Room envy: A Victorian foyer with a modern twist

Interior designer Brooke Brantley Merrill balances formality and coziness in her Macon home
1880
Photograph by Matt Odom; Retouching by Zach Vitale
Photograph by Matt Odom; Retouching by Zach Vitale

Interior designer Brooke Brantley Merrill and her husband, David, love their circa-1884 house in Macon, but the two are not wed to period decor. Their updated but classic approach is apparent the moment guests walk through the front door. “The Victorian design era is actually one of my least favorite because the clutter and opulence was too much,” says Merrill. “So we tried to capture some of the original formality in the foyer, but give it a more modern twist than our predecessors would.”

Two, please
“I went with two long consoles and tall mirrors to add intimacy,” says the designer, who placed items symmetrically for balance.

Light on the subject
A hand-forged chandelier combines modern lines with the gold patina often seen in Victorian houses. Murano glass lamps keep the room bright in an understated way.

Talking in the hall
Merrill, who has clients in Atlanta, chaired last year’s Atlanta Symphony Decorators’ Show House and supports several Macon charities. “We might have 100 people in our house for a community benefit,” she says. “So it’s nice to offer the foyer as a place to have a quiet conversation.”

Diamonds are forever
Susan Raza created a classic chocolate brown and off-white checkered pattern on the floor, which pays homage to the Victorian tradition of painted floors.

Fish stories
“David and I like to throw a little Asian flair into our homes,” says Merrill, who added two painted koi around the newel post. “The fish add sort of a ying-yang motif.”

Tip
Color ways
Don’t think that dark colors make a room too somber. Merrill chose rich shades of brown for her foyer (what she calls “milk chocolate” on walls and a darker version on the stairs) to make the cavernous space feel cozier and allow the strong elements to shine.

This article originally appeared in our January 2015 issue.

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