Decorating A Certain Identifiable Way

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Lately I’ve been a little defensive about my decorating style.   When showing some of my jobs on the blog, I get comments saying – “it looks just like your house.”  Or, “it all looks alike.”  And yes, I have to agree.  When allowed to decorate the way I want to, it does look somewhat similar.  I mean, if I personally don’t care for chenille, why I would want a client to have it? 

 

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My family room with white slips, brown accents and seagrass.

 

 

A recent client with white slips, brown accents, and seagrass.

 

 

It’s not just me whose style is recognizable.  There are may well respected designers who have a very distinct style – Kathryn Ireland immediately comes to mind, and so does Charles Faudree, Mario Buatta, and Darryl Carter; Thomas Pheasant, Barbara Berry and John Saladino are some others whose work is immediately identified.

Even growing up all those years ago, there was one diminutive designer who decorated many houses in my neighborhood.  Walking in the front door of any home, you could immediately tell if she had been hired to do the house or not. 

It’s not like I always decorated with white slipcovers and seagrass either.    My standard go-to-look used to be linen, toile, and Bennison with kilims and lots of red and black accents.  I mean I can and do do other designs, but left to my own devices, I’m going to design the way I want to.    Is there anything wrong with having a signature look?

I started thinking about this when I was reading the new Veranda, with its gorgeous cover. 

 

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It wasn’t so much this vignette that gave away the designer.  I might have even thought this was the work of Phoebe Howard or Bunny Williams at first glance. 

 

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The first clue was the townhouse in Washington D.C.   The location and the style of the house always gives you a hint of whom the designer might be.

 

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But it was this picture that really gave away the answer.  The quiet palette, the subtle touches of color, the center table, the lime washed floors, the classic leggy chairs, the airy, sunny atomosphere.   It all spoke immediately to me as the work of Frank Babb Randolph.  Randolph has quickly become a favorite of mine – I just love his aesthetic.   He makes choices I actually wouldn’t make – he doesn’t do a lot of curtains and more often than not, he leaves his floors exposed – but who only admires people who are a reflection of ourselves?  Why follow someone who doesn’t challenge your norm?

This townhouse is Randolph’s own home, once owned by Henry Kissinger.  Newly redecorated and remodeled, I looked up older photographs of this same space to compare what he had changed, and why.

The house, built in 1959, lacked formal moldings, so he first added a pediment over the center French door – in a homage to Thomas Jefferson.    Next he added a flat patterned rug, so subtle it almost looks like a painted floor.  In between the two fabulous 18th century Zuber covered screens – I thought, hmm. why no painting?  But, previously he did have one, and seeing it without, he made the correct choice.   Cabana striped slipcovered chairs were changed out for more sophisticated French beauties and  his Swedish chairs are now long gone, but why?

 

Take a look at this same room before remodeling:

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BEFORE:  the layout remains basically the same, but key pieces have changed.  As always, Randolph uses a center table.  He likes the furniture to be light enough to  move around – in the French style.   Here, the limed wood floors are bare, the sofa has been changed, the cabana slipped chairs are gone, as are the Swedish chairs against the wall.   Here, there are two French chairs with a pale peach fabric sitting next to the striped chairs – now moved to another room.   Remaining are the two fabulous 18th century Zuber screens, though that center painting has now been, wisely, removed.  Large sconces and console with mirror remain.  Notice the French door without the Jeffersonian pediment – what a difference it makes!   Which room do you prefer, then or now?

 

 

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BEFORE:  With the contemporary painting between the two Zuber screens – and no rug.  Today, there is more blue in the room – with the addition of the rug and the sofa.   Here is main color is beige and cream with punches of apricot.   Such a beautiful photograph! 

Randolph is the son a Washington lawmaker who served in Congress for many, many years.  He grew up in Virginia and Georgetown and Thomas Jefferson, whom he calls the first interior designer in America, influences his work.   Like Jefferson, he doesn’t care much for curtains, and like Jefferson, he rolls up his rugs in the summer!

