A homeowner's passion for finding the perfect accessory proves well worth her time
Photographs by Chris Edwards
Styling by Lauren Hinkel
For Adair Kenny, finding the perfect accessory or piece of furniture isn’t a necessity. It’s a passion.
If that means scouring boutiques, antiques shops, and international bazaars around the world, the search, though sometimes fruitless, Kenny says, isn’t for naught.
"I love hunting for the right piece of furniture or the perfect accessory for a space," she says. "It’s really easy to just furnish a house. But I want my home to be filled with things that have meaning to me. You have to look hard to find pieces like that."
Kenny and her husband Joe’s first design search began in 1998 while looking for a new home. Adair approached the house hunting much the same way she’d found home accessories: by trusting her instincts. So when the couple came across the circa-1960, two-story brick foursquare on Museum Drive, Adair followed her gut.
"The minute I walked into the house, I knew it was a place we’d be happy raising our family," she recalls. "It’s not a large home but it has all of the room that we need."
The 3,300-square-foot home—while outdated with yellow Formica countertops, wood paneling, and worn wallpaper—was well suited to accommodate the couple and their expanding family. Looking past the outmoded features, the couple saw potential in the strong bones of the house, its decent-sized backyard, four large bedrooms, and room to add on, if necessary. All it needed was a few minor adjustments to the layout and Kenny’s ceaseless commitment to finding the most appropriate and stylish furniture and accessories. The Kennys were sold.
Despite having a great eye for design, Kenny knew she couldn’t tackle the project on her own. The couple enlisted the help of general contractor Ben Salins of Salins Group to punch out the wall in the kitchen and expand the room into a more spacious work area with a breakfast nook, extra cabinet space, and built-in amenities such as a wine chiller and warming drawer. The neutral shades of the cabinetry, granite countertops, and hand-glazed backsplash complement the furniture-style island, which is painted chocolate brown and topped with dark oiled teak wood.
But it was the interior design that had the Kennys stumped. The couple partnered with interior designer Aida Saul of Aida Interiors and co-owner of Luxe Home Couture on East Boulevard. It was Saul who was able pull together Kenny’s cache of found treasures and accessories to create an aesthetically pleasing transitional interior.
"My work has a lot of unexpected elements; I like fusing modern and traditional styles with other unique pieces," says Saul. "Adair has a similar style, so when the time came to redo her house, she knew that we’d work well together."
Saul encouraged the Kennys to search for high-quality pieces and mix them with trendy finds, advice Adair took to heart.
They started with the dining room. Saul highlighted the rich brown walls with colorful punches—a colorful Turkish rug on the oak hardwood floors, 1950s Duncan Fyfe-style dining room chairs covered in a highly textured, raspberry-colored fabric by Holland & Sherry Fabrics, and custom-made velvet drapes with hand-painted banding. Opalescent blue glass, an oil painting of Kiawah, and a crystal chandelier add sophistication to the room.
But it’s the corner hutch that’s a true nod to Kenny’s unrelenting passion for finding the perfect accessory for a room. For years the corner remained empty, but Kenny was optimistic that she’d eventually find an accent piece meant to be there. During a shopping trip to Atlanta with friends, she came across a circa-1780 dark brown, satinwood Swedish corner cabinet.
The attraction was immediate—the cabinet interior was painted robin’s egg blue, an unexpected accent that Kenny fell in love with. "It is one of my favorite pieces in the house," she says. "It’s understated and elegant."
The partnership with Saul thrived and Kenny continued looking for home accessories and furniture for the rest of the rooms in the house. It took her months to find the eighteenth-century English secretary bookcase with a satinwood string inlay for the living room. Kenny discovered the pieces at Sterling Manor Antiques in Charlotte.
Saul found several ornate antique painted beams that had been salvaged from the ceiling of an old home. Even though the beams wouldn’t work on the wall, Saul was drawn to them and knew she had to find a place for them in the living room. A spark of creativity resulted in using the beams as valances on the living room windows, where they accent the handmade silk and velvet drapes. The walls flanking the fireplace, though, remained bare for some time. "We needed pieces to add height and interest but would also complement the heavy furnishings that were in the room," says Saul.
Saul tried several pieces in the space, but nothing looked right until she found a pair of oversize sconces in an antiques shop in Florida. The gilded, hand-carved pieces adorned with wrought iron candelabras added a traditional yet vintage feel to the room.
But of all the pieces Kenny has collected over the years, one remains a favorite: a painting that hangs in her bedroom. The painting hangs bedside, its bright colors a sharp contrast to the rest of the room, which consists of a wrought iron bed, wingback chair, Biedermeier chest, and bronze side table. Kenny found the painting at Wharton Fine Art in Charlotte and although she knows nothing about the artist she knew she had to have it.
"It just spoke to me," she says. "It’s so colorful and whimsical and fun; each time I look at it, I notice a different detail."
And while much of the home is outfitted with Kenny and Saul’s finds, the two also worked hard to incorporate elements of the Kennys’ family history into the design. Sculptures of soldiers that once decorated her brother’s childhood bedroom and the cap her father wore when he was a cadet at West Point are on display in their oldest son’s bedroom. And pieces of North Carolina pottery, paintings by local artists, and heirlooms that have been passed down through generations line bookshelves and mantels.
"It took a long time to find the perfect pieces for every room, but each piece in the house was chosen with great care, either because of its history or because I fell in love with it," says Kenny. "It brings me a lot of enjoyment to search for items to fill the house; I love to collect things and I wanted each room to reflect my personality and my passions."