Sweet Harmony

Neighbors collaborate to splendid effect in a Richmond Hill remodel

The front porch draped with Spanish moss
Photography by Michelle Lynn Morris

The old saying that good fences make good neighbors just isn’t true in the Hostess City, where Southern hospitality means more than just lip service. This was certainly the case for Jeff and Cindy Holker, whose across-the-street neighbor, architect Joye Reno, oversaw a full renovation of their Richmond Hill vacation home.

Clean and coastal aesthetic

The Holkers selected Reno for her prowess rather than her proximity, but given that the recent Savannah transplants remained in their home state of Minnesota until the project was complete, Reno’s locale was fortuitous. “I could just walk across the street and check on things,” she says. “I was happy to offer that peace of mind for them.”Such neighborly warmth is part of what drew the Holkers to the Savannah area in the first place. “Friends in Minneapolis looked at us like we were crazy. They said, ‘why don’t you go to Phoenix where it’s 85 degrees every day?’ But Savannah brings good food, good culture, it’s on the water, and the people are great,” Jeff Holker says, noting that his wife’s interest in Civil War history and his love for golf and tennis made for an exceptionally good fit.

Neutral color palette accented by Lowcountry colors and patterns

While the Holkers dreamed of a vacation home for several years, things fell into place quickly when they toured a three bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom cottage in The Ford Plantation in 2017.

It was the second house they looked at, and it had potential in spades: a wide front porch and workable floor plan, an enviable lot backing up onto a public garden, and moss-draped oaks on view from every window. “It’s the sweetest little house,” Reno says, but the homeowners felt (and she agrees) that the interiors “were just kind of blah.”

Reno and interior designer Linda Engler, who has worked with the Holkers on previous projects, spent seven months remodeling the home, infusing a coastal aesthetic and amplifying its secret garden-like charm while also honoring the Holkers’ modern tastes. “The shiplap is a great example, because it has a very precise delineation,” Reno says. “If you look at historic shiplap, it kind of weaves and changes, but instead we made it modern, with clean, sharp lines, and we used it both horizontally and vertically.”

Warm peach and dark blue colors

A palette of ecru and soft turquoise with the occasional jolt of orange is another sleek choice, though both Holker and Reno note the use of pink in the potting shed out back. “It’s my favorite color,” Holker says with a laugh, “and as a surprise, Joye painted the inside bright pink.” As Reno wryly explains: “That’s because nobody sees it but his pots and gardening tools!”

In the kitchen, a zinc hood represents the creative input of several parties, including local artisans. Holker knew he wanted a custom hood, and Reno encouraged him to draw out some sketches. Forsyth Metal Works brought it to life, polishing and aging the piece to precise specifications. “The hood is subtly matte, and it’s the beauty of the whole room because it balances out all of that teal tilework in the backsplash,” Reno says.

Powder room

There are other spots of ingenuity, like the slim wine fridge to accommodate the kitchen’s tricky layout; the built-in bench tucked into an alcove on the stairs (an enchanting spot to read); a custom table designed for jigsaw puzzles, one of Cindy’s favorite pastimes; and that darling potting shed, which doubles as a golf cart garage. But the best example is in the living room, where commissioned artwork affixed to sliding barn door hardware perfectly conceals the television.

“Cindy said, ‘Do whatever you want, but we are never having a TV over our fireplace, ever,” Holker recalls. Her request has been easy enough to accommodate in past homes, but the layout of The Ford Plantation home presented a unique challenge. Reno suggested barn door equipment and put the Holkers in touch with artist Jessica Pisano to create a diptych of Lowcountry marshland, based partially on a photograph Holker took of Lake Clara, near Henry Ford’s house. It’s something “people always notice when they come in” — a seamless, beautiful solution that Holker never could’ve imagined without the help of his neighbor. 


Owners: Jeff and Cindy Holker

Year built: 2001

Year purchased: 2017

Square footage: 2,515

Number of bedrooms and bathrooms:

3 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms

Time to complete renovation: 7 months

Architects/planners: Joye K. Reno, AIA, Reno Architecture

Interior designer: Engler Studio Interior Design Contractor/builder: Grant Homes Tile/flooring: Garden State Tile Windows/doors: Coastal Sash & Door

Kitchen design: Joye K. Reno, AIA, Reno Architecture

Kitchen hood: Forsyth Metal Works Custom cabinetry: Brinkley Cabinets

Countertops: Distinctive Granite & Tile; AGM Imports

Bath design: Joye K. Reno, AIA, Reno Architecture Lighting design: Joye K. Reno, AIA,

Reno Architecture

Lighting: Circa Lighting; Urban Electric; School- house; vintage

Landscape design: Michael Small, ASLA, Michael S. Small, LLC

Hardscape design: Michael Small, ASLA, Michael S. Small, LLC

Landscaper: Shoreline Landscaping Appliances: Livingoods Appliances & Bedding Accessories: Ella’s; Serena & Lily

Art: Commissioned diptych by Jessica Pisano 

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