Style Home: Tara Meets Paris
A touch of French helps a classic design transcend its Southern roots.
photographs all by Thom Thompson
Brenda and Wayne Collison’s house in Harrington, with its majestic columns and wide verandas, looks as if it might have sprung from the Deep South.
But the big, brick house was actually born in a nearby modular home plant, then transported to the site in eight huge boxes, which were stacked with cranes.
“It took some creative design, but we wound up with pretty much everything we wanted,” Wayne says. “I think a lot of people might be surprised to learn that this house was built in a factory.”
Architectural amenities include 10-foot ceilings on the first floor, 9-foot ceilings on the second and third floors, large Palladian windows and 7,300 square feet of living space. There’s a sweeping, curved staircase, a second-story mezzanine and three-zoned, geothermal heating.
To Wayne, it made sense to push the envelope in modular construction. He is CEO of Beracah Homes in Greenwood, a producer of quality, stick-style homes assembled in the plant and transported to sites across the Delmarva Peninsula.
While he focused on the actual building of the house, he left the decorating to his wife, who created an exuberant, family-friendly interior.
“I love color and I have a lot of fun decorating—and this house was a dream come true,” she says.
Brenda developed an eye for design early on. As a little girl, she kept a scrapbook of furniture and designs she would like to have in her home when she grew up, carefully making labels for Chippendale, Hepplewhite and other pieces.
“Today, when I see something, I either know I want it, or I know I don’t,” she says.
On the list of things Brenda knew she wanted is an oblong dining room table made in Italy, hand-painted with sweet flowers. The table is surrounded by chairs upholstered in pale peach. The carved frame of each chair is accented with a rose at the crest. A crystal and brass chandelier sparkles overhead.
Glamorous draperies accented with rosettes and tassels are curved at the top to mirror the windows. A built-in sideboard topped with granite does double duty, serving as a buffet and providing lots of storage for china and serving pieces.
The Collisons’ daughter-in-law, Angela, marbleized the columns that separate the dining room from a soaring foyer. She painted a mural of columns on the staircase wall, which is topped with a dome depicting a blue sky.
For many years, sky was the primary view on the property, a lovely stretch of rural Kent County. Wayne, then a dairy farmer, contemplated the land with his wife, pondering where they might build a home some day. Five years ago, they dug a large pond.
“And then we dreamed,” Brenda recalls.
The house that sprang from the Collisons’ vision is warm and inviting, filled with such sentimental touches as a photo gallery of the couple’s grandchildren.
There’s also an emphasis on details, ranging from the mirror-backed towel rod in a guest bath, to the reading lights incorporated into carved headboards, to the 8,000-pound living room fireplace that features a pair of massive, carved greyhounds. Redwood columns, two feet in diameter, were shipped from Oregon. Artisans from Dover Millwork crafted the moldings and chair rails throughout the house.
In the kitchen, the cabinets are a sunny yellow reminiscent of Provence, embellished with carved acanthus leaves and clusters of grapes. A pair of Fisher & Paykel dishwasher drawers are stationed on either side of the sink, elevated a foot off the floor to eliminate bending while loading and unloading the machine.
It’s the largest room in the house, a sun-drenched space reminiscent of a conservatory, where the family can relax in wicker rockers or gather around a large, glass-top table surrounded by chairs with wrought-iron backs in a leaf motif. Brenda chose a lively floral pattern for the draperies. The pavers on the floor look like creamy limestone but are actually porcelain tiles that can stand up to a steady flow of friends and relatives.
Brenda, who is fond of French design, enjoys and embraces color, injecting it throughout the house to create different moods. A guest bedroom is crisp and sophisticated in black-and-white toile, accented with flashes of pink for a Parisian feel. The walls of a powder room are embossed with a finish that replicates the warm glow of copper.
In the first-floor master bedroom suite, the tone is restful and soothing in soft, dreamy blue and cream. A child’s tea table is laid out in front of the fireplace, where little ones are always welcome. Brenda’s collection of Cameo Girls, whimsical vintage vases in the shape of ladies’ heads, is displayed in glass-fronted insets on either side of the armoire.
“They were very popular after the war, and it’s been great fun to collect them,” she says.
Above the bedroom is a loft with a child’s sofa and chairs for grown-ups, a cozy place for reading and conversation.
A spacious master bath incorporates his-and-her sinks, a deep tub, a water closet and a large glass-block shower. The granite on the counter tops in the bath and the kitchen was a gift from Brenda’s uncle in Arizona.
The library is masculine, with sage green walls, built-in cabinetry, comfy leather seating and a ceiling coffered with wood beams. A flat-screen TV was installed above the fireplace mantel.
A second-floor mezzanine serves as an informal seating area. It’s also an acoustically ideal spot for a grand piano, whose tones can be heard throughout the house.
The second-story veranda running the length of the back of the house provides a vista of the verdant, 350-acre property, which includes a dairy barn, as well as the homes of relatives.
“My daughter lives over there,” Brenda says, “and my mom is in the little yellow house.”
That connection to family and nature is what the Collisons appreciate most about their home.
“Everything we have is a gift from God,” Brenda says.
The third floor is an open space designated for the couple’s grandchildren and their friends. There’s plenty of room for books and toys, as well as a puppet theater and a wardrobe for playing dress up.
Brenda is still tweaking, occasionally moving a piece of furniture or an accessory from one room to another. She’s pondering landscaping and ways to integrate a garage into the design.
She says the process of putting together the house was a learning experience, one that taught her to trust her design instincts—and to be willing to make adjustments along the way.
“It wasn’t work at all,” she says. “Every part of it was a joy.” D
Get the look
Surround yourself with things you love. Brenda Collison created charming vignettes throughout her home by putting out china tea sets that remind her of happy times with her grandchildren.
Incorporate spaces for the little ones into your decor. The Collisons included a play table in their kitchen, with shelves for toys and games. A small sofa is stationed in a loft, and childrens’ chairs and tables are tucked into rooms throughout the house.
Take tips from the pros. Collison enjoyed visiting model homes and furniture stores with her mother and sisters to get decorating ideas. She also collected magazine articles for inspiration.
Cast a wide net for furniture, materials and other resources. The Internet makes it much easier to locate whatever strikes your fancy, wherever it may be. The Collisons found a maker of cast-stone fireplace mantels in Texas.
Embrace the power of color. Consider the cheerful aura of sunny yellow, the soothing tones of soft aqua and blue, the crisp sophistication of black