A Home to Grow In
Creativity and Determination Make this House a Home
By Katherine Pettit
Mirrors, mirrors, on the walls. Artful touches and beautiful bones make this Heathwood house perfect as a home for all time.
Southerners by birth, Meredith and Will Jeffords met while she was living in Athens, Georgia, and he was in Columbia. They dated for several years before marrying. Their first home together was in Melrose Heights, just a Sunday afternoon walk from their current house. In recent years, and with a growing family, they decided to look for a forever home that would serve their needs for the foreseeable future.
Their choice of neighborhood was Heathwood, where the homes are as different as the families who have lived in them for generations, but the comfortable community feel and the mature trees and shrubs make the neighborhood feel connected.
The home they chose was built in 1939, and has enjoyed strong neighborhood connections through the years. Meredith Jeffords likes its balance between traditional and modern, accomplished with careful renovations along the way. She is a creative and home stylist, and owner of Z Bird Home, which assists families in updating their home designs. Meredith made no structural changes when they bought the Heathwood house, but accomplished her updates with paint and artful decorating.
“So many of us have pieces we love, but we’re unhappy with the way the spaces that hold them feel,” she said. “We see gorgeous rooms on Instagram or Pinterest, or in our friends’ homes, and we think, ‘This is what I’m after.’ However, so much of the feel of those rooms comes from the layout, paint colors, lighting, etc. It’s not primarily the purchased goods.”
Meredith helps her clients highlight those favorite items and adjust the elements that don’t work as well. That means shifting layouts and lighting, adding the occasional fun new find, integrating custom artwork, perhaps freshening the paint, emphasizing what works, and minimizing elements which cannot be changed. She helps families whose cost of living leaves little left over for an expensive piece of furniture, or perhaps a young couple who wants their home to look great, but prefer to spend their money on travel and saving for the future. She also assists empty nesters who cherish what they’ve collected, but seek help in freshening the displays, even adding breathing room to the ‘stuff.’
“I like to start with what people have, and add on those essential pieces you simply can’t live without,” she said. When they bought and began to move in, she enjoyed placing their treasures throughout the house. She calls it revamping with what is already owned.
The house, a traditional home in the middle of the neighborhood, gave Meredith several features that were very important to her. “I love all of the open concept homes, but recognize that my family needs a mixture of both,” she said. “I wanted a kitchen and eating area completely open so I could watch my children play while cooking. In the more formal parts of the house, we needed a bit more separation.”
Walk through the sturdy original door and the entryway is a traditional foyer, with a staircase to the second floor bedrooms, and living areas to the left. The original kitchen was to the right. Today, that side of the original house includes a small office nook, full bathroom and guest bedroom. To the left, the living room is bright, anchored by a large blue and white abstract that Meredith originally painted for their former home. A pair of classic chairs covered in blue and white geometric fabric connects the room, while accessories add warmth that complement the furniture and walls. “I don’t like rooms that match everything,” she said. “I prefer that each room looks put together, with old and new objects that play off one another.”
A painting by Julia Moore, local artist and owner of Over the Mantel Gallery, hangs to the left of the entry. It’s another attractive element in a room that is anything but cluttered. “Just enough” comes to mind.
An arch leads into another, slightly more feminine den. “We call this ‘my room’ and I love being in here,” she explained. Floor to ceiling windows bathe the room in natural light and overlook a side yard, offering a glimpse of the backyard pool and high brick fencing for privacy. Inside, the sofa is robin’s egg blue, with several pink accent pillows. Lori Seitz, from Ethan Allen, assisted her in selecting the sofa as well as her kitchen table. A collage series of seashells is on one wall, while watercolor abstracts she created adorn adjacent walls, bringing in that touch of pink again. An antique chest of burled walnut serves as a side table in the corner. A wooden coffee table invites toddlers to play with toys on its surface, with no fears of scratching priceless finishes.
In fact, one of the most appealing aspects of the home is its eclectic furnishings: traditional, with a pop of edgy and a collection of mirrors that have an art deco feel. Meredith loves shopping in local boutiques as much as she enjoys checking out antique and thrift stores. She has an eye for finding treasures wherever she goes.
