'In a State of Southern Grace'
~ Penny Sorlagas
Pensacola Home & Garden
||Walking up the circle drive to the entrance of the Gulf Breeze home of Klein and Marcy Miller is a bit like taking a walk into the past. Set back from the street, with eight 10-foot columns evenly spaced across a deep veranda, old brick and smooth stucco walls reflect the elegance and grace of the Old South.
Inside the circular drive, tall live oaks, three full-grown camellias, a towering magnolia and several crepe myrtle trees provide shade to philodendrons, sago palms and Australian sword ferns. Center stage is dominated by a large fountain whose base is formed by a large sugarcane kettle.
Up the steps of the veranda, glass lanterns, grey slate flooring and black shutters at tall, narrow windows offer a hint at what lies inside, beyond the front door. And what lies inside is the couple’s shared vision come to fruition.
Louisiana-born and raised, the Millers brought their love of old Southern architecture and design with them when they moved here 20 years ago.
“We moved here on a whim,” Marcy said. On a trip to Atlanta in 1987, the Millers stopped in Pensacola, and, said Marcy, “we never left.”
With the completion of their new home in May 2006, it would appear that the Millers are still content with their decision to stay.
This 4,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-bath custom home is just one of many built by Klein. Owner of Old South Construction, Inc., Klein specializes in homes that pay tribute to the style of well-known Southern architect A. Hays Town.
“I grew up watching the construction of his design,” Klein said. “That’s where all of this comes from.”
Town’s designs included the use of narrow, 8-foot tall doors and tall, narrow windows. These and other detailed characteristics of a bygone era are visible throughout the Miller home from the black flower-filled urns at the front entrance to the gated “alley” that marks the entrance to Klein’s semi-detached office at the rear of the property.
A creative blend of old materials and contemporary innovation makes this a warm, comfortable home, full of charm and character.
The arched doors of the front entrance are constructed of old, reclaimed cypress, which was also used in the kitchen cabinets.
From a warehouse in Chesterfield, Maine, the Millers rescued five rustic heart-pine beams and put them to good use in the kitchen, keeping room and living room ceilings. Old Chicago brick floors, reclaimed-cypress cabinets and a butcher block-topped island reminiscent of earlier times blend well with the contemporary stainless steel appliances and black, granite countertops in the kitchen.
“I like to use furniture instead of built-ins all of the time,” Marcy said of an antique mahogany armoire that stands next to the stove and serves as additional storage space.
Several free-standing pieces, beautiful as well as functional, were chosen for different rooms of the house before the completion of construction. According to Marcy, everything was picked out and ready to be utilized when the last nail was driven, from artwork to crown molding, chandeliers to paint colors.
White crown molding, baseboards and white trim around doors and windows distinctly frame walls that range in color from rich, deep burgundy to sage green and sand. The sage green walls in the kitchen and informal dining area provide a soft background palette for casual dining.
Furnishings, chosen for comfort, livability and style, are upholstered in fabrics and colors that play off these hues, while framed art adds additional splashes of color and life to the spacious, comfortable, rooms.
Both the keeping and living rooms provide ample space to relax, watch TV, talk or read one of the many books that line floor-to-ceiling shelves. Colorful area rugs, deep cushioned sofas and chairs and an abundance of natural light make these rooms irresistibly inviting.
Off the kitchen, past the butler’s pantry is a formal dining room that captures an understated traditional elegance with furnishings of rich, polished wood, walls of deep burgundy, an 1800s sideboard complete with metal ice and wine drawers, and an antique 10-candle chandelier. The table is set with china and crystal, as if in anticipation of the next formal dinner.
But the Millers are less formal than they are down-home friendly and casually comfortable, and they built their home to accommodate large crowds of family and friends. That’s why the structure was designed with an easy traffic flow in mind.
We wanted a home we could put 60 people in, and no one would be uncomfortable,” Klein said. “We’ve had as many as 80.”
And when the guests have said goodnight, each of the Millers, including son, Stephen, 18, and 14-year old-daughter Kathryn, retire to their own respective spaces.
Down the hall from the kitchen and keeping room, Stephen’s space is that of a young man in transition. A black wrought-iron medieval-style headboard is a reminder of a young boy’s dreams of adventure while maroon-and-gold pennants and baseball caps hold place of honor now as he waits to enter Louisiana State University in the fall and begin new adventures.
On the far side of the house, beyond the family room, Kathryn has added her own feminine young girl touches to her bedroom, sitting room and private bath. When given the choice between a larger bedroom or the combination of a smaller bedroom and sitting area, Kathryn chose the latter, giving her a space apart from the bedroom to hang out with friends, Marcy said.
The second master suite belongs, of course, to Klein and Marcy. It is here, in their rooms at the back of the house that the Millers come to rest and relax. Gold-toned walls with accents of rust, sage, burgundy and tan in the overstuffed chairs and bedding for the four-poster bed set a quiet mood.
Granite counters top faux-painted antique his-and-her vanity cabinets in a large bath that features an open walk-in shower and deep, enclosed tub. There are two features in this room that the Millers favor — an antique, pan-bottom chandelier and a spacious steam shower used to soothe the muscles and relax the mind after a long day.
From the bedroom, the couple can walk out onto a small brick-enclosed patio area that features a full-sized above-ground hot tub. Through a side gate, they continue out into the courtyard that comprises the backyard of the home, which is also accessed by a door from the living room.
Fully enclosed by brick walls on the right and to the rear, the walls of the home, office and garage on the left, the open, spacious courtyard is an outdoor entertainer’s delight.
Sunlight passes through the filigreed design of wrought-iron tables and chairs, casting lacy shadows on the grey slate floor. A smaller fountain matching that in front of the house is the central feature of the courtyard, but the eye is also drawn to a large fireplace, complete with chimney, that has been built into the encircling brick wall.
A large table with a framework made of cypress and topped with travertine tile was once the kitchen island of the old home torn down to make room for this one. Now, with the addition of barstools, the island serves a different purpose, yet gives a bit of history to a new home.
“You always take something from the house you take down and use it in the new one,” Marcy said.
In true New Orleans style, Klein separated the main structure of the house from his office with an iron-gated alley or breezeway, allowing clients entrance to the office without passing through the house. Complete with a full bath and small kitchen, this area is more masculine, with wrought iron light fixtures, a curved cherry wood sink vanity and brick floors. Because this is where Klein spends the working hours, which can be stressful hours, Marcy had the walls painted a soothing, dusky blue.
“It’s very calming,” she said with a laugh. “I wasn’t going to put red in here or anything.”
And it’s here that Klein continues his work, concentrating on the next home to be built; another home that will move forward with the architectural style and design of both A. Hays Town and Old South Construction, Inc.