 

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NOW:  Against this wall, Randolph added his trademark soft pops of color with the apricot French chairs that were once placed across the room.  The walls are painted a gorgeous gray – Farrow and Ball Elephant’s Breath.  While the chairs are antiques, the console and sconces are Niermann Weeks. 

 

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NOW:   Across the room,  the two club chairs, newly slipped, flank the fireplace.  The beautiful painting is by Elizabeth Dax.    While I’m not a fan of contemporary paintings, I have to say I love this!  It’s so subtle it’s almost as if it was a mirror reflecting the room’s décor.

Beautiful crusty urns sit in niches that were once bookcases.  This is the second time this week I’ve shown the dreaded niche with an urn, and suddenly, I’m a fan of niches!   Note:  if you have a niche, try copying this – use just one crusty urn. 

 

 

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NOW:  Closeup of the niche with the urn and chair from Tone On Tone, whose own aesthetic is quite similar to Randolph’s.

 

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BEFORE:  A closeup of the urn in the niche which was once a bookcase.  I also love the medallions he uses throughout the house.

 

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BEFORE:  the apricot colored French chairs were once in front of the niches – Randolph is a fan of “leggy” furniture, which he likes to move around as needed.  The club chairs weren’t slipped here.    And,  you can see the beautiful very light peach chairs next to the coffee table – these are now on the landing and are from the Cole Porter estate.  I love the two shades of peach, one light, one darker.    Isn’t it amazing how different a room looks with the lights turned on!

 

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BEFORE:  A close up of the art work by Elizabeth Dax.

 

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NOW:   Ahhh, here are the light peach chairs!   Randolph moved them from the drawing room to the landing!  These chairs once belonged to Cole Porter and they still wear their original silk fabric.  Love the painting with the touch of orange.   Beautiful vases with leaves. 

 

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NOW:  In the dining room, Randolph used draperies in this room only – here in a light silk chartreuse.    Randolph uses a lot of Niermann Weeks and David Iatesta who once designed for NW before going out on his own.   The new chairs are from Iatesta while the console in the corner is NW.  This quiet room is so Randolph with the bare floors and muted tones.   When entertaining he sets up several tables – and this is why he doesn’t use a central chandelier.  This way he can move the tables around as needed without the worry of the placement of a light fixture.

 

 

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BEFORE:  the Swedish chairs used here were mixed with the cane back chairs now in the living room.    I think I like the Swedish chairs better than the Iatesta ones, but that’s a personal choice.   Here, the curtains look yellow – not sure which is the correct color?   I do prefer the medallion on the wall above the chest rather than this painting.  I love this photograph – the way the furniture is arranged, it’s so symmetrical, just like I love it.  Still, if this was mine, I would use a light rug and a chandelier – but again, that’s a personal choice.   

 

 

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NOW:  Isn’t this pretty?  Here you can see how much Randolph likes to use a center round table in his designs.   An over-tall headboard and canopy were designed to accentuate the height of the room.   This is really a feminine bedroom designed by a man for a man.    Men don’t  always have to have dark colors and leather to be happy.   This décor is a good compromise when designing a bedroom for both a man and woman.

 

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The handsome and very debonair Frank Babb Randolph stands in the living room of a house he designed for a friend, artist Robert Rea.

 

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Two years ago, Veranda showed this Washington DC house that Randolph designed for a client.  He used the same basic floorplan with a round center table, flanking chairs on the fireplace and placing the sofa on the opposite wall – just as it is in his own DC townhouse.  This is a quiet, subtle, sunny and and airy room – which quickly identifies it as a Randolph designed room.  Soft pops of color come from the drapery fabric.  Other tell-tale signs that Randolph was here – bare, white washed wood floor, and an assortment of leggy, easily moved antique French chairs.

 

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Across the room.  Just beautiful!  I love the pops of orange that come from the painting – the owner is the artist.  Instead of a coffee table, Randolph uses the center table – on wheels for easy movement. 

