Home of the Month: Chez Magnifique
Interior designer Jill Huse has long held an affinity for all things French. While learning the language in college and studying abroad in Nice, she became fascinated by Gallic style and design, particularly Parisian apartments.
“They’re always so eclectic and jumbled together because they’re collected over time, but that’s what makes them charming,” she says. That look—albeit with a contemporary spin and less clutter—inspired Huse as she planned and decorated the new Meridian Hills home she shares with husband Craig (who owns St. Elmo Steak House) and their 8-year-old twins.
The couple met with builder Scott Campbell in 2012 and selected a blueprint that complemented the facade’s symmetry and unadorned stucco. “[The home] definitely has a French flavor; it was very simple on the exterior, without the frills and all the [architectural details] of the Old World style inside,” Jill says, adding that she aspired to emulate a townhouse on the outskirts of Paris rather than a country manor. Campbell kept some European interior elements, such as thick arches, alder doors, and gas-lamp lights, yet modernized the look with lightly embellished, unglazed walls. Instead of warm colors (and roosters, Jill says with a chuckle), she favored soft grays and whites to let the furnishings and artwork stand out. Different textures and shine, such as the dining room’s metallic grass-cloth wall treatment, keep the neutral palette interesting.
Campbell’s four-bedroom, four-bathroom design included a master suite, a kitchen, a great room, one office, the formal living room, and the dining room on the first floor. Jill tweaked the floorplan to add an office (so both she and Craig would have their own) and change what was originally a study into a main-level lounge. In their previous house, when the couple hosted friends for cocktails before heading out to a restaurant, they frequently found themselves trying to move guests to the bar on the lower level or carrying an armload of liquor upstairs to set up a temporary bar. Now the first-floor lounge, with its plush velvet sofas and dark woodwork, makes a convenient place for a quick drink with friends and an intimate spot to unwind at the end of the day. Jill worked with locally based Chateau Designs to focus on entertaining in the kitchen. Guests like to lean against the island, so she went with an oversized one, without a sink or cooktop.
A curved staircase with a wrought-iron railing leads up to the second level, which Huse calls the children’s “control center.” Each twin has a bedroom with an en-suite bathroom, and they share an open, loft-like area for studying, playing, or watching TV. Spacious second-floor guest quarters are tucked away beyond the children’s space; overnight guests can access the room by a separate set of stairs.
Travel continues to inspire Jill’s design sensibility. On a trip to Paris, she bought a purple Hermes silk scarf that depicts a lively street scene. When she wore the scarf, though, she found it difficult to appreciate the full beauty of the design. She had the scarf framed, and it now hangs over the fireplace in the living room. On another trip (this one to Napa Valley), she came across an antique chair upholstered in another Hermes scarf, and it’s currently tucked into a cozy corner of the great room.
Jill didn’t have go too far for every idea, though. A fresh five-pendant grouping in the main staircase has its roots in a similar arrangement at Harry & Izzy’s, another of Craig’s restaurants. Jill believes light fixtures are an often-overlooked element in interior design, and she found a pair of ornate antique sconces at Doc’s Architectural Salvage, located on the west side. When an electrician’s attempt to rewire the pair resulted in smoke and sparks, she refused to give them up, instead installing battery-operated candles in the fixtures, which flank the entrance to the great room from the kitchen.
Now that the home’s main-floor look is complete, Jill will turn her attention to the second and lower levels. She concedes it might have been easier to decorate the entire house at once, but the collected jumble of decor she admires so much develops naturally—one special, meaningful item at a time.