PHOTOS BY MICHAEL BARRETT
If it’s true that the kitchen is the heart of the home, then Stephanie and George Russell have a heart full of cheer. Not only is their space most often full of love and merriment, but the design is vibrant and airy. What was once a small, closed-off kitchen is now the hub of activity it was always meant to be. “Before, it was cramped and closed-off to the living area,” recalls Stephanie. “I like my people right under me, so we had to change that.”
The Russells called on the expertise of longtime friend and designer Susan Fontenot of Fontenot Designs. “I always say I inherited Susan when I married George,” laughs Stephanie. Years ago, George saw Susan’s work in a neighbor’s home and she has since helped him with the design of multiple homes. When George and Stephanie bought their current Ridgeland home, they say the house “wasn’t them at all.” Susan came to the rescue. “I give Susan all the poetic licensing she needs,” laughs George.
The result of that poetic license is a lively, welcoming space that perfectly fits the couple’s personalities and goals for their home. “They wanted an open concept so everyone could be together,” explains Susan. An encumbering wall was eliminated between the kitchen and living area, creating one wide open, light space. “Both George and Stephanie love color,” says Susan. “Instead of painting the walls bold colors, we went with more neutral walls and color everywhere else! This satisfies that need for color and keeps it from being sterile.” The walls are bathed in Covington Grey by Benjamin Moore.
To create the best use of the space, Susan designed an almost free-form shaped island that, along with the cabinetry, was painted a warm, earthy gray. The countertops are a combination of silver travertine and black-leathered granite. The backsplash, one of Stephanie’s favorite features, is handmade Moroccan tile that creates a soothing vision in blues. This, along with the beaded chandelier over the kitchen table, is a subtle nod to the couple’s love of exotic travel. The space where a desk once stood has been converted to a charming little wet bar, an essential for entertaining.
The space has evolved bit by bit and the three have no plans of stopping any time soon. “One day, I decided I was going to paint that pantry door yellow,” says Susan. “Luckily, they let me do it!” The pantry door isn’t the only sunny pop of color. A sturdy square garden stool, assorted glassware, and the keeping area’s throw pillows help to make the space brilliant. The dining chairs, chandelier and rug are a bold fuchsia that brings playful personality to the most functional of rooms.
“It really has turned out like we wanted, which is updated and more functional, and it incorporates some trends,” says George.
“The great thing about Susan is that she gets to know her clients,” says Stephanie. “It’s really a gift. Her work ends up reflecting her clients’ personalities and she usually knows exactly what you’ll like before you even do.”