Putting Down Roots in Forest Hills

July 12, 2011
By William Thrift
Photography by John Wrightenberry

The beautiful marble counter has storage and display cabinetry on each side of the sink area.

Kindall and William Otis had a good idea what they were getting into when they decided to relocate from Lake Katherine to a home in one of Columbia’s in-town neighborhoods.  They wanted a place with character that they could grow into, and at the same time would take on their style and personality.  Friends of theirs had bought older homes around town and had undertaken renovations of bathrooms, kitchens, and various other aspects necessary to modernize dwellings that may have been built when wives typically did all the cooking and wardrobes consisted of three suits and half a dozen dresses. 

A detail of the tile inset in the shower.

The new digs would require some work.  But they didn’t want to take on the extensive, full-house renovation that some older homes require – installing new duct work, updating entire electrical and plumbing systems, knocking out walls and adding foundations for additional rooms.  Instead, they were looking for something that maybe had most of that work already done,  something that had already matured under the nurturing care of past owners, and just needed a little remodeling to personalize it for their needs.

So when they were house hunting, they asked contractor George Little, an acquaintance recommended by friends, to accompany them and give their potential home a cursory inspection to determine how much work they might need to do.  After viewing several houses, they happened upon a 1930’s brick villa-style house in the Forest Hills neighborhood.


They immediately fell in love with the four-bedroom home’s spacious (and recently renovated) kitchen, formal parlor and sitting area, and separate den for relaxing.  The master suite had already been customized with two large walk-in closets and a modern bathroom.  Additionally, the triple-tiered back yard offered ample room for their two large dogs.  The neighborhood was just right too: the quiet, meandering streets seemed to lace together the bustle of Forest Acres with the grid of downtown Columbia.

Looking across the bathtub to the shower area. Kindall’s orchids thrive in the bathroom environment.

Some sage once said that good things come to those who wait.  After moving in, Kindall and William decided to give it some time, using their new space in order to figure out what they really wanted it to do for them.  Prior owners had lent their touches, including adding on to the back of the house, re-tasking some of the bedrooms, and the marvelous kitchen renovation.  So after about a year, the Otis’ decided they were ready to  follow suit by personalizing the master bath and reverting an adjacent bedroom that had been partitioned off as a walk-in closet and dressing room, back into a guest room.

Leave big projects to the experts.  Two people came to mind when Kindall thought of whom to call for help.  First was her mother, Donna Chamberlain, a decorator in Hickory, North Carolina – she would gladly help her daughter with the myriad decisions involved in renovating and decorating the remainder of the home.  Then there was George Little, who works with Kathryn Clough of Edisto Kitchens and Bath, to help with the new construction.

Kindall added her own whimsical touch to the bathroom décor with her selection of this unique chandelier.

George’s team took over and in less than a week, took out the existing bathroom down to the studs.  Donna suggested incorporating a seldom-used closet at the top of the staircase into the new bathroom to allow enough space for a separate tub and shower. So with the closet out of the way, George’s team was able to enter the new bathroom space from the stairway for most of the project without having to tramp through the master bedroom.  The Otis’ continued using the master bedroom, but temporarily used the other two bathrooms during the project.  Rather than being stressed out by all the construction, Kindall recalls this as a period of excitement – anticipating what it would be like when it was all done.

Kathryn took some dimensions and sketched the new space a few times to get the layout exactly as Kindall wanted it.  Since plumbing is a main consideration for bathroom design, the final layout minimized the need for rerouting existing pipes.

The glass storage is a perfect display area for Kindall’s glass collection.

George’s team also removed the partition wall that had been erected in the adjacent bedroom and found only sub flooring in part of that room.  So Kindall decided to install all new hardwood flooring in that bedroom in order to maintain consistency.  Her mom picked out the color to be compatible with the pickled finish of the original hardwoods in the rest of the house.

A detail of the brushed nickel drawer pulls on the custom cabinets.

As far as specifics went, Kindall knew what she liked when she saw it, but concedes that her mom knew best how to translate her style into actual items that she could buy to outfit the new bathroom.  Her mom helped her pick out a color scheme and other materials.  They worked with Angie Banner at Ferguson for the brushed nickel sink, tub, and shower hardware.  The sinks are from Kohler’s Archer line and the tub is Kohler’s Devonshire air bath.  Kindall added an eclectic touch of her own with a small chandelier she found at Lowes.

The flooring in the adjacent bedroom was selected to closely match the existing flooring in the rest of the upstairs.

Lee at the Tile Center was a big help when picking out the travertine tile.  He was also key in developing the inlay design for a toiletries nook in the shower.


On a recent visit to the Beverly Wilshire hotel in Los Angeles, Kindall noted the floor-to-ceiling bathroom tile and wanted her bathroom done the same way.  Although the tile installer wasn’t used to such a request in a residence, he happily complied with her wishes on the walls surrounding the tub and shower.

Kathryn asked Bishop Cabinets from Alabama to make the shaker-style vanity cabinets and finish them in Nordic White.  The thick countertop is carrera marble.  The top of the vanity needed to balance proportionally with the high tile on the opposite walls, so Kathryn drew it two ways: a single column of cabinets splitting the vanity mirror, creating two distinct spaces, and twin cabinet towers on either side, which left a large space for a central mirror.  Everyone preferred the large mirror; and the cabinets on either side gave each sink a convenient, discreet cubby to hide everyday items.

The entire project, including the adjacent bedroom, was completed inside three months.  Kindall admits that while the previous bathroom was nice enough, it just wasn’t reflective of her style.  The new bathroom has much more space, and has become one of her favorite rooms in her home.  She finds that she spends more time there than she used to – she’s even taken to adorning it with her favorite orchid designs from Jarrett’s Jungle, and showcasing glass and other art in the lighted vanity cabinets.  Just outside the window, another phase of personalization is taking place in the form of much anticipated landscaping.  Even though they own the house, in a way Kindall and William seem as if they are just another set in a long line of caretakers whose attention over time has transformed the structure and grounds into an almost organic thing that lives and grows as they live and grow.  It is this collection of personalities that comprises and reflects the character of a home.  In the years to come, Kindall and William will be able to stand alongside those prior owners who have enjoyed putting their mark on this classic Forest Hills home.

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