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Photography by Kathryn Feldmann

It’s all in the details for this refreshed 1960s colonial

Renee LeClair and Andrew Bink’s home reveals their story: from Maine to South Carolina to Virginia six years ago, their home is filled with beautiful furniture, art and accessories that convey their passions. With a busy lifestyle — two children, two dogs and two busy careers — they completed an elegant total renovation of their home. Their contemporary French farmhouse blends traditional pieces with stunning art and modern touches. 

Renee and Andrew had myriad ideas when they purchased this traditional colonial home. As parents of two young daughters, they wanted a house that would accommodate their life, both work and play. Some of the changes were necessary — a working primary bath — and some were designed to improve the house to fit with their furniture and lifestyle. 

Functional and beautiful
Starting with wood columns on the full front porch that now wraps around to allow access from the dining room, Renee and Andrew instilled a fresh modern vibe in a traditional colonial home. They chose the African wood Sapele because it holds a high content of oil making it highly resistant to weather and insects. The large 8-feet-deep porch is one example of the creative combination of Renee and Andrew’s visions with their contractor McCoy Darby’s design style. “McCoy was great because he took our ideas and suggested additional ones. He was very flexible and was really careful not to waste materials,” Renee explained. 

Sitting to the right off the front entryway, a drab old study is now an inviting dining room. With French doors to the side porch where they often sit, the dining room is open and airy. The bright yellow wallpaper on one wall sets the tone for the brass and Milk Glass light fixture that they bought years ago and finally found the perfect place to hang it. Once they found the right hardware and added a brass chain to this vintage chandelier, it now lights up the table for family dinners and the occasional homework project. 

Renee and Andrew came up with ideas to improve the flow and keep the house from being overly formal. They turned the closet between the dining room and kitchen into a corridor that functions perfectly: they designed a cabinet for their wine fridge, and Andrew tiled a patterned backsplash that adds texture among the dark wood. This space now houses a butler’s pantry cabinet, wine rack and a coffee bar. “It was the little things like that that made a huge difference in how we use the space,” Andrew noted. 

Innovative solutions
In the midst of the renovation project, Covid halted work and made acquiring materials a challenge. McCoy’s innovative spirit along with Renee and Andrew’s vision worked to make the end result better than the original ideas. When their cabinetmaker was unable to build the kitchen cabinets, Renee and Andrew decided to refurbish the existing cabinets and used African hardwood to build new doors and add a few additional ones that match seamlessly. 

“We designed spaces as we went along,” Renee said. This design/build method, along with McCoy’s resourceful nature, allowed the new spaces to align with their lifestyle needs. McCoy even pitched in and tiled the backsplash and island wall. Crisp white tiles over the marble countertops with the dark wood cabinets gives the kitchen a timeless French Country feel. 

Off the kitchen, an old, screened porch was enclosed. Using dark wood beams to connect the kitchen to the sunroom, the space offers a contemporary ambiance with French doors to the garden and a large sculpted light fixture. The aggregate floor is heated to keep the room warm in the winter. Two tall brass lamps they found years ago antiquing in Maine blend well with the contemporary sofa and chair. 

Designing the patio to mimic the sunroom’s proportions creates a seamless transition to their outdoor space. Working with McCoy, Renee and Andrew stood outside facing back to the house while they designed the patio’s curvature to make it symmetrical and work with the step to the garden gate. Aggregate allows for more color and material choices; they used concrete with gravel mixed in for a modern look that also kept the cost in line. Renee and Andrew wanted to use the same concrete for the patio as the sunroom floor to draw the inside materials out as they did with the African hardwood. Both the patio and the sunroom floors were designed and fabricated by Richard Taylor of Design Concrete Surfaces.

McCoy was excellent at planning and staging the project Renee says. Everything just came together: even during the pandemic, they managed to make progress. Repurposing and reimagining the spaces was a talent they fostered during the two-year project. Renee and Andrew chose and ordered all the light fixtures and finishes. They had them stored and ready to install when the project moved to that phase. 

Off the kitchen, the old dining room became an office for Renee with space for the girls to create art. A large wooden chest was repurposed to hold craft supplies and allow them to sit and make art. This airy dual-purpose room connects to the kitchen and opens to the living room. 

Artful additions
The living room was painted a soft gray (Shoji White by Sherwin Williams) to showcase a beautiful skyscape by Larry Gray of Asheville, N.C. A painting by Janina Tukarski Ellis hangs over the North Carolina cherry side table. The old painted wood mantle was removed and a new wood beam from Craig County installed beneath an inset they designed to set the TV back so it hangs flat on the fireplace wall. A wood-burning insert was fitted into the original brick fireplace box. The sleek black metal insert is crisp and clean and keeps fires burning behind the glass doors. 

The front hall is filled with their wonderful collection of colorful art. An encaustic by Gina Louthian-Stanley reflects their love of blues and greens. A half bath with a black framed round mirror and walls tiled in gray and black is tucked back off the entrance hall. Going up the stairs, framed drawings of deer, from photographs captured on a wildlife camera, are replicated in pencil then overlayed in soft colors by South Carolina artist Madeleine Peck Wagner. A small house painted by artist Mark Shepheard welcomes at the top of the stairs. 

At the other end of the hall, a large map of the coast of Maine beckons visitors to take a closer look. Once a doorway to the second of two hall baths, this solid wall allows the primary bath to be more spacious and accessed from the primary bedroom. Renovating this bath was the first project Renee and Andrew tackled. The bath was redesigned to create a double shower. Tiled in black, white and gray it features a sleek hanging Italian vanity with sink. The British shower and sink hardware offer a unique modern touch. 

Combining the two small closets into one in the master bedroom allows for plenty of storage, and their beautiful wooden dressers fit nicely along the wall. The wall behind the bed is covered in a geometric patterned paper by Graham & Brown, a British wallpaper company. “We tried to blend the styles and honor both,” Andrew explains. 

Two more upstairs bedrooms have been carefully curated to reflect each child’s personality. The first is purposeful and full of order; a lovely quilt covered in birds rests on the bed. The other is warm and cozy with a white sheepskin tossed effortlessly over the lower bunk bed. A fourth bedroom is practical and includes an upstairs washer and dryer to keep the laundry task easy. There is still room for a guest bed and plenty of storage. 

The muslin (cream-colored) brick home with a full wrap-around porch is warm and inviting. The gardens still host many of the American boxwoods that Halsey Hill, the original owner, propagated and planted more than 60 years ago. Rumor has it that at one time, the Hills had 1,500 boxwoods growing in the garden. Renee laughs and explains that families still come for boxwood foliage to make wreaths. A tradition the Hills started continues with the home today. 

With the addition of Lenten roses, raised beds for vegetables and an herb garden off the kitchen, the grounds have evolved to suit the LeClair-Binks’ lifestyle. They built a large modern woodshed out of wood and steel to house wood for the fireplace as well as for the chic fire pit they bought for the patio. The stacked wood housed in the metal-and-wood frame creates an artful border on the side yard. They built long retaining walls along the side of the yard out of steel panels and wood edging that connects the modern farmhouse vibe inside and out. The porch and the patio work with the gardens that envelop this contemporary French farmhouse where Renee and Andrew created wonderful vignettes for work and play.

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