With bespoke millwork and ennobling details, decorator J. Randall Powers recasts a generic 1990s house as an art-filled triumph for him and investor William L. Caudell.
In a lively, luxe neighborhood known as Greater Uptown, Caudell and Powers discovered a 5,200-square-foot redbrick house built by a developer in the late 1990s. One of four vaguely Georgian-style structures facing a shared courtyard in a tidy gated complex, the three-story, five-bedroom property thankfully had virtually no land to maintain.
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Caudell disliked its humdrum interior details, but Powers was game: “I love to take a house and tear it up.” Extensive renovations were required because “everything was ludicrously out of scale or off-center or just not correct,” the designer explains, noting that spec houses typically lack architectural finesse. “Builders often hire interior designers, who can technically do the floor plans, and then get an engineer to oversee the construction.”
Some 14 months after the men took possession (they lived in a rental in the interim), the once aesthetically ordinary dwelling had been made remarkably sophisticated. Though the layout of the ground floor remained intact, the second floor was rethought.
One bedroom is now an office, while another serves as a television room that Caudell and Powers, confirmed Anglophiles, call the upper lounge. The adjoining his-and-her baths off the original master suite were combined into a gracious master bath and dressing area for Powers, while Caudell got a handsome suite of his own down the hall, complete with a neoclassical-style bleached-oak canopy bed and zesty checked carpeting.
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“I go to sleep early, and Bill likes to watch TV until midnight,” Powers says, adding that to muffle the after-hours din, he upholstered the walls of the lounge, which abuts his bedroom, in a boldly scaled cotton plaid. There is also a guest suite on the dormered third floor, accessed via an elevator.
In some instances, Powers’s pursuit of perfection resulted in seemingly minor adjustments that make a grand impression. One fireplace was moved six inches to the right in order to ensure that it was centered properly. The formerly featureless ceiling in the dining room was raised so Powers could incorporate handsome crisscrossing beams.
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Additionally, a few doors were walled over, including one linking the dining room and kitchen, an alteration that increases the privacy of the space, where gilded Regency-style chairs that once graced infamous Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi’s opulent yacht, Nabila, gleam amid enigmatic works of art by Twombly and Julian Schnabel. Eradicating the passage also meant that meals served in the dining room would have to be shuttled through the entrance hall, but Powers insists, “It’s only a few extra steps.” In any case, that path is rarely traversed.
Nowadays he and Caudell—often with a handful of friends—gravitate to a Queen Anne table in the stately kitchen and have drinks by the fireplace in the adjacent sitting area. “I get nervous when we have more than eight for dinner,” the designer says.