With the right eye, a Gastonia home is transformed into a casual and comfortable place to entertain and unwind.
It was an unseasonably hot April day and Leigh Falkner was loading up a truck with furniture, artwork, and accessories for her next day’s installation in rural Virginia when her coworkers pulled her into the Circa Interiors and Antiques showroom. A woman had come into the store looking for a couch for her Gastonia home and simultaneously requested interior design help from one of the Circa’s designers. “I was so frazzled from loading everything into the truck,” remembers Falkner of the meeting with her soon-to-be client, Mary Ann Burgoon. “But we instantly clicked and made an appointment right there for me to come see her home.”
Burgoon’s 4,438-square-foot contemporary home needed an interiors update, specifically in the family room, a large, open area in the center of the home with an open, spiral stairway that fell directly into the home’s entrance. “It just wasn’t working for me,” says Burgoon, who had worked with designers previously on her home.
“I wasn’t happy with anything that was going on in the family room. The colors, the layout, the furniture, everything.” On first visit, Falkner agreed. “The home has fantastic light but there was dark, tired wood paneling everywhere and all the furniture, just needed a bit of ‘swooshing’,” she says.
The biggest challenge was the open spiral stairway, a dramatic structure that is visible from nearly every room in the home including the entryway, family room, dining room, and kitchen. The metal stairs were painted white and “in terms of visual weight, it just couldn’t carry the space. With the white it tended to disappear,” says Falkner. “The filigree of metal work was a bit too sweet and small in scale, too, to handle the room.”
Removing the stairway and relocating it to a new location in the family room was not an option as Falkner wanted to keep the updating process simplified and easier on Burgoon. (Relocating the stairs would mean limited to no access to the upstairs living spaces for weeks.) So instead, the designer decided to rework the finish of the stair treads and railing, which were originally carpet insets with white metal. “I’d seen a Barry Dixon staircase in a book years ago where he had wrapped the stairs in a woven flooring,” says Falkner. “So I wrapped each of the stairs with sisal, which provides pretty texture up and down the stairs, which are visible from the back if you’re sitting in the family room.” The sisal then “puddles” at the bottom of the stairs into the foyer where marble flooring extends throughout the open space. A carpenter designed a sleek wood railing to fit on top of the existing metal to help add heft to the staircase.
In the family room, Falkner lightened up the space by painting everything ‘Shadow White’ by Farrow & Ball including the fireplace mantel to keep the look consistent. The designer then reworked the seating arrangements in the family room, resulting in a sophisticated but casual setup that encourages conversation and relaxing. And though the home is contemporary, Falkner layered antiques and other traditional elements such as the oversize mirror above the mantle, a find from Circa owner Cindy Smith during one of her trips to France. “I liked the texture of adding in the antiques and mixing them with that contemporary feel,” says the designer.
In the adjacent dining room, the wood tones of the existing dining room table and sideboard “were a bit too warm in this sun-drenched room,” says Falkner. “We wanted to play off that warmth with the introduction of cooler hues” via the addition of a stunning painting by Eloise Gamble and upholstered chairs by Lee Industries swathed in a cool grey and white geometric fabric by Great Plains. Lamps by Tommy Mitchell continue the warm and cool contrast.
Upstairs, Falkner took the same approach to the guest bedroom, which was “boldly painted and uncomfortable.” “We all have one of those rooms in our home that just isn’t as architecturally strong or pleasing as the others,” she explains of the guest bedroom. The room scheme was built around a painting by accomplished Nashville artist, Ansley Black, which hangs above the bed.
To strike the perfect balance of luxury and delicacy, Falkner added a luminous silk velvet custom headboard accompanied by a Nancy Corzine bed skirt and pillow fabrics and luxurious Leontine Linens. A heavily textured Weitzner grasscloth wallcovering grounds the room while antique Italian lamps, contemporary accessories, and a mirrored top nightstand provide the finishing polish. Taking advantage of the open space beneath the small window, Falkner added a concise loveseat from Smith’s Catbird Collection.
Though Burgoon enlisted Falkner to help update her family room, she soon fell in love with the designer’s aesthetic and approach and hired her to rework most of the downstairs living spaces and the guest bedroom. “I’ve worked with many designers in the past but Leigh was fantastic. She understood exactly what I wanted in my home. I never question what Leigh does in my home. If you find the right person, you don’t need to question their work.”