The Art of Balance

Adding contemporary strokes to a classical canvas

Photography by Amy Lamb, Native House Photography

Three years ago, Ashley Martin fell in love with Lake Oconee. After a birthday trip to The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee, the Orlando-based interior designer came home raving about the region. Her endorsement was so strong that a few months later, her parents, Keith and Amy Mahen, decided to see it for themselves. They spent five days at the lake and by the time they got back to Florida, they had a contract on a house in Reynolds Lake Oconee.

Knowing the home would be filled frequently by their large family, Martin put her skills to work designing a comfortable retreat to be enjoyed by generations. She planned each room with purpose, creating a cohesive aesthetic with warm earth tones, varied textures, and pops of contemporary accents throughout.

She began with a blank canvas.

“I really feel like we had a great base to work with,” says Martin. “The home already had gorgeous wood tones with the beams and mantle on the stone fireplace. The bones and structure of the home was a beautiful canvas to start working with, both interior and exterior.”

The traditional home was bathed in neutral tones, which, for Martin, is always a good starting point.

“My general aesthetic is to go with a neutral palette and add calming colors with pillows and artwork and accents – things that add interest to the room but are easy to change out,” says Martin. “I like filling a home with things that are easy to switch out without a huge investment down the road.”

Her goal was to bring in modern touches to the spaces without overpowering the classic feel of the home.

“I try to find a balance,” she says. “In some spaces the pillows may have a more contemporary pattern but the artwork is more traditional. Or if a room has contemporary lighting, I try to play off of that with something traditional. It’s all about maintaining a classic feel with an updated look that can still stand the test of time.”

From there Martin concentrated on creating focal points for each space, like the black pendant lights floating against the stark white kitchen. She incorporated more metals throughout the house with an iron canopy bed in the master, black iron console tables with mirrored tops, and classic iron beds in the guest room.

Rich textures were balanced by soft fabrics and leather details in every room ­– an ottoman in the living room, a bench in the master, and stools at the kitchen island.

“I tried to pull everything throughout the house so that when you walk through the space there is a consistency with the metal accents, blue colors, and textures like the leathers and upholstered beds.”

Martin infused subtle blues throughout the house with fabrics, art, pillows, and accessories.

“Blue is never going out of style,” she says, “and it ended up being a key component in most of the rooms.”

Martin said there was very little lighting throughout the house when her parents moved in, so she went to work adding new fixtures in every space.

“This was one of the things that made a huge impact,” she says. “The custom lighting just really gives each room a unique feel.”

Knowing how her family would be using each space, she was able to design each room with purpose.

The living room was already a large space, perfect for a large family. “There are ten of us now, so we knew we were really going to use this space,” she says. Martin maximized the seating with a large sectional, accent chairs, and oversized ottoman, where she says the younger kids prefer to pile up.

Seating was also at the forefront of the kitchen design. Martin added classic leather stools to the island area so that there would be enough room between the open kitchen and dining room.

With the bedrooms, Martin was really able to personalize the design of each space based on who would be using each room.

Upstairs, three white twin beds covered in lush pink bedding were set up in a room for all three granddaughters. Across the hall, is the two grandsons’ room with deeper tones and whimsical art.

The two other guest rooms are reserved for Martin and her sister and their spouses. Downstairs, Martin created an intimate “whiskey lounge.” Upstairs, she created a playroom in the loft area off the two kids’ bedrooms. Each room has a purpose. Each space has balance.

This balance of textures and touches of blue are carried through to the home’s two outdoor living spaces; a large screened porch off of the family room and another, more intimate space with an outdoor fireplace off of the dining room. Even though the spaces aren’t connected, they are still accessible to each other and Martin says she kept that in mind while selecting the furniture.

“I wanted the spaces to make sense next to each other without being too ‘matchy,’” she says. She chose a mix of wood and wicker seating, punctuated by colorful drum tables. “Having both wood tones and woven textures really marries the spaces beautifully together.”

Outside and in, each space fulfills its purpose and blends effortlessly together. Overall, the home paints a picture of life at the lake, personalized room-by-room for the family within.

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