OZARKS SIGNATURE September 2008
LIVE HOME PROFILE Custom-built CHATEAUWelcome to a French-country estate —with a Greene County address
Story by Linda Leicht
Photographs by Bob Linder
The formal dining room on the first floor has a ceiling made up of 49 recessed squares. The room also has an antique marble-top buffet from France and a large painting of a French court.
Gazing out of Patti Johnson’s window, it would be easy to imagine you’re looking at a French landscape. Narrow, winding roads dip in and out of rolling hillsides.
Patti’s three-story formal home — also in the French-country style — provides worthy views from all its windows.
The views inside are something to see as well.
Custom built to accommodate Patti’s ideas, the 10,000-square-foot house on 20 acres near Rogersville took 20 months to construct. Each element was carefully considered, from the layout to the vent covers. “I worked hard with everyone on details,” says Patti, the former owner of London Crest Interiors. She continues to work as an independent designer through James Décor.
The house is stunning, from its dramatic hilltop location to its grand rooms with high, elaborate ceilings and walls filled with artwork and antiques.
Each floor reveals a side of its owner. A balance between formal and informal is seen throughout the first floor. It includes a foyer, formal dining room, living room, music room, guest bathroom, bar room, kitchen, butler pantry and walk-in pantry.
The second floor is all about comfort and convenience. A master bedroom suite fills the east side, with a reading alcove and fireplace. There are his-and-hers bathroom and dressing areas, including a “winter” and “summer”walk-in closet and dressing room for her. The guest rooms are also his-and-hers. There’s a media room with some of Patti’s favorite design elements, including wall tapestries and leopard prints. The media equipment is hidden behind the doors of a large wood cabinet, keeping the Old World look and feel of the room.
On the third floor is a home gym and a room Patti would like to decorate as a bedroom and play area for her grandsons.
Ceiling stands out in formal dining room
Patti’s ability to translate her ideas and desires made working with her a joy, says builder Matt Bailey. “Patti knows exactly what she wants,” says Matt. “She has a vision for everything.” That didn’t make the job easy, however. Among the biggest challenges: the formal dining room ceiling on the first floor. Its architectural elements both amaze and surprise visitors. When she began to plan this room off the front foyer, she decided to keep it intimate rather than massive. But she knew the area would require at least one grand gesture.
The ceiling took nearly a month to complete. The concept originated with a photo in a magazine, kept for years in Patti’s “idea folder.” “Everyone should have an idea folder,” she says.
The ceiling is made up of 49 recessed squares. Each one-foot-deep square has at least five layers of trim with a single medallion at the center and raised medallions in each corner.
To accommodate the design, the ceiling had to be dropped and each square carefully cut out. Trim carpenters then built the individual boxes.
Patti talked the craftspeople through every aspect of the design, from the size of each recess to the treatment of the space between each box.
Also in the room are floor-to-ceiling windows. Looking out, you see the home’s garage, which looks like a French-country cottage, and dainty miniature pink roses, which give the scene a touch of color.
Between the windows sits an antique marble-top buffet from France, topped by a large painting of a French court.
Patti says her favorite design contribution to the room is the drapes. The gold fabric, balloon shape and tassels make a bold statement. “I wanted them to be over-the-top.”
Living area has artwork, music room
Each room has its own “over-the-top” element, though the home maintains a livable, comfortable feel.
A 12-foot ceiling in the formal living room allows for grand pieces, such as an antique mirror from France over the fireplace mantel. The mirror started out in Patti’s bathroom, but one day she realized it needed to move: The large space over the fireplace was crying out to be filled.
The room also contains a large painting in the style of French landscape artist Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot.
Patti was drawn to Corot’s neoclassical style, but wanted something that would hold special meaning for her. She turned to artist Margo Skyles of Nixa. She gave Margo a black-and-white copy of a Corot work, and the artist created her own take on the painting — a pastoral scene featuring three young women.
More examples of Margo’s art can be seen throughout the home, including hanging works and paintings on decorative details.
“She’s wonderful,” Margo says of Patti. “She always has good ideas and is always willing to let me use my creativity.” And Margo was willing to go the extra mile for Patti. Five groin vaults —vaults with four arching sides that come to a point high inside the ceiling — had to be painted in place. Margo laughs at the comparison to Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling, but she admits that she needed a massage after each day of standing with her head back and her arm extended.
The living room is divided by a wide archway that opens into what Patti calls her “music room.” Family photos are displayed on a black baby-grand piano. Patti is learning to play the instrument.
The rest of the room combines different fabrics and Materials. Two large wooden panels painted in deep brown tones are flanked by framed etchings that fill in the rest of the space. Patti has collected antique and reproduction etchings over the years and plans to add more to the wall.
One exotic touch in the otherwise staid room is a delicate desk chair covered in real zebra skin. The pattern includes both black and light brown stripes, and the animal’s black mane is incorporated into the back of the chair.
There is a view into the front parlor from the home’s entryway. The design around the doorways was created with layers of trim; artist Margo Skyles painted the insets above the door.
Kitchen divided into three areas
After the formality of the front rooms of the home, the kitchen and family room offer a taste of Patti’s ability to combine the elegant and the comfortable.
