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French Connection

Inspired by a shared trip to Paris four years ago, designer Meredith Sherrill helped her sister-in-law, Lizzie Inzer, dress her home with understated nods to the City of Light.

“The dining room table and chairs were an awesome score by Lizzie at Southeastern Salvage—definitely a place you have to dig to find good stuff, but the savings are worth it,” designer Meredith Sherrill says. The dining chairs’ French accents are strengthened by a large Trumeau mirror and an antique bell jar lantern.

“The dining room table and chairs were an awesome score by Lizzie at Southeastern Salvage—definitely a place you have to dig to find good stuff, but the savings are worth it,” designer Meredith Sherrill says. The dining chairs’ French accents are strengthened by a large Trumeau mirror and an antique bell jar lantern.

Âme seour is the French phrase referring to a “kindred spirit,” although the literal English translation for the phrase is “friend sister.” Both idioms are apt descriptions of sisters-in-law Lizzie Inzer and Meredith Sherrill. “We grew up together, just one year apart in school, and our parents were best friends,” Lizzie says. Meredith, an interior designer, began dating Lizzie’s brother about 10 years ago, and the two women became even closer.

When Lizzie and her husband, John, bought a modestly sized Crestline cottage, Lizzie knew that Meredith was the one who could make it conducive to their lifestyle and to her love of French influences—especially since the friends had traveled to Paris together years before. “The home needed a few tweaks, architecturally speaking,” Meredith says. “We renovated the kitchen and refinished the floors throughout. But the biggest change was converting two small bedrooms and a small bath into one large master suite.” 

 

 

The new floorplan made the cottage a perfect fit for John, Lizzie, and their pups Knox, a Labrador retriever, and Byrdie, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. “I wanted a house that was functional,” Lizzie says. “There is nothing that bothers me more than having rooms that are not used or furniture that you are afraid to sit on.” 

By widening the opening between the dining area and kitchen, Meredith says the main living areas now allow for a good flow from room to room, as well as the casual vibe Lizzie desired. “The house feels comfortable and relaxed but also has some formal elements, such as the velvet draperies, to dress the rooms up,” Meredith says. “It didn’t need to be stuffy—this is a Crestline cottage after all.”

The home’s kitchen—last updated in the early 1990s—also needed to be refreshed. “One of our main goals was to bring the kitchen into the present day,” Meredith says. “We wanted it to function as modern kitchens do, but I didn’t want it to scream ‘new kitchen’ in an old house.”  To achieve the goal of a timeless space, Lizzie and Meredith chose classic elements for the room—cabinets in a simple Shaker style, solid bronze knobs and pulls, a handmade subway tile backsplash, and thick Indiana Limestone slab countertops. The pair added heft to the existing island with a 5-centimeter-thick slab of limestone sized to create an overhang for island seating. “For the kitchen cabinet color, I drew inspiration from the trip Lizzie and I took to Paris,” Meredith says. “While exploring the grounds of Versailles, we both fell in love with Marie Antoinette’s summer getaway, Petit Trianon, and most notably, the beautiful kitchen there—thus the idea for the French blue cabinets.”

This understated French influence can also be seen in other rooms of the three-bedroom, three-bath house as well. “In the master bedroom, we softened the space by running the drapery all the way behind the Restoration Hardware bed. This really helps make a bedroom feel cozy,” Meredith says. “I don’t know if I would say the house has a extreme French vibe, but maybe French influences,” Lizzie says, “It can be see in some of the furniture, fabrics, and colors. Meredith made it interesting and fun. She helped me branch out.” Throughout, colors range from blush to rust, cream to charcoal, with metal and rustic accents.

“Lizzie has great taste and knows what she wants, so I am just there to gently guide her in terms of making decisions for her home,” Meredith says. “I do like to nudge her out of her comfort zone every once in while, if only just to push her buttons. We are sisters after all!”  

ABOVE A new master suite—including a large bedroom; a bath with shower, tub, water closet, and double vanity; and a large walk-in closet—was created during the renovation by combining two bedrooms and a small bath. The velvet drapes and upholstered bed and settee give the room a delicate French accent. 
 

  

ABOVE Large Carrara marble tiles on the floor; Carrara slabs on the vanity, tub surround, and shower bench; and a tiny Carrara mosaic on the shower walls dress the new master bath in a sophisticated, clean canvas. “We mixed metals by incorporating bronze cabinet hardware and portrait lights over the oak medicine cabinets,” Meredith says. “The custom faux-leather upholstered cabinet on the vanity is not only durable but also functional, as it holds adjustable storage shelves and a power outlet inside.”
 

That Kitchen!

The kitchen’s renovation created a better connection to the dining room. “Except for widening the opening to the dining room, we kept the original layout of the kitchen, because even though it is small, it is functional,” Meredith says. The pair updated the space with timeless design choices and natural materials—handmade tiles, limestone, wood, and bronze. “Choosing these materials helps maintain an air of timelessness so that the next owners will not have to come in and renovate,” Meredith says.

WOOD: “We refaced the cabinetry, which meant replacing the 1990s vinyl-wrapped MDF cabinet doors with solid wood doors in a simple Shaker style,” Meredith says. “Refacing cabinetry is a good way to update a kitchen without breaking the bank, which allowed us to devote more of the budget elsewhere. And we added chicken wire doors to the previously open shelves for a little visual interest and a bit of rusticity.”

METAL: Other simple changes “included updating the cabinet hardware with solid bronze knobs and pulls and replacing the appliances,” Meredith says.

STONE: “We replaced the mirrored backsplash and Corian countertops—other fine design elements from the 1990s—with handmade subway tiles and thick slabs of Indiana Limestone,” Meredith explains. “On the island, we put an even thicker slab to give the previously puny island more heft. We wrapped the sides of the island in wood planks and extended the countertop by adding support legs on casters.” 

COLOR: “I think all of the rustic materials help balance the sweetness of the French blue-gray cabinet color,” Meredith says. Lizzie adds, “I am generally pretty conservative when it comes to color, but I fell in love with the color Meredith picked.”

RESOURCES
Designer: Meredith Sherrill Design, 205.451.7055 • msherrilldesign@gmail.com Contractor: BRBC, 205.313.9280 • brbcllc.com Walls throughout: Ancient Ivory, 935 By Benjamin Moore benjaminmoore.com Kitchen cabinets: Arctic Gray, 1577 BY Benjamin Moore Carrara marble & Indiana limestone: Triton Stone of Birmingham, 205.592.0202 • tritonstone.com Dining table and chairs: Southeastern Salvage Building, Irondale, AL 205.956.1000; www.2nds.biz Kitchen bench: Circa Interiors & Antiques, 205.868.9199 circainteriors.com Bedroom bedside table: Gabby, gabbyhome.com Bed: Restoration hardware, restorationhardware.com

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