 

 

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Same view, different day – different styling.  I like this end table better than the one above.  But I miss the garden stool and the flowering branch.  Notice how the first photographer brought up the arm of a French chair – just a trick that good photographers know how to do – which sets them apart from novices like myself.  He also set up a wider shot that shows more of the sofa and table.  Interesting to see the subtle differences between photographers.  Here, Morgan Howarth photographer.  Above, Max Kim Bee.

 

 

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Another view by a different photographer.  Love the backs of the French chairs with the subtle patterns and colors.  Love the silk striped curtain fabrics.  Just gorgeous.  But, I do miss a rug!!!  I would do a seagrass, but a pretty patterned one like Randolph used in his own home would be great too.  Love the pillows.  LOVE!!!

 

Read what Randolph says about rugs and why he eschews them:  “A puzzle pattern of rugs would break up the flow from room to room.   I like the cleanness of furniture legs dancing on the pale wood.”

And color:   “Colors pop on a neutral canvas.  I like bringing in select colors as accessories and then changing them out again as the mood suits.”

 

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Against one wall, a console with a chinoiserie chest underneath.

 

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The dining room here has a skirted table in a lighter shade of the curtain fabric – which is a great idea!   Again, subtle, and quiet, and spare, three hallmarks of a Randolph interior.   And, like his own dining room – no chandelier.  Love the tall urn. 

 

 

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The studio – with lots of the artist’s work. 

 

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The bedroom is pretty and quiet – with a painted chest and chair.

 

 

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This beautiful room was designed  by Randolph for a local showhouse.  Love the fluted pedestals with urns.  So pretty!!!

 

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This house was shown in two magazines (the photoshoot in Traditional Homes was for the Christmas edition.)  This older stone house was remodeled for an empty nest couple who had raised their family here.  Randolph turned it from dark, closed off interiors into light, bright and airy rooms.   The floors are now his standard limed wood.  Antiques from Tone on Tone found throughout.   Beautiful black stair treads and bannister.   

 

 

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In this second view, you can see how airy and bright the interiors are now.  Love the black against the limed floors.

 

 

 

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Decorated for Christmas, club chairs flank the fireplace with an antique Swedish ottoman acting as the coffee table.  The bench by the window is Niermann Weeks. 

 

 

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Love the Swedish bench.  A small tree sits on the an urn table in an alcove.

 

 

 

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The alcove  - love that table!.

 

 

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Love the bench with the Manuel Canovas fabric. 

 

 

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In the dining room, Randolph mixed a wood tabled with painted Tone on Tone Swedish chairs.  Love the chairs!!!

 

 

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The dining room, looks so different from this angle!  Love the light gray walls and white floors.  It’s all so ethereal. 

 

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A vignette of Tone on Tone Swedish antiques in the dining room.

 

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In the sunroom, beautifully tailored sofa in cream linen, with two Swedish pieces. 

 

 

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Niermann Weeks:  Randolph designed a collection for NW and uses many of their products in his interiors.   Here, he helped create this showroom using all NW items.  Love the chairs and table!  Beautiful!  And those sconces are a personal favorite.

 

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A terrace room from an early Randolph design shows the center table used even way back then!  Bare floors and an assortment of leggy chairs, still a trademark of Randolph’s.    While his décor today is more monochromatic, his basic style has remained the same throughout the years. 

 

I hope you have enjoyed this view of the work of Frank Babb Randolph!    I know it has made me feel better about decorating using a certain aesthetic and not having to make excuses for it.

Unfortunately, Frank Babb Randolph doesn’t have a web site.  Sad smile

 

 

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NOTE:  In Tone on Tone’s own house, Loi Thai has an Elizabeth Dax oil painting too.    Her works go so good with painted Swedish antiques.

 

Tone on Tone HERE.

 

Want To See A Beautiful House in Houston?????

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This three story,  stone house is located near mine – right on the route to my hairdresser’s, so you know I’ve driven by it a million and one times.  I watched it being built about five years ago and have been anxious to see the inside of it ever since.

