However dressed up a room is at Susie Swann's new house, guests still get a feeling that it's OK to flop down


April 21, 1996|By BETH SMITH

The front door of the two-story Colonial captures attention immediately. It's not red, and it's certainly not pink or coral. Rather, it's a color that seems to have resulted from swirling together the best tones of all three shades -- a distinctive hue that only someone with a very discriminating eye might choose.

"Really, it is just a color from a local paint store that I had custom-mixed," says homeowner and interior designer Susie Swann, modestly explaining why the door color (the same inside and out) blends so perfectly with the striped wallpaper in the foyer and plays so well off the draperies in the adjoining dining room.

But this eye-catching color is more than just an insignificant detail. Susie Swann's front door sets the tone for her entire house -- a warm, inviting, sophisticated space. Step inside Ms. Swann's house and you immediately sense a designer's touch. But you also have an intuitive feeling that this house is first and foremost a place where you can flop down in a comfortable family room chair, prop your feet up on a needlepoint ottoman, and chat away the afternoon.

Framed photographs of family and friends are scattered on tables and shelves; a basket of daffodils and primroses sits atop an antique drop-leaf table in the family room; a portable television sits unconcealed on a bookcase shelf in the family room; a computer hums in the library; peek under a skirted table in the library and you find not a fine piece of furniture but a well-used poker table of dubious lineage.

Most of all there is a feeling of permanence -- a patina over the house that says it is complete and has been for years. "Actually," says Ms. Swann, "we moved in two years ago this May."

Surprise! The house, probably built in the 1930s, seems so finished, so reflective of Susie Swann, of Swann/Hall Associates Ltd., and her husband, Mason, a commercial real estate broker, that it is hard to believe they have been in it for only a short time.

"We had lived in Homeland for 32 years in a house much like this one," she adds. "But we decided we wanted to make a change. Our two daughters were grown, graduate-schooled, not living at home at the time, one was married. We felt it was time for us to think about what we wanted; how we wanted to live."

They considered redoing the Homeland house to create a kitchen less isolated from the family living area, but "we discovered we couldn't do anything really wonderful that wouldn't overprice the house," says Ms. Swann. A move seemed logical. The kids were supportive -- no grumbling about leaving the family homestead. Their advice was "Go for it."

After searching city, county and country, the Swanns concluded that everything they'd seen was just too big. "I didn't want to spend my life taking care of a huge house and a huge yard, and neither did my husband," Ms. Swann says. "We wanted something small that worked for us."

Then they heard that a house in a favorite suburban neighborhood was for sale. They decided to take a look.

Their first impression was that the house was too small, recalls Ms. Swann. But the affordable price of the house would allow the couple to remodel it to fit their specifications.

"I went back, measured every room, did a scale drawing, and then spent an entire day figuring out all the problems," Ms. Swann says. "When it all worked, I said, 'OK, we'll do it.' "

Adding On

As she often suggests that her clients do, Ms. Swann clipped pictures of attractive rooms from magazines and studied them for ideas. She also organized her priorities. She wanted a family room adjacent to or part of the kitchen, a larger dining room and a pretty garden space. For help with the projects, she hired architect Jamie Snead, builder Larry Boehm and landscape architect Mark Willard.

For the family room/kitchen, a decision was to made to remove a fieldstone patio and add a spacious, porchlike room to the back of the house. The design included large glass doors, sidelights and transoms, plus an Italian ceramic floor embedded with radiant heating. "I wanted an indoors/outdoors space," says Ms. Swann, and that is what she got -- an airy, sunny area that includes both a kitchen and a relaxing place to sit, talk, read and watch television.

With its lovely portico and graceful columns, the addition has turned the back of the house into an entrance. "Just about all my friends come to the back door," Ms. Swann says with a laugh.

A proponent of recycling, Ms. Swann wanted to reuse the old patio stone. But she didn't want to rebuild a terrace right outside the new family room/kitchen. "I wanted to be able to look out and see green, not pieces of lawn furniture," she says. Taking the cue, Mr. Willard designed a new terrace adjacent to, rather than in front of, the new room. Clumps of yellow day lilies were planted in the surrounding beds, and a bed planted with cutting flowers was tucked along the south side of the house.

Clearly Susie

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