Family First

Though E. Lee originally wanted a separate kitchen, the Meads opted for a kitchen that is open to the living area and are glad they did; the burled coffee table and end table are from E. Lee’s line of hand-painted furniture; E. Lee painted and plastered the circular chandelier from Pine Grove Electrical Supply in Mandeville, the fruitwood desk was handed down from her grandmother, the lamps are made from wallpaper rollers ordered from Ebay and the lamp shades were painted by Shandell’s in the Berkshire mountains.


E. Lee and Jason Mead were expecting their second child when they decided to purchase their first house. Creating an environment that was family friendly and would work as their family grew was the priority. But as the couple looked for a house that spoke to them, nothing seemed right. E. Lee wanted a house that felt a little formal, but was good for raising children. Jason wanted a casual, open interior and an Uptown location. When E. Lee’s father suggested he sell the couple an Uptown cottage he’d purchased to renovate and flip, the Meads jumped on the offer.

“Halfway through [the project], we bought it from my dad,” says E. Lee, whose uncle, Davis Jahncke of Jahncke & Burns Architects, was the architect on the remodel.

Originally a shotgun, the 19th century house still had lacey Victorian gingerbread trimming the eaves when the couple bought it, but part of the house had been torn down and a lean-to addition had been made. The renovation took the existing house down to the cypress studs and removed the termite-ridden addition, enabling the owners to extend the house and add a second story with two bedrooms, a play area and a Jack-and-Jill bath. It also moved the front entrance to the side of the house, so that there could be public and private spaces on the first floor. The master suite occupies what was previously the front porch. The living, dining, kitchen, porch and yard areas are on the opposite end.

  Both Jahncke and the Meads took their design cues from the cottage feel of the original architecture, duplicating the gingerbread already on the house for the new addition, choosing a new front door that looks similar to the original, replacing the floors with old pine, and adding a decorative spindle-like piece of carpentry to the front of the house after finding it hidden beneath an earlier remodel.

“That was what the house had to offer,” says E. Lee. “We wanted it to have a cottage feel and we carried that through to the inside.”

Tall baseboards, classic moldings, carefully placed doors and windows, and a seeded glass window custom designed by Jahncke for the kitchen add to what E. Lee calls the “crafted quality” of the house. Ample storage was an essential detail for controlling clutter.

Even the neighbors offered input on the details. Multiple people dropped by to say they once lived in the house, and when the couple put samples of paints they were considering on the exterior of the house, neighbors spontaneously initialed the ones they liked.

Paint is one thing the couple didn’t have to worry about when decorating their home, however. E. Lee, has a Masters in decorative painting and, through her business, E. Lee Jahncke Fine Finishes, has worked on commercial and residential projects across the country. Though time to work on her own home is usually in short supply, she started the process with pieces she’s “gotten along the way” including a French buffet, a fruitwood table and an antique chandelier – all inherited from her grandmother, and a white background that allows her to be creative with finishes and art.

“Painting is my gift,” she says. “I can look at anything and think about in a couple of different scenarios.”  

She has painted furnishings in the house, loves searching estate sales, auctions and Ebay for bargains, and chose all of the statement light fixtures in the house, which bring a contemporary edge to the interior.

“Since the house is wide open and designed for a family, it doesn’t dictate what kind of furniture you have to have,” she says. “We like a mixture of things.”

Jason, a financial advisor, likes that the open flow of the first floor is conducive to both family time and entertaining guests and that the kids have a play area of their own upstairs. He also likes having the character of an old house and the amenities of a new.

At the end of the day, “Designed for a family” is the central theme of this Uptown cottage. The fruitwood table in the living room is usually strewn with crayons and paper and that’s the way the Meads like it.  “We wanted a house that’s lived in,” says Jason, “and that we can use and enjoy.”



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