by Jesma Reynolds
photographs by Catherine Nguyen
It only takes a spark, so they say. In the case of Elisabeth and Todd McGowan’s recent house renovation, a decision to upgrade their kitchen led to a total first-floor overhaul that now brims with sophistication and style.
Starting in the kitchen, they selected a celestial blueish-lavender-streaked granite for the bar that helped direct other decisions in that space. Cobalt cabinets and a La Cornue range and hood surround a generous square island with a cobalt base that serves as a central gathering spot.
On a trip to Atlanta, the two spotted a Fortuny glass chandelier and chose a wow-red version for the dining room. They then picked a brilliant turquoise blue paint for the walls. The contrast is striking. “She’s not afraid to take risks,” Connell says. Though admittedly there were last-minute doubts about the choice of the bold red chandelier just before its arrival, Elisabeth now says she loves it, as does husband Todd, who claims it’s one of his favorite things.
With a running color theme of red with splashes of blue established, Connell suggested a pair of Rose Tarlow sofas upholstered in lipstick red leather for the family room. Hand-blocked blue- and-red star Peter Dunham drapery panels and club chairs in a Lisa Fine blue-and-red weave juxtapose to create an effect both dramatic and alluring.
A softer, more ethereal look is employed in the mostly green-and-white living room, where one of Elisabeth’s treasured pieces, a Swedish grandfather clock, stands. Plenty of natural light from a bank of French doors creates a soothing atmosphere. Connell went back to Peter Dunham’s collection for a large, graphic fig-leaf print for drapery panels and pillows. She also introduced Elisabeth to Chapel Hill metalwork artist Tommy Mitchell, whose delicate framed floral sculptures grace a wall.
The final effect of the renovation is at once timeless and effortlessly modern, something that was part of Elisabeth’s original vision as she and Todd planted their roots here. “We don’t plan to ever move. This is our forever house. I am picturing our granchildren having an Easter egg hunt in the garden one day.”