By Anne Marie Ashley; Photography by John Bessler

As Heather Garrett’s client flipped through a home-design magazine one evening in her New York City residence, she was stopped immediately by the interior design of a home featured in the pages. As she and her husband had discussed a possible move to Raleigh, she looked up the name of the designer and the location, happy to discover that interior designer Heather Garrett happened to work out of Durham. “I thought to myself, Hmm, maybe she can design my house one day. She’s incredible,” the homeowner recalls.

Fast-forward about nine years. The couple had received a Make Me Move offer on their 1920s Georgian home in Raleigh and were considering the prospect. “We loved the historic features of that house—the high ceilings and detailed moldings— and yet, as a busy family, we also liked the idea of something new that would require less maintenance,” she explains. Already living in a home designed by Carter Skinner, they were thrilled to find another one that had new-build appeal but with the same beauty of Skinner’s architecture. “We feel so lucky that we found the perfect blend of old and new in this home designed by Carter Skinner and built by Beacon Street. It has the craftsmanship and proportions we loved in our last home but all of the perks of a newer build.”

Overwhelmed by the task of making this new, larger house a home, the homeowner reached out to a few designers to bid on the job. “I felt like Heather might be out of our reach, but I just loved her designs so much. She clearly made an impression the first time I saw her published work. I couldn’t resist contacting her, just to see.”

“After exchanging a few emails, we decided to meet in person for coffee,” Garrett recalls. “Of course, the restaurant I suggested was randomly closed, so we had to make do with her husband’s office conference room.” But the location didn’t matter, because after discussing their shared interest in Carter Skinner’s work and original artwork by interesting artists, there was no turning back. “Everything just clicked immediately,” says the homeowner.

Once Garrett signed on to design their home, she did her research about the family to find out how their lifestyle would drive the design. “I’d say that form and function drove the plan, while artwork drove the overall aesthetic,” Garrett says. “We told Heather that we had no sacred cows, so to speak,” the homeowner says. “We wanted to shake things up with something more approachable and up-to-date, but we weren’t prescriptive. The only thing we wanted incorporated was our collection of artwork, gathered over our seventeen years together.” Garrett took interest in a special piece she envisioned hanging over the fireplace, and went from there. However, as with everything this past year, plans changed, and what was set to be a month’s worth of turnkey work turned into six months of hurdles while designing a home amidst a pandemic.

“Covid was a nightmare,” Garrett says. “By the time orders were placed and contractors were to begin, everything came to a grinding halt. Suddenly, fear, delays, information voids, and missed deadlines were in the mix.” Despite the setbacks, Garrett did what she does best, which is to adapt and blaze forward. “Instead of one large reveal at the end, we got two or three!” the homeowner says. “We were a little worried that this was a larger home and that some of the spaces just wouldn’t get used. But Heather made every room so inviting and purposeful that it hasn’t been a problem.”

In the living room, Garrett developed a color palette of warm neutrals, pale yellow, and a range of deep blues, thanks to the artwork that inspired her. A curated mix of vintage and modern pieces in the entry work within a palette of gold and creamy whites, while architectural details, like picture molding, are highlighted with the use of an organic geometric wallpaper within each frame. And in the dining room, drama and comfort dance together to create a unique room full of moody hues and modern touches. When asked which room is her favorite, Garrett states, “Are you kidding? I would live my whole life by candlelight at dusk if I could. That dining room is it for me—the iridescent silk, the lacquered walls, the gallery walls with brass details—those are the elements of some serious drama.” The homeowner, also naming the dining room as her favorite room, adds, “And yet, it’s still inviting.”

And so it goes: Garrett continues to marry style and comfort in an incomparable way, blazing a trail for families to have the best of both worlds. “I would say I design through a fairly warm filter,” she says. “So much of my work is for clients with families who want their interiors to be chic, stylish, and reflective of their personalities, so I just try to stay on that trajectory.” This project is no exception, and perhaps even most personifies her goal—a chic space that is ultra-livable.

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