Imagine how ecstatic I was when the owner submitted the house for the Aidan Gray catalogue contest!  Finally, I got to get a glimpse at the interiors and they were even prettier than I imagined. 

I truly thought this house was a shoe-in for the prize, but while it made the semi-finals, it didn’t make the finals.  Sad smile  Still don’t understand why not!!!!  But then again, most of the houses submitted were pretty enough to be a winner.

Notice in this picture the cute wood awning on the right side of the house.  And notice the pretty iron detailing on the driveway gate. 

 

 

Enjoy!!!

 

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Three stories of stone and stucco, wonderful shutters, arches and balconies.  I love the way they used pavers instead of a concrete sidewalk – and I love the clipped box shaped into big rectangles.  Notice the charming gate at the left of the house.

At the right of the center hall is the dining room where the large front window is, and at the left is the grand winding staircase that reaches up three floors.  The living room is at the left of the hall and the family room and kitchen are along the back of the house.

 

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Reaching up three stories, the winding staircase has iron railings and wood treads.  At the ceiling of the highest floor a large Italian styled chandelier hangs down.  Lighting the way are sconces that are placed along the curved walls.    I really like the railings – simple, yet pretty, with just a tiny bit of curved detail at the top.  Perfect!

 

 

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And looking down from the top level.   See that niche?  I like the way she accessorized it with just a single crusty urn.  No silk flower arrangement, no “wow look at me” lighted spotlight – just an elegant urn.   Again, just perfect!  It looks like there is a round skirted table in the entry – but no picture of that!!!!  Sad smile

In West University, usually when there is a third floor, it is just a room or two  - a media room, a guest suite, a playroom.   There aren’t any pictures from the top floor so I’m assuming it’s probably one of those choices.  I wish we had one!

Having that third floor is such a bonus!

 

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Off to the right of the front door is the dining room.  Notice the two doors – are they old or faux painted?  Either way I love them!   The more special you can  make your doors, the more special it makes your house.     Along with the large window that faces the front of the house, there is an arched window to the side with adds a visual destination for the eye when looking into this room.  Notice the elegant groined ceiling and notice the way there is an arch around the window wall, making an alcove of sorts.  Great architectural features. 

 

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Here’s a close of the room – the chandelier is incredible!  I love its size.  Pretty Os de Mouton leg chairs with nailheads and trim.   And I love those sconces!!!

 

 

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To the left of the front door is the living room.   The large fireplace opens to the family room behind it.   Beautiful striped silk curtains – constructed perfectly!   And the antique cornice piece – to die for!!!!!  More features – the pointed arches over the doorway and the shelves.  And notice how thick the wall is.   Also notice the beautiful crown molding – simple, yet so gorgeous.  I like her collection of Santos spread around the room. 

 

 

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The showstopper of the room is the fireplace and its beautiful, painted wood mantel.  Again, not sure if it is old or not – but who cares???  It’s beyond FABULOUS!!!!!!!!!  There’s a large trumeau above the mantel which is decorated with a few water gilded pieces.  Limestone surround and beautiful stone bricks inside.   This is really, really beautiful.   Makes the whole room!!!

 

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On the other side of the living room is the comfy family room.  This fireplace is a French inspired stone mantel – not quite as grand as the living room, but just as pretty.  Above is a paned mirror that mimics the arched doors between the family room and the kitchen.  Again, those doors are architecturally beautiful.  And there is another elegant groined ceiling in this room.  I’m dying to know who the architect was!!!!!!     The wicker bottle lamp is repeated with a collection of bottles on the coffee table.   And through the arched doorway – you can see the wet bar on the left. 

 

 

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A close up of the mantel and the accessories on the coffee table – an assortment of mesh covered bottles!!  Love!

 

 

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Here is what it looks like with the doors open to the kitchen.  Notice the iron sconces.  And the chandelier is wonderful here too!!!  This is an earlier picture – the mirror is different here and so is the pillow.   You can tell it’s a happy, family home – love the little chairs for the kids pulled up to the coffee table. 

