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Publication Date: 2014-02-01

House Tours

​Bungalow Reborn

In Athens, Georgia, a designer unleashes her affinity for color and textiles in her own speed round renovation.

Tami Ramsay knows a good story when she sees one. The interiors expert, who is one half of the design blog and studio Cloth & Kind, produces poetic musings on florals and fine art, and also crafts beautifully unaffected spaces with business partner and fellow textile fanatic Krista Nye Schwartz. So when—while still a journalism student at the University of Georgia—she spotted a weathered 1925 cottage, she knew it was a masterpiece in the making.

“I used to run by this place all the time,” Ramsay says. “The man who lived there was a dancer, and I would see him entertaining on the side porch, where an old-fashioned pearl bush bloomed with white flowers in the spring.” In recent years, a dogwood tree had formed an elegant canopy over the porch, but the house itself was in total disrepair. When it quietly went on the market in late 2009, Ramsay walked in for a viewing and was stunned by the living room’s barrel-vaulted ceilings and original brass-and-Lucite fixtures. “I said, ‘I’ll take it!’ I didn’t even need to see the rest of the house.”

But before she could move her brood—husband Robert, 12-year-old daughter Emma, eight-year-old son Beck, and an 18-year-old Maine Coon cat named Zoe—into the Tudor-style residence, a major overhaul was in order. And while she had worked on the interior architecture of a previous new-home build, this was on another scale entirely. Ramsay essentially became general contractor, architect, and designer on a remodel that doubled the footprint of the 1,200-square-foot cottage, adding a new kitchen, powder room, and master suite in just six months. “I love being a risk taker,” she says. “If there isn’t a significant uphill climb to make a project work, I feel like I’m cheating.”

To that point, the hurried renovation—which was confounded by flooding and a rare week of snow—was what Ramsay calls “baptism by fire.” Since its previous owner kept much of the original character intact during his 70 years there, the house came with a host of quirks. The holes in the fireplace, thankfully, turned out not to be evidence of a costly leak, but of squirrels that once nested in the attic. And the removal of two layers of grimy carpet revealed mint-condition parquet floors beneath. But the plaster walls brought to light after stripping sheet upon sheet of ancient wallpaper required extensive repairs. Ramsay and her husband also attempted to rewire the electrical system within the eight-inch-thick walls—with mixed results.

The home’s existing rooms served as Ramsay’s design foundation. She matched their proportions in a seamless addition to the back of the house that replicated original architectural details such as the “crazy-drafty” casement windows and graceful archway. In the process, the interior was rearranged along a fluid axis, with natural transitions that encourage use of every square inch. “Flow is so important to me,” Ramsay says. “If I’m going to walk a path 20 times a day, it needs to be straightforward and not require a lot of navigating.” The existing dining room was repurposed as her home office, and the original kitchen became the site of the family’s combination laundry room–mudroom, which spills into the new, Shaker-inspired kitchen. The conservatory-like cooking space features a bank of windows looking out onto a landscape planted with exotic fatsia and loquats. Every window was positioned based on the daily movement of the sun.

A rich, real-world eclecticism prevails in Ramsay’s interiors. “My home is a confluence of everything that inspires me—from chairs I’ve found on the side of the road to rocks and shells I collected in Australia,” she says. Likewise, her diverse haul of art was culled from London, Paris, and Tierra del Fuego, Argentina (where she and Robert once lived), as well as thrift shops across the United States. “It’s a collected look, to be sure, and it’s not for everyone, but it’s a reflection of us as a family,” Ramsay says. “I can’t live in a buttoned-up interior. Mine is full of life as we discover it.”

Written by Kate Abney | Photographed by Sarah Dorio

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