A mixture of antique and reproduction furniture
During their 1963 honeymoon, which included days at Colonial Williamsburg, Rosemary and Harold Youmans say they took more photographs of architectural details than they did of each other. Their interest in 18th-century, style is today as strong as it was then. Rosemary, a former schoolteacher turned full-time homemaker, and Harold, an insurance agent, live in a one-and-one-half-story brick Georgian-style house in Vinings, Georgia, just north of Atlanta, with their son, David. Their home is decorated with a mixture of antique and reproduction furniture. At Christmas, heirloom ornaments bedeck the Christmas trees and toys from David’s childhood add to the festive look.
In 1992, Harold heard through a friend about a new development of 18th-century-style homes being built in Vinings. “We already had a Williamsburg-style home outside of Atlanta, but Vinings just seemed the perfect place to build a dream home,” says Rosemary. The location offered easy access to the Chattahoochee River and several Civil War sites of interest to the Youmans. Called Highgrove, the development is set on three-and-one-half acres lined with pin oaks, with a small commons at the center. Each of Highgrove’s 12 homes features a different, but traditional, architectural style.
Specific vision for a house
The couple worked closely with the builder, Cornerstone Associates of Atlanta, and the firm’s residential designer, William T. Baker, who specializes in historic American architecture. “They had a specific vision for their house and were inspired by Williamsburg’s George Wythe House and the Red Lion Tavern,” says Baker. Details such as narrow dormers, a pair of end chimneys, six-over-six windows. and a wood shingle roof were modeled after the restoration’s houses.
The couple’s house is built on what Rosemary describes as a “postage-stamp” lot, 65 feet wide and 117 feet deep. The structure was designed to accommodate a formal garden in the back. The Youmans maximized the landscaping by planting flowering shrubs in the backyard and adding a rose arbor, based on one at Williamsburg, along the side of the house.
Rosemary did all the decorating, mixing 18th-century reproduction furniture with Colonial Revival and earlier pieces. She relied on William Baker for specific 18th-century-style interior woodwork details.
“We put in cornice moldings in the first-floor rooms and wide heart-pine flooring throughout the whole house,” says Baker. The arched niches in the living room are exact copies of Williamsburg models, down to the height and width of the shelves. During their many trips to Colonial Williamsburg, the couple was impressed with the varied color palettes of the interiors. Notes Baker of the pair: “They knew the right colors to use for the period and weren’t afraid to break away from white.
Livable home space design: a challenging part
“The other challenging part of the project was the Youmans’ request to make the basement as livable as the first-floor space,” explains Baker. The designer put in large windows at the back of the house, which is built on a steep slope. A concrete floor was scored to look like expensive tile. “You can get a rich look without spending a lot of money and it looks just like tile,” Baker says.
Rosemary and Harold still enjoy collecting antiques. “When we went on our honeymoon, we had very little money, but we bought a dainty fruitwood chair in Tennessee for $20,” says Rosemary. “That was really when our collecting began.” They are always on the lookout for early 19th-century English porcelain, tole, and have begun collecting Staffordshire figures. The couple also enjoy decorating their home for Christmas. “It’s probably when we are closest as a family, and it’s a joyous time of year,” says Rosemary. She specializes in making 18th-century-style garlands, cones, and table arrangements with pomegranates, pineapples, and other fruits. “It’s the time of year when I want to entertain and share our home with friends and family,” she says.