Again, there is an open flow between the den and the formal dining room, with more large bay windows and a formal crystal chandelier. The table, though, is a bit of a departure. It’s an antique Tuscan piece, beautiful in its simplicity, and perfectly at home below that chandelier.
“I confess, I fell in love with this table and simply had to have it so I had it shipped to us,” she shared. “It really works in this space.” A mirror in the corner echoes the angles of the ceramic ceiling medallion, an original and traditional element in the house that everyone loves. In fact, there are a number of the medallions sprinkled here and there – all tastefully complemented by furnishings in each room.
A door separates the entertaining spaces from the kitchen, although plenty of entertaining happens in the large kitchen, which is completely open to the eat-in breakfast area. Meredith loves the two built-in wine refrigerators (one for white and the other for red). Another comfortable wooden table is painted a custom Ethan Allen color and chairs have a long history with the family, having served at three tables in their previous homes. The 11-foot ceilings add a more spacious feel and balance the expansive cabinets. Overhead, a chandelier inspired the artful placement of a bit of whimsy, an octopus “head” feeding into the arms of the light fixture to the delight of the children.
Beyond the table, a comfortable den is covered in children’s toys, while a collage of family portraits and children’s artwork fills one wall. Another bay window area overlooks the pool and floods the room with light. In fact, the kitchen/eating area/den are constructed so that there are windows on two sides of the rooms, something Meredith noticed immediately.
“Natural light is very important to my environment,” she said. “I need all of this outdoor light surrounding me.” It also serves to showcase art throughout the home. A new favorite hanging on the kitchen wall is an untitled piece by local artist Leah Richardson, of Dream a Little Art. Beyond the den is out-of-sight storage for toys and a full bathroom, perfect for bathing when the children come in from the pool, as well as use by guests and family enjoying the outdoors.
The kitchen’s granite island is offers a great prep area, as well as a gathering point. Ample cabinets and drawers keep things tucked away. The kitchen hardware came with the house and looks great with the lights and granite.
With no structural changes needed, the kitchen was freshened up with paint – Alabaster White on the walls and Agreeable Gray for the cabinets, both by Sherman Williams.
The house seems to shelter the outdoor area with its pool, lounging area, mature trees and grassy yard and outdoor room for shade and gathering.
Back inside, the front of the kitchen leads back to the original house, with its small office nook, another full bathroom and the guest bedroom. The upstairs has a master suite with two walk-in closets, therapy/jet tub and a sitting room. There are two additional bedrooms, each with a private bath. Meredith’s creative work is ongoing in the private areas.
Mary Lane Sloan, real estate broker and co-owner of the Art of Real Estate, admires her friend’s gift. “I’ve been involved in several real estate transactions with Meredith and Will and we’ve become good friends,” she shared. “This Heathwood home just happened to be our 1,000th closing, which added a bit extra to the purchase for all of us. I’ve seen Meredith’s sense of style and the vision she has.”
Meredith’s ability allows her to see an older home and imagine its potential. Mary Lane loves the blue and white abstract that hangs in the front living room, as well as other accessories and even the metallic touches throughout. “Will and Meredith are such a fun couple, and I love being here with them in their new home and seeing what they’ve done.”
And also what they’ve left alone. The bay windows, lacquered ceilings, medallions, and strategic flow are all as the last owners left them. The paint and furnishings are new. The couple isn’t finished, however. Meredith has plans to transition the children’s rooms as they grow, and she has her eye on several bathrooms. “They are lovely now,” she said. “Eventually, though, I want to add our personal touches to a few more rooms, and really see what we can do with all that basement space.”
She notes that it’s a home where her family’s space can change to accommodate new interests and the growing children’s needs. The ongoing challenge is fun and creative for her, even as she assists friends and clients in updating their own nests. As for Will, he’s a bit more straightforward about the home. “We’re done. We’re never moving away from here,” he says frequently. And why would they? It’s everything a family could ever want to enjoy in the middle of downtown.