“I never imagined that I would build,” says homeowner Courtney Gerstenhaber, who, despite that statement, kept a running list of wishes and must-haves, just in case. For seven years, she wrote down elements—like dinnerware storage and a place for caterers to set food—that she would want in her dream family home.
When Courtney and her husband Greg eventually decided to go the custom route, they used those notes as a reference guide while working through designs with architect Christy Blumenfeld of Blume Architecture. “I kept checking that list to make sure I hit the high points,” Courtney says.
Sheri and Raegan Barringer of Barringer Custom Homes brought life to the Gerstenhabers’ University Park home through construction, with Sheri Barringer Designs handling interior design. Courtney, Blumenfeld, and Sheri Barringer met weekly for more than a year to discuss ideas, make design decisions, and remedy issues as they arose. Courtney says that it was this close collaboration that helped the team understand exactly how the family lives.
The professionals created spaces with flexibility in mind so as to function for both the family’s everyday lifestyle as well as their frequent entertaining. Pocket doors were a key element throughout the house, allowing it to feel at turns large and flowing or intimate and private, as the situation calls for. Placed off the kitchen and breakfast room, the back patio is accessible through a set of sliding doors that can also tuck away completely, providing a seamless flow between the indoor and outdoor spaces. “We feel like it’s an extension of our house,” Courtney says of the outdoor living area. Even the pantry was given a pocketing door to allow Greg to make his daily 6 a.m. smoothie without waking the entire family.
We feel like we have so many different environments to enjoy.Homeowner, Courtney Gerstenhaber
Another critical piece was the dining room, which serves as a gathering place for family get-togethers as well as the large-scale events the Gerstenhabers often host. The space between the dining room and bar was purposefully left wide enough to accommodate a second table, allowing for seating for up to 24 guests. “It was a big layout puzzle to figure out how to do that and make it not feel like it’s one giant space when it doesn’t have that second table in it,” says Blumenfeld.
Of course, someone who likes to entertain for a crowd needs enough tableware to feed one, too. As she prefers to have 40 place settings in each pattern, Courtney wanted ample storage to comfortably and conveniently house her vast collection. Unlike in their previous home, where sets were stored in a few different places, she worked with her team to create dedicated storage in the bar area for dishes, flatware, and the like—making it simple to set the table as well as clean and stow away after events. Indeed, the bar area is the heart of the home, with visitors gravitating here during parties. “It’s dual purpose because it serves the dining room or it’s your intimate gathering [space] for small groups,” Courtney says.
But with three kids in the house, formal, grown-up gatherings were not the only type of hosting for which the family wanted to create space. “I wanted a spot for our kids to hang out and have a relaxing area to have friends over,” Courtney says of the upstairs playroom. In addition to built-in bunk beds and a trundle bed, the room features swivel chairs and a modular sofa that can easily adapt to the kids’ needs. No stressing about spills, either—all of the furniture in the room, and throughout most of the house, is clad in performance fabric for easy clean-up of inevitable messes. Says Courtney of the finished product: “We feel like we have so many different environments to enjoy.”
How to Build a Timeless Home
Bridging the gap between timeless design and modern sensibility can be tricky. Designer and builder Sheri Barringer and architect Christy Blumenfeld note these key factors for creating a new home that will stand the test of time and trends.
Don’t get stuck in an era.
Blumenfeld says that the highest compliment of a new home is when people can’t identify whether the home was a renovation or built from the ground up. “The shell shouldn’t have a time stamp.”
Balance a traditional exterior with a modern interior.
“I think it’s important that new builds have staying power and have traditional elements and proportions,” Blumenfeld says. “But I think they need to feel young and the interiors can feel light and bright and airy. That’s where you bring the modernity in.”
Use textures and light to add interest.
Sheri Barringer says it’s ample natural light that keeps the traditional home feeling fresh. A variety of textures—from woven rope chairs on the patio to bouclé dining chairs in the breakfast room—make the modern furniture pieces feel warm and inviting.