Middle ground

Home + Garden

October 1, 2021

Melissa Lee designs a pet-friendly SouthPark home for a newlywed couple.

by Cathy Martin   •   photographs by Laura Sumrak

Settling into your first home as husband and wife can be exhilarating, from choosing furniture, fixtures and fabrics to picking out paint colors. It also can be stressful, especially when you aren’t sure how closely your tastes align.

 “Calm and welcoming” was the vibe this newlywed couple sought when they set out to furnish their new SouthPark-area home. And while creating a space that took into consideration the homeowners’ four dogs — welcoming, sure; calm, not so much — might have flustered some designers, Melissa Lee of New South Home was up for the challenge.

Since the homeowners have a wood-burning fireplace outside on a covered patio, they decided to convert the living room fireplace to gas. The fireplace surround is polished Carrara marble.

 “We had a really good slate to work with,” Lee says of the new-construction home by custom builder Halley Douglas. When the owners purchased it in May 2019, the house boasted plenty of handsome features, including high ceilings, natural stained oak beams in the living room, and Carrara marble countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms.

 But when it came time to tackle the interior design, the homeowners decided they wanted a little help.

 “My husband and I know what we like but are never quite sure how to achieve it,” the homeowner says. “Melissa had designed the home of one of my partners at work — I loved the clean, modern but classic aesthetic.” Also on the punch list was a neutral color scheme and a little midcentury-modern flair.

 While the couple have similar styles (“We both avoid bold colors and like natural materials,” the homeowner says), Lee noticed the husband preferred substantial, ruff-hewn pieces in a Restoration Hardware-inspired style while his wife leaned toward a clean-lined, midcentury aesthetic.

“So, it was really just mixing in more of those heavier, manly elements, then balancing it out with softer colors and textures,” Lee says. “They both really liked navy and blues, so we used a darker navy in the foyer and then lighter blues in the bedroom.” Lee also points to how the white upholstered headboard helps soften the visual impact of the sturdier bed.

 Lee describes the style as “organic modern,” a blend of elements such as natural woods and leathers with plants and textured, woven materials such as rattan — all tied together with clean lines and black accents for a bit of a mid-mod vibe. 

 As for the home’s four-legged inhabitants, Lee stresses that creating a dog-friendly environment isn’t all that different from designing a home for a family with children.

 She used performance fabrics — durable, easy-to-clean textiles designed to withstand a little extra wear and tear — throughout, and pillows are encased in zippered, removable covers that can be easily dry-cleaned. 

White marble bathrooms are everywhere these days, and bringing in natural textures can add warmth. “A lot of times, bathrooms can feel a little cold — I just try to bring in some elements to make it a little cozier in there,” interior designer Melissa Lee says. In this primary suite, Lee added a teak stool in the shower and wooden floating shelves over the bathtub. Framed artwork, decorative accessories, a small table perfect for a glass of wine, and a colorful rug complete the design.

 While leather is generally considered a dog-friendly material, Lee says it’s still important to test product samples before committing.

 “There are different types of leather. Some leathers scratch — other leathers are protected and don’t scratch,” the designer says. “So even though leather can be termed as dog-friendly, a lot of the time you can still get the pet scratches on it.”

 Steering the homeowners toward less expensive rugs was another way the designer took pets into consideration. “It provides a lot more peace of mind for our clients, so they don’t have to worry about a really expensive, custom antique rug that their dog just had an accident on or tracked mud through the house on,” Lee says.

 The home is now a stylish space that is also practical for the family’s needs. “Melissa helped us mostly by listening to our needs and likes, then narrowing our choices — we would dither endlessly if allowed,” the homeowner says. “She really made the process so easy.”  SP

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