This has been a friendship forged over coffee tables and antique chairs. It began with a pair of vintage-modern barstools. Lawyers Cheryl and Michael Dendy first spied them through the window of Mary Satterlee’s Magazine Street store, U Dwell. The couple thought they’d be perfect for the kitchen in their newly renovated Calhoun Street home. The only problem: The store was so new that it hadn’t yet opened for business.
But the Dendys wanted those stools, and Mary was happy to accommodate. And the chemistry between the couple and their designer was instant.
“Mary is just so full of light and energy,” Cheryl says. “And we loved everything in the store. We had worked with designers before. They always want to impose their taste …”
“… and Mary didn’t have any,” Michael quips.
“The perfect match!” Mary says, laughing.
The Dendys placed the ultra-modern stools up against the grandly classical bar in their kitchen, and that set the pace for the rest of the interior design.
Michael says multiple recent trips to Italy also have inspired the Dendys’ sense of style. Gradually, the blend of the classic and modern they encountered there found its way into their vision for their own home.
In the foyer, an antique console table stands beneath a collection of modern paintings. In the living room, where light blues, aqua, champagne and white set the mood, Louis XVI armchairs join with a Barcelona chair and ottoman to preside over a cowhide rug. In the dining room, a contemporary android-like bust gazes from the corner at period furniture in a capricious intermingling.
Overall, there’s a blithe and slightly whimsical eclecticism in play. This is altogether appropriate given Cheryl’s sunny demeanor; Michael’s jocular manner; and Mary’s frolicsome, bright-eyed personality. But that’s not to say that Cheryl and Michael agree on everything.
“If it was up to Michael, we’d have ottomans that looked like little sheep,” Cheryl says. “He likes furniture with a sense of humor.”
In fact, soon after adding the bust to the living room, Cheryl found that Michael had topped it off with a pith helmet. He announced that he would adorn it periodically with a different hat, depending on the season.
“We like a sense of humor, but not in our décor,” Mary says.
“You gotta see it with the Turkish smoking cap, though,” Michael replies.
The Dendys say Mary helped them to envision how individual pieces would fit into the overall aesthetic.
Mary says she also sought to make sure the Dendys would be comfortable. “I try to accommodate people’s lifestyles, more than even the aesthetic,” she says.
For instance, the Dendys love taking their morning coffee in the solarium, where they can look out onto the garden and the serene patio. “So that, to me, was sacrosanct,” Mary says.
This isn’t the house the Dendys expected to live in. When they left the house they built in Algiers where they had brought up their son and daughter, now 24 and 22, their plan was to downsize. Instead, they bought a house that, at 5,000 square feet, was twice the size of what they were looking for.
The Dendys were first drawn to the house on Calhoun Street by its proximity to Audubon Park. They have a pair of greyhounds –– retired racers –– that join them for their frequent constitutionals, and a painting in the dining room of the de Boré oak attests to their fondness for the leafy haven.
When they bought the house in January 2005, however, it needed a lot of work. “Horrendous” is the word Cheryl uses to describe the state in which they found the edifice, which includes a rear carriage house. Odd features, such as an elevator in what is now the Dendys’ solarium, had to be removed. The renovations were so extensive that at one point the contractor suggested perhaps they should have started from scratch.
The vast changes that the Dendys have wrought are part of a long-term evolution. The interior floor plan and the rear exterior have features of a circa-1900 structure. The front exterior, however, appears to be 20 or 30 years newer. Cheryl speculates that the house was subdivided from a single into apartments during the Depression and that the third floor was added at that time.
But the result is not awkward or slapdash. Taken with the Dendys’ refurbishments, the total effect from the curbside is a tasteful, if unique, landmark in the neighborhood.
“If you’re going to be really charitable, it’s sort of like a Tuscan tower,” Michael jokes.
The house may indeed be emblematic of the inspiration Italy brought to the interior design. And with some hand-holding from their friend Mary Satterlee, the Dendys were able to bring that inspiration to their corner of Uptown.