The Grown-Up House

A team of talented professionals creates a long-awaited dream home for empty nesters on Lake Guntersville.

A bluestone patio surrounds the pool and continues into the covered outdoor living area. “The space has a grill and overlooks both the lake and the pool,” says Angela. “We pretty much live out there in the summer and fall.” Photos by Jean Allsopp

“When you have small children, you can’t have this kind of house, ” Angela Mitchell says of the Lake Guntersville home she built with her husband, David. “But now that everyone is away at school, they come home and really appreciate it.” And, she adds, they will one day bring their own families home to the lake. “We designed it with that future in mind.”

The Mitchells’s new house is actually a major renovation of their old house—a 4,600-square-foot brick home—along with a two-story addition. “The old house had a cramped floor plan, and the kitchen and living room were too small, ” Angela says. “Plus, it didn’t take the beautiful lake views into consideration like we wanted. It was livable and large enough for us at the time with our three kids, but I never could make it ‘me.’ I didn’t have a great room for hosting our extended families.”

Angela dreamed and planned of making over the family’s home for years. “I poured myself into every magazine and design book I could find, and for two years I tore out every page I loved, ” she says. Her research revealed two homes in particular that she couldn’t stop admiring. “I loved everything about them, ” she says. “Both houses were designed by James Carter. I knew then that I wanted to hire him as our architect.” 

James designed the Mitchells’s addition to include a great room, a home office, two bedrooms and bathrooms, covered porches, and a porte cochere. Birmingham interior designer Mark Kennamer, a Lake Guntersville native, was also brought onto the project in the early stages of the design collaboration. Together, architect and designer tempered the structure’s newness with antique building materials—rough-hewn beams, antique French white oak floors, fir posts—and a mixture  of antique and new furnishings to give both the exteriors and interiors a timeless, well-lived quality. “The house is very traditional, but I like how Mark provided a relaxed approach to the classical design with the interiors, ” Angela says. “And he made it personal by really listening to my ideas and incorporating things that were important to me.”

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For the Mitchells, having a central gathering place was a main priority. Their new great room is the perfect spot for entertaining groups both large and small. “We can have a simple five-person family meeting or host a big group of extended family and friends, ” Angela says. “Either way, the great room is equally as comfortable.” And although the large space—three-rooms-long with 12-foot ceilings—could feel cavernous, it became cozy and welcoming under Mark’s deft hand. “The space is perfect for both formal and casual entertaining, whether it’s my ladies’ club meeting or a laid-back Auburn football game-day get-together, ” she says.

Angela says it is not just the great room but the whole house that “is livable without being pretentious. It is a marriage of the detailed design created by James and the perfectly layered interiors from Mark, ” she says. “This house has the grown-up feel I have always wanted.”

The Cyndy Cantley-designed kitchen includes Calcutta gold marble countertops, custom cabinets, and a backsplash of brick pavers in a herringbone pattern. “It’s a very formal kitchen that emits a casual vibe, ” says Mark.
Custom cabinets, painted in Elephant’s Tusk by Farrow & Ball, nicely contrast the antique wood beams on the kitchen’s 12-foot ceiling.
An antique Dutch hanging cabinet from Scott’s Antique Market in Atlanta becomes an eye-catching display case.
In the new foyer, Mark repurposed Angela’s old barstools by reupholstering them in velvet and gathering them around a wood-top table for extra entertaining space.
“All of the upholstery was chosen with the lake and pool in mind,” says Mark. “There’s nothing like velvet on a sofa for wear and tear. It’s very durable. Even the Rose Cumming linen on the dining room chairs can take a wet bathing suit.” Antiques—carefully chosen by Mark and Angela during several shopping sprees—intermingle among the newer furniture pieces. “My love of antiques started very young with my grandmother, who owned an antiques business,” explains Angela. “But hers were museum-quality that we couldn’t touch. I made sure to get family-friendly pieces.”
In the home’s great room, part of a two-story addition, Mark used a curated palette of cream, white, gray, and blue-green. “The colors and patterns come through in the art, rugs, pillows, and upholstery,” says the designer. “And to keep the house from feeling too formal, we brought in rustic elements like the rough-hewn antique beams to play the design down.”
An antique sideboard with a worn patina brings a bit of age to the dining area.
A soothing custom-mixed blue covers the walls of a girl’s bedroom. The poster bed sets a casual cottage tone in keeping with the color palette. “This bedroom was original to the house, ” says Mark. “But we added a dormer window to the lake side of the room to take in the view.”
Angela enjoys lake views from her office that opens onto a courtyard. Built-in cabinetry offers plenty of room for files and supplies,  as well as display space for her Majolica collection.
Blue-check gingham fabric on the walls gives the powder room distinctive panache. The vanity was built by Cyndy Cantley’s husband. “It’s patterned after a similar one that Angela had seen in a magazine, ” says Mark.

Meet Mark Kennamer

Mark Kennamer always had an interest in interior design. “I was helping people with their rooms back when I was in high school, ” he says. But it was his move to Birmingham after receiving his bachelor’s degree in interior design that really launched his career. He met his first client while working at Table Matters in Mountain Brook. That meeting led to more clients, and before long he launched Mark Kennamer Design in 2004. Today, Mark is inspired by fellow Southern designers Suzanne Kasler, Phoebe Howard, and Charlotte Moss. His home, shared with two cats—Honeychild Beyonce and Ray J.—is a “collection of things I love—antiques and abstract art, ” he says. A favorite piece is a Christopher Spitzmiller lamp that was a gift from a client. “I am blessed that my clients become friends, ” he says. “Our work is more of a relationship than a business transaction.”

Architect: James Carter, 205.871.7873 • Interior design: Mark Kennamer of Mark Kennamer Design, 205.413.6976 • Kitchen: designer: Cyndy Cantley of Cantley & Company, 205.324.2400 • antique wood beams, flooring, etc.: James & Company LLC Antique Timber & Flooring Collinsville, AL • 256.997.0703 • Dining area: gold-framed intaglios: Mrs. Howard Atlanta, GA • 404.816.3830 Bedroom: South Hampton Queen poster bed in Chippy White: Mr. & Mrs. Howard for Sherrill Furniture Bath: sconces: Antiques & garden show of Nashville Trumeau mirror: Huff Harrington, Atlanta, GA •

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