything with him.”
With Hallett’s help, Bush and Stanley chose a 1957 three-bedroom, 2.5-bath home situated in Sylvan Terrace, just north of DeRenne Avenue. Originally built for the Kaminsky family, the 2,400-square-foot house boasts geometric beamed ceilings, airy skylights, expansive sliding glass doors and enviable pink terrazzo floors. The light in the house reminded the couple of Palm Springs, an area they love for its mid-century architecture and desert-oasis aura.
“It was a great melding of all of our worlds,” Bush says, referring to the couple’s time in California and Arkansas before their move back to Savannah.
They met here some 15 years ago, when Bush attended Savannah College of Art and Design and worked at shopSCAD (he made the shop’s very first sale when it opened in 2003). Stanley was a film student at the college and credits his mother, an avid shopper, with insisting they browse its affiliated boutique. Phone numbers were exchanged when Stanley asked Bush to call him regarding an out-of-stock item, and they started dating soon after.
Their meet-cute was kismet, and so was their return to the Hostess City. Stanley worked as a producer and taught film in Los Angeles and Arkansas while Bush was a creative-of-all-trades, working as a buyer and interior designer, representing artists and making his own paintings. When Bush was brought to SCAD’s Lacoste, France, location to help open its second shopSCAD in 2014, Stanley accompanied him, and the pair left an impression on their alma mater. Now, Bush is shopSCAD’s director, and Stanley is a professor in the film and television department. Unsurprisingly, their creative professions instruct their new home’s form and function.
The house required a brand-new kitchen, but there and elsewhere Hallett encouraged the couple to honor its original design. When they had to replace the floors in the living room, they chose cork, which would’ve been popular during the mid-1950s. They scraped down the hinges on the front door to find its original shade, a bold teal, and color-match it. They repurposed knobs from the original kitchen for use in one of the bathrooms. They stripped and re-plated an old light fixture, restoring its retro flair. And anywhere they could, they embraced pink.
“The original builders really went all in on pink,” Stanley says, noting the home’s Roman brick exterior, those terrazzo floors and even a pink brick oyster pit in the backyard.
That led to the conscious decision to think pink in the kitchen, which features rosy pendant lighting and a blush-toned backsplash. The interior palette also includes shades of peacock blue, goldenrod yellow, berry red and burnt sienna, seen in unassuming but glamorous upholstery and tabletop accents and, most notably, in lots and lots of artwork.
Sculptures and paintings are equally at home here, all tending toward the more contemporary end of the spectrum. In the foyer, guests are greeted by Bush’s own painting, a practically life-size depiction of Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. Bush didn’t want his own work on display, but when his friend and colleague Amy Zurcher told him to “get over it,” he relented.
For an artist, there’s no better place to reflect than the house on Fairfax Drive, between the skylights, glass doors and mirrored furniture bouncing back abundant natural light. To ramp up the zen factor even further, the couple hopes to add a koi pond soon, alive with shimmering koi and silvery ripples. The house invites a deepened bond with the outdoors, Stanley says. When the weather is pleasant, they put up screens and slide the doors open, but even when the forecast prohibits, they say they still feel a nature-induced sense of calm. “That’s the magic of mid-century architecture,” Stanley says.
Home owners: Joe Bush and Stephen Stanley
Year built: 1957
Year purchased: 2018
Square footage: 2,424
Number of bedrooms and bathrooms: 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms
Time to complete renovation/remodel: 3 months
Design manager: Matthew Hallett of HALLETT & Co.
Tile: Garden State Tile
Paint: Lukscolor Painting
Electrician: Tom Stephenson/Next Generation Electric
Plumbing supplies: Sandpiper Supply
HVAC: Rudy Mesorio/Arctic Air
Millwork: T.H. Guerry Lumber
Carpentry and trim: Stephen Bodek
Terrazzo restoration: Jay Lacey/ Miracle Stone Restoration
Kitchen floor: Regan Drake/ Grand Garages
Cork floor: Thomas Uhlig/ German Masterworks
Glass and mirrors: J&L Glass
Lighting: Pace Lighting; pink fixtures in kitchen, West Elm
Furniture: Arhaus (sofa), Thrive (sofa), Mitchell Gold (nested coffee tables), IKEA (floating credenza), Global Views (lamps), Moes (chairs), Four Hands (side tables), Clutter (leather and chrome armchairs)
Appliance brands: GE Café Stove, Bosch dishwasher, Whirlpool refrigerator, washer and dryer
Home accessories: Global Views (vases)
Art: Daniel E. Smith, Jenny Keith, Woodie Webber, Monica Cook, Scott Griffin, Joe Bush, Katie Runnels, Jessica Knapp, Jack Zoltak. Art purchased from ShopSCAD, SCAD Art Sales and directly from artists. Robot by Paul Pearson from Custom Movie Props