Jessica Stambaugh and her team used the Arts & Crafts-era as their muse for the custom stair rail in this space off the foyer, which acts as an overflow dining room. Cozying up the walls: Weitzner’s “Hot off the Press” wallpaper, made from recycled newsprint. “It’s a texture, but has some color and flecks running through it,” Stambaugh says. “Grasscloth would have been too conventional for them.”

Stacey Van Berkel

See How Jessica Stambaugh Brought Old Soul to a New House

This North Carolina home feels lovingly lived-in—and will only get better with time.

November 4, 2022

Let’s just admit it: New-construction houses often lack the je ne sais quoi charm found in older homes, where the decor has been futzed with and fabulized over many decades. But there are ways to bring a historic feel into a newly built abode, as Nashville designer Jessica Stambaugh proved when designing a residence for one family in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Her first step? Salvage just enough of the original fittings and antique pieces to give the house a timeworn touch.

“This was basically a new construction project—there was an existing [1940s Colonial Revival] residence on the property that was mostly torn down, although some of the foundation and the basement was kept,” Stambaugh says. The new house is a 4,500 square foot cedar-shingled, Colonial-style home with a slate roof—and a few remnants from structure, chosen for their timeless good looks, including the original oversized brick fireplace mantel and the powder room’s old faucet, its hardware now plated in unlacquered brass.

Employed on a laid-back Ligne Roset chair, a plaid fabric from de La Cuona supplies woodsy warmth to the living room. The client’s own vintage leather wingback and a ceramic-topped vintage French coffee table lend a historic sensibility.

Stacey Van Berkel
  • A parade of pillows in Brook Perdigon Textiles and JS Interiors fabrics gives the living room’s game table staying power for family puzzle nights. “We added the vintage Danish sconce to bring a little extra light down at the human level, not just an overhead light,” she says. The Soane Britain oak chair is upholstered in Carolina Irving textiles printed velvet.

    Stacey Van Berkel
  • A rattan pendant by Soane Britain hangs over the kitchen table, whose cheery checked tablecloth and coral spindle chairs by O&G Studio put an updated spin on farmhouse style.

    Stacey Van Berkel

Because these clients own a buzzing local coffee shop, it’s no surprise that Stambaugh also injected their home with quietly percolating energy. It comes in the form of diminutive patterns and layers of unexpected finds, such as a Danish wall sconce with an accordion arm unearthed by an antiques dealer in Brooklyn, or wallpaper made from old newspapers. “Nothing is overly fancy,” she says. “And that’s kind of carried through the interiors. I wanted it to feel relaxed and casual and not too decorated.” Take the table she chose for a game corner in the living room: the classic “tulip” designed by Eero Saarinen in 1957.  “I will put a Saarinen table in any room,” Stambaugh says. “We’ve seen them a million times, but it’s just so elegant and almost subtracts energy from the space. It’s like this breath of lightness—the perfect solution for someone that’s open to modern furniture where you need it, but you don’t need it to scream.”

An island painted in Benjamin Moore’s Regent Green brings the otherwise airy cookspace down to earth. A trio of hand-blown pendants from Remains Lighting “reflect the theme of craft throughout the home.”

Stacey Van Berkel

That lack of a heavy decorator’s hand is especially evident in the absence of window treatments, which could read as too fussy, says the designer. “Anywhere we didn’t need them, we tried to keep it minimal,” she explains—plus, with many of the windows overlooking Chapel Hill’s thick, deciduous trees, privacy wasn’t an issue. The landscape also helped kick off the house’s calm palette. “I think that that was a jumping off point—how to bring some of that nature and earthiness into the space while still keeping it quite clean,” says Stambaugh, who begins every project by zeroing in on fabrics. Here, the natural world outside inspired “a common theme of burnt reds and yellows and ochre greens—classic colors,” she explains, with subtle patterns that are quiet but have enough dimension to encourage your eye to travel.

Because these clients have three elementary school–age children, Stambaugh tried to keep the room layouts as flexible as possible. “They don’t know yet if there is going to be a drum kit in the living room,” she says with a laugh, “so not having a formal living room was important.” Case in point: Rather than installing built-in bookshelves, the clients opted for a Vitsœ system they could easily move in the coming years.

  • “We wanted to set a warm and welcoming tone,” Stambaugh says of the mud room, which they sheathed in raw cedar paneling. Windows painted in Farrow & Ball De Nimes usher daylight in in style. The sunny tile underfoot was reclaimed in France by antique dealer Dora Molnar.

    Stacey Van Berkel
  • One of the home’s original ceramic sinks got new life in the powder room, its faucet plated in a new layer of unlacquered brass. The hand glazed tile in a vintage-y diamond shape is by Red Rock Tileworks and took its color cues from the floors of the adjacent mud room.

    Stacey Van Berkel

One of the most delicious spaces in the house is the kitchen—an antidote to slapdash farmhouse style, thanks to its specific throwback details, including hand-blown glass beehive light fixtures, a drain board in the concrete countertop, and acidic coral-hued chairs that act like a jolt of espresso in the otherwise serene space. “It has a little bit of an Americana undertone,” the Stambaugh says. “We arrived at concrete because they were really into the idea of things that evolve over time. Concrete is a material that can really weather and wear, and they’re the kind of people that aren’t afraid to have stains and see that patina.” In other words: They have the perfect personalities for a new old house.

  • Impromptu naps are all the more blissful in a dreamy built-in bed nook like this one, which sits in the hallway between a guest room and bath. The aubergine paint color is Farrow & Ball’s Brinjal.

    Stacey Van Berkel
  • A cement sink from Etsy updates an antique raw console in the guest bath. The vintage ceramic and glass wall sconces are from Nashville’s Preservation Station; the wall curtain is a demure cotton from Nickey Kehoe.

    Stacey Van Berkel

William Morris wallpaper is famously intricate. To keep it restful, they selected a “muted, low-contrast colorway to keep the tone of the bedroom serene,” she says. A vintage batik from Pat McGann Gallery livens up the RH bed.

Stacey Van Berkel

Get the Look

  • 36” Saarinen Dining Table by Knoll, $2,843.00, dwr.com

  • Akari 55D Ceiling Lamp by Noguchi, $250, shop.noguchi.org

  • Inez Modern Counter Stool with Swivel by Crump & Kwash, $1,550, 1stdibs.com

  • Small Sphere Pillow by Hunt Modern, $335, 1stdibs.com

  • Type 75 Desk Lamp by Margaret Howell for Anglepoise, $320, lumens.com

  • Pure Marigold Wallpaper by Morris & Co., $286, luluandgeorgia.com

  • The Rattan Hanging Conical Light by Soane Britain, soane.co.uk

  • 606 Universal Shelving System by Vitsoe, vitsoe.com

  • Touisset Side Chair by O&G Studio, $990, oandgstudio.com