She achieves the blend by creating separate spaces within a room. The kitchen offers three separate nooks — a cooking area, an eating area and a sitting area — connected by style and color, yet separated by curved ceiling archways and large corbels.
The palette for the room is soft cream with shades of brown.
The cabinets are simple, while layers of cabinet trim add oomph. Throughout the home, Patti has used both wood trim and flexible vinyl trim. In the kitchen, the flexible trim has an intricate design of acorns, grape leaves and flowers.
“It added to the architecture of this room,” Patti says.
Terry Stroud of Alpine Wood Products in Marionville created all the cabinets in the home, from kitchen and bathrooms to library shelves. This was not the first time Terry has worked with Patti: He built the cabinetry for her last house.
“Patti has an eye,” he says. “She can visualize things. ... She understands what things will look like.” The working area of the kitchen is designed top lease the chef as well as the eye. Patti considered work flow when she placed a professional stove opposite a huge work island. When she is cooking, she has easy access to a sink in the island. A small counter area next to the stove is filled with cook books for quick reference.
The polished granite countertops pick up the room’s color scheme. Her challenge was to find a piece large enough to cover the island without a seam, and she wanted to avoid countertops with lots of swirls and movement.
“That would have been too much,” she says.
Patti used decorative details to create personality and warmth in the room. A portrait of the front of the house is on the tile backsplash over the stove. Mar-go painted it onto the tiles, which were then fired. When the portrait was putin place, Patti placed gold tiles around it to form an ornate frame. The same gold tone is continued in small medallions above the counters in the sink area.
The fan and light above the stove are hidden by a mantelpiece; it also provides space for a collection of decorative brown toile plates.
In the eating area, the influence of one of Patti’s favorite designers, Charles Faudree of Tulsa, Okla., is evident. “He decorates to excess” by using groupings of decorative items, she explains. Patti follows Faudree’s lead: Along one wall, an ornate sideboard is topped by a large oil painting of a rural scene featuring sheep — a constant theme in French-country homes. On the sideboard are groupings of antiques and reproductions.
The rest of the room is all table and windows. The nearly seven-foot-long “farm table” provides seating for six or more. The wall of windows looks out onto the backyard and nearby woods.
A chandelier over the table provides soft light for an evening family meal, while the windows fill the room with sunlight during the day.
The sitting area, with a fireplace, is off the west side of the dining area.
“When I started, I was thinking how I would live in that room,” Patti says of her decision to create this comfortable space in the kitchen. The fireplace was the most important feature. “I knew I would want to sit in front of the fire.” When it came time to design it, she consulted more than 200 books and magazines. Finally, she drew out what she wanted, and Tom Ehlers of Stone Effects in Springfield created it.
Tom, who made all five fireplaces in the home as well as the interior and exterior stonework, says the kitchen fireplace design is clean and simple.
In front of the fireplace are two wing-back chairs. They are covered in the same fabric as the drapes in the dining area, tying the two spaces together.
“We sit here every night with a glass of wine,” Patti says of she and husband Mark, owner of Team Motor Sports and MDJ Properties; the two are newlyweds.
Between the chairs is a dainty dog bed, a favorite spot for Kelsey, a Maltese. She is one of four dogs who share the house with Patti. There’s also Korky, a Papillon who wants to direct everyone; Sophie, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel who loves anybody; and Henry, a stray who showed up and turned out to be a “big baby.” They each have favorite spots in the house.
“They’re really in charge,” Patti says.
Family room blends formality, cozy nooks
The family room provides a comfortable spot to watch television or read a book.
Furniture groupings divide the large room into three parts: A formal area on the outside of the room, an informal cozy space in the center and a reading area surrounded by bay windows.
Along the walls are antiques. A library table stands under a large tapestry that is the focal point for the whole space. An antique chest and armoire, which Patti bought in France, are also in the room. The armoire serves as a hiding place for the television.
At the north end of the room, a massive fireplace — the only one in the home that burns wood — can warm the whole room on cold evenings.
Heavy wood beams are attached to the high ceiling to create intimacy in the room and add to its architecture.
A deep-toned Oriental rug and two full-size sofas are the core of the inner, informal part of the room. This an area where feet can be put up. Here, Patti can relax by looking at the dozens of design magazines stored under the oversized square coffee table in the middle of the seating area. A corner is filled with toys; this is the spot where her grandsons, Landon, 5, and Parker, 1, can spread out and play.
A cow-skin footstool with horn legs is an unlikely Western piece mixed with the French decor.
“I hung onto that for years,” Patti says of the unusual item. “This is the first time I’ve used it.”
In the bay area, two leather wingback recliners are surrounded by bookshelves and windows. It is another place to sit and read or to simply take in the view of the hillsides, farm roads and sky.
“Last year, I just sat here and watched the snow,” she says.
Patti has only lived in the home for three years, but she’s already thinking about her next project.
“I said when I built this that it would be my last house, but I’m already working on my next house,” she admits. “It will be Italian contemporary. Don’t ask me where or when.”
Patti is influenced by designer Charles Faudree, who decorates by using groupings of items. Patti has incorporated Faudree’s style throughout the home.