 

 

 

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Looking towards the back yard, you can see the arch around the French doors – just like in the dining room.  Arched bookcases are on each side of the alcove.  And, the pine bookcase with its own arches is the perfect shape for this house.  More sconces on this wall – this time with one tall arm.

 

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In the  arched alcove near the window – you can see the bookcases with their wonderful paint treatment.   Love the kids table here – great for art projects!!!!

Ready for the kitchen?????? 

 

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Beamed ceiling, with a back wall of stone – the kitchen is warm and friendly, yet sophisticated.  The range sits along the back wall while the sink is in the island.   In front sits a French table with chairs.  Notice the wood surround around the refrigerator – and I love that open shelf filled with yellow ware!!!    The floor in the kitchen and adjoining butler’s pantry/wet bar is limestone. 

 

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Here’s a closeup of the cooktop with its stone hood and stone wall.  I love the stone!!!  The countertops are limestone (I think!) – and the island is wood.  Pretty open shelves on the right side.  Love the subtle paint treatment on the cabinetry.  And notice the iron chandelier over the island.  There’s another iron piece that is imbedded in the stone wall, over the cooktop.   This really shows you that kitchens don’t have to be all white or dark – you can use beige as a base color and get this look!!!  But, then again, you’ll need a stone wall and beautiful windows, beams, cabinets, and on and on!!!

 

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Another view.  In the right corner is a wonderful antique Swedish cabinet!   Love the large demijohn above that makes the piece seem taller.  Through the doorway is the butlers pantry/wet bar – that leads to the dining room.  Look at those series of pointed arches!!!  SOOO pretty.   Notice to the left of the refrigerator – the pantry door is arched and fauxed. 

 

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Closeup view from the kitchen into the dining room.  It looks like there is a skirted console in the dining room in a mirrored arched alcove – wish I had a bigger picture of that!   I wonder if there are two of those – one on each side of the front window?

 

 

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Looking towards the backyard through the French doors. 

 

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Along the back wall is an antique French buffet.  Pretty faucet and farm sink.

 

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And the view into the family room and the butler’s pantry/wet bar.  I’m in love with those sliding doors that separate the kitchen and the family room.  Actually that is a perfect idea.  If you have an open living concept and ever have a fancy dinner party – you know that having help in the kitchen can kill the mood of the party.   The caterers or cleaners are banging and clanging the pots and pans, plus there is all that heat from the kitchen – with doors like this, you just close off the kitchen from the entertaining areas!!  Perfect solution!!!

 

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The master bedroom has pretty French blue walls and another killer chandelier.    The ceiling is vaulted and beamed – but the dark wall color, also on the ceiling, along with the large chandelier, tends to make the room seem cozy, even those it’s vaulted.   Also, notice how low the sides of the vault are – maybe just 7’.  Another great way to cozy up a high ceiling room.  Who is the architect?????

 

 

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Closeup of the beautiful chandelier and the set of framed prints – love!

 

 

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And another close up of the headboard – which is so beautiful.  It looks like a gilded picture frame, while the inside is a tufted blue linen.  Such a pretty room!!!!  Dying to know where that headboard came from?!!!

 

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And the pretty master bathroom.  The sink cabinets are painted blue – and so is the closet door.   Notice how pretty that arched door is – it really becomes an focal point!!!    Notice the limestone backsplash over the sink – and how the faucet is installed there.  Love that look.  The bath is also beautiful, right under the wood windows.  Arched mirrors flank the tub.  Love the bathroom rug – instead of a bathmat.    And of course, there is a pretty chandelier, this time painted a soft blue.

 

 

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And finally – the back yard has a covered porch, with more arches.  This leads off the kitchen and the other window is off the family room.  There’s a stone fireplace on the porch!!  So nice. Hey, I have that same concrete table!  Love all the lanterns and well, I just love this house!!!!

 

A huge thank you to the homeowner who shared this beauty with us today.  I’m in love, that’s for sure.