A Greek Revival Home Becomes A Welcomed Space For All A Greek Revival Home Becomes A Welcomed Space For All
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One of the perks of being Western Reserve Academy’s head of school is living in Pierce House. The five-bedroom, 3 1/2 bath Greek Revival residence is the sort of place that makes This Old House lovers swoon, with its combination of original architectural features and modern conveniences. The home was built by the boarding and day school’s second president, George Pierce, in 1855 and expanded with a three-bedroom, two-bath annex in the 1930s.

But when current head of school Suzanne Walker Buck moved in with her husband Johnny and 13-year-old daughter Halsey last July, she discovered the foyer, living room, dining room and sunroom had to do far more than accommodate her family.

“It’s really important that we can entertain everyone from potential donors to the school and dignitaries that come to stay here, as well as our students, our staff, our faculty,” she explains. 

Buck had the walls painted a light gray and the woodwork highlighted in white, a backdrop for the palette of blues and grays she and Johnny favored. 

They then teamed up with Laura Yeager Smith of Laura Yeager Smith Home & Design in Hudson to develop a cohesive design for the public rooms. The Bucks wanted an updated traditional decor that was clean-lined and polished, yet comfortable and flexible enough to host a school board meeting one night or a pizza party for students or their daughter’s friends the next.

“It needed some personality to parallel [Suzanne’s] and Johnny’s,” Smith adds. “They’re very charismatic and warm and welcoming. It was a collaborative labor of love to transform it.”

That transformation began in the entry foyer. Despite the presence of a baby grand piano, it lacked seating. Smith corrected the situation by stationing two high-backed wing chairs in a corner, one on either side of a round, black-marble-topped foyer table, and tucking half of a taupe leather, drum-style ottoman under the piano. 

In the living room, Smith laid a mushroom-and-cream loop pile rug on the original pine floor and arranged four transitional chairs in a geometric pattern around a cream-painted coffee table. At the other end, she gathered a transitional navy herringbone sofa, two dusty blue English armchairs and a curvy navy-and-white-striped wing chair in front of the fireplace. Buck notes that the large taupe-shagreen coffee table provides a place for young guests to sit on the floor and snack.     

“Part of what we tried to accomplish here is having different textures — things that had a different sensory experience,” Buck says of the shagreen, a type of rawhide that emulates stingray skin. 

Johnny’s taste in menswear — particularly “things that my husband would wear as a bowtie,” Buck says — influenced fabric and trim selections. The window-seat cushions, for example, sport a gray herringbone welted in navy velvet. They are layered in woven taupe pillows punctuated by navy polka dots. 

In the neighboring dining room, Smith covered the walls in navy grass cloth — a stunning foil for the white wainscoting — and hung a Visual Comfort antique-brass-and-glass chandelier over a double-pedestal table for 10, stained a weathered gray. Smith and Buck placed the house’s buffet in the recessed alcove. Two Currey & Co. buffet lamps with alabaster turned-spindle bases flank Johnny’s painting of a landscape in Maine, where the family spends a lot of its downtime.

The rest of the finishes and furnishings are surprisingly kid-friendly. The eight side chairs are upholstered in a wipe-clean Sunbrella stripes in taupe, white and navy that looks and feels like woven fabric, while the cream-herringbone armchairs are covered in a stain-resistant indoor-outdoor fabric. The taupe-and-white plaid rug is actually made of polypropylene.

“One would never know at first glance that it literally can be hosed [off] and scrubbed with bleach,” Smith says.

The last few pieces of furniture have just arrived, and the living-room valances were just installed. But Buck already is envisioning the events she’ll host in Pierce House’s newly redecorated rooms, particularly in the entry parlor.

“We had the piano tuned,” she enthuses. “We’re excited to have student concerts in here and have salon nights where kids can just play music. Whenever kids come here, the piano [will be] in use.”

Read More: Find inspiration for your next project with our 2020 Home Issue.

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