A traditional family home in The Landings goes mid-century modern
The home with the golf course views at the back of a quiet cul-de-sac in The Landings was, in a word, traditional. Crystal vases, brocade drapes, gilded valances, upholstered settees and armchairs placed around the room at precise intervals and plenty of heirloom china provided an elegant backdrop for upscale socializing. But nearly 15 years later, it’s gone thoroughly modern.
In the capable hands of Bob and Jan Harman — the son and daughter-in-law of the home’s original tenants — the Georgian revival underwent a mid-century-inspired overhaul that keeps family memories close … albeit in a renewed context.
“Joanne had always wanted us to live in the house one day,” Jan says of her mother-in-law. “After my father-in-law, Bob Sr., passed away and Joanne moved nearby into a smaller space at The Marshes, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to move from our home on Whitemarsh Island and do something exciting and new.”
Last November, the couple moved into their newly renovated home after working with interior designer Amber Then of Amber Marie Interiors, architect Scott Barnard of Barnard Architects, and builder Walter Strong of Alair Homes Savannah to transform the house into a contemporary version of its former self.
While the two-story home was in mint condition, strategic nip-and-tuck renovations improved the proportions and pared down the embellishments. Dental crown molding was replaced with cove molding, window mullions [the vertical bars between the panes of glass in a window] were dismantled, and black paint was applied to the interior and exterior window trim for a clean, contemporary finish.
The overall look holds closely to principles of mid-century design — namely, bringing the outside in at every opportunity. “We wanted to make the space lighter and create a connection to nature from each room,” says Amber. To better showcase the view, for example, the Harmans’ design team removed French doors and archways from the exterior porch along with the entire second floor, creating an enclosed, double-height sitting area with symmetrically placed windows framing the Lowcountry landscape.
Cultivating a sense of lightness in the kitchen meant centering windows over a waterfall island and tucking the double oven in a corner just out of sight. Here, quartz countertops lend a clean, symmetrical air. Elsewhere in the home, traditional fireplace facades went sleek and ceiling-height, oak floors were stained the hue of espresso and mid-century furniture replaced heavy antique chairs and sofas. A palate of whisper-soft whites and grays brings calm and continuity throughout the entire space, while gemstone pops of upholstered furniture lend richness and sophistication along with a dash of whimsy.
Somehow, in all the sleek newness, the spirit of family still abounds. In the dining room, Joanne’s antique table is paired with French, gilded chairs that Jan scored in a furniture trade with her sister. A pair of Joanne’s crystal lamps sits in its original place atop the antique sideboard. Most notably, just as when the home featured a more traditional look, Bob Sr.’s paintings still flank the hallway. Some are abstract and date back to his college days, while newer watercolor pieces he painted during retirement are more representational in nature, but every piece takes on new life in the revitalized space. The overall effect — an amalgam of heirloom family pieces and mid-century classics — is one of relaxed rooms perfectly suited to regular visits from the homeowners’ adult daughter, two grandsons, and Joanne, who still lives in the neighborhood.
Using their existing furniture collection, the homeowners incorporated museum-worthy pieces from a who’s who of mid-century-era artists and architects: modernist architecture pioneer Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, acclaimed Knoll designer Warren Platner, Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi and legendary architect Eero Saarinen. In the center of it all stands the star of the show: a floating glass and oak-encased staircase where a traditional stair and balustrade once stood.
The floating staircase was Jan’s idea, but Amber brought it to life, starting first with a small model before working with a fabricator to create stringers weighing hundreds of pounds each. “There’s the metal fabricator, a trim carpenter, a glass carpenter,” she says. “You need to respect and collaborate with a lot of trades for a piece like this.”
Amber concedes the project added time to construction, but the end result, she says, was vital. “If it were a normal staircase, the home wouldn’t shine the way it does.”