An 800 square foot carriage house becomes a cheerful, colorful retreat – with a deeper meaning

In 2020, Knoxville, Tennessee life handed interior designer Shannon Roberts some particularly sour lemons: a cancer diagnosis just as Covid-19 was beginning to swirl around the world. “I got a call from my doctor on his cell phone on Friday afternoon, which is never great,” he recalls. “What we thought was a thyroid problem turned out to be a lymphoma that just happened to be in my thyroid.”

Talk about terrifying, especially given the timing. “I had gotten a one-way ticket for chemotherapy and radiation right in the middle of a global pandemic,” says Roberts, a designer for G&G Interiors. And yet he turned those lemons into Instagrammable limoncello cocktails — and fast. “Two weeks before the world went into lockdown, my husband and I bought a second home in Savannah, Georgia,” says Roberts. The 1920 European Revival house in Ardsley Park is just outside the historic district, but came with long-term tenants. “The carriage house (all 800 square feet) was fair game for a renovation, though.”

The world was in such severe chaos. I was personally in chaos. And I wanted to have something that when you entered the room, you immediately felt happy as soon as you opened the door.

Aesthetically, it was in rough shape: The structure was decent, but “it was terrible inside,” Roberts recalled. “It had been a rental and the landlords apparently just went to Home Depot to get everything they could on the shelf, so nothing matched. Each room had a different ‘theme’. It was basically a bare nothing.

To transform her into a jewel box worthy of the movie city of Savannah, Roberts worked remotely with his contractor – Koncul Construction – to realize his visions from afar. The project “literally saved my life,” he says. “And I say that in all seriousness.”

Because chemotherapy wreaks havoc on the immune system, “I didn’t even have to leave the house except to go to treatment,” says Roberts. “So that became my saving grace and my foothold to stay sane to create what is definitely the worst period of my life, something beautiful.”

colorful carriage house

“The carriage house didn’t have any redeeming architecture, so I felt we should make up for that with color and pattern,” says Roberts.

Shannon Roberts

For design inspiration, Roberts looked close to home: “I wanted to have a family familiarity with it,” he says. “Because for me, when I think about my happiest moments, it’s always visiting my grandmother or my aunts who always had beautiful houses. And this is kind of my nod to them.”

Now the small property plays host to events aplenty – Roberts, now cancer-free and planning his refurbishment of the main house, is happy to welcome them. “I wanted to have something that when you walked into the room, you immediately felt happy as soon as you opened the door.” Suffice to say, mission accomplished.


Entrance

pin kentry with table

Shannon Roberts

“My grandmother’s favorite color was pink, and I really wanted to pay her a little tribute,” he says of the foyer, painted in Farrow & Ball’s Nancy’s Blushes. “I wanted it to be something special and as soon as I walked through the door it would remind me of her.


kitchen

blue kitchen

Shannon Roberts

blue kitchen

Shannon Roberts

Roberts went big in the kitchen with Schumacher’s Pyne Hollyhock wall coverings. “I knew I didn’t want to live with so much color in my day-to-day life, but visiting would be great,” he says.


Primary bedroom

colorful carriage house

Shannon Roberts

“I live for the D. Porthault sale every year,” says Roberts. In the 10 x 12 inch master bedroom, he paired Lee Jofa wall hangings with relatively calm Schumacher curtains in blue as a backdrop to the Porthault sheets. “You have to have a place for the eye to rest.”


Living room

blue living room

Shannon Roberts

“The artwork above Paul Lange’s couch is my favorite thing in the whole house,” he says, adding that it captures the mood of the home’s interior. “The dresser is a $100 Facebook marketplace that I sent my dutiful partner to pick up while I was sick.”


Bath

colorful carriage house

Shannon Roberts

Old Hollywood portraits pop against Schumacher’s graphic wallcoverings. “These are my embodiment of who I think elegant people are – Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.”


guest room

blue bedroom

Shannon Roberts

“The wallpaper in the second bedroom is Schumacher’s Hydrangea Drape – I first saw it coming down the stairs in ‘Gone with the Wind,'” he says.

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