More than 20 years ago when Lee Stough of Lee R Stough Interiors was living in New York City attending the New York School of Interior Design, she knew she wanted a "big girl" house. Her dream has come true.
After 19 years of marriage, they are living in the house of her dreams with their two children, Johnny, 15, and Carter, 10, and their dog Molly. "I'm still walking around surprised at how much I love my house," says Stough. "I love the fact it doesn't look like everybody else's house," referring to the exterior. The four-bedroom, four-bath house in Mockingbird Valley is a cross between English Tudor and French Norman.
Stough grew up in Charlottesville, Va. She attended the University of North Carolina and majored in art history because there was no interior design program at that time. An interior design program took her to New York City for seven years. During this time, a friend invited her to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby. That fateful trip led her to meet her husband John Stough, now a real estate agent with Paul Semonin Company.
John and Lee Stough's previous house was only two blocks away and as wonderful as it was, Lee Stough wanted a house with a stronger sense of informality, more appropriate for their lifestyle. With John Stough being in the real estate business, he not only found the house for them, but also knew the previous owners, and, as a young boy growing up in the neighborhood, was their pool boy. "He's still the pool boy," Lee Stough says jokingly.
Once the Stoughs acquired the house, they spent the next nine months bringing it up to the 21st century. "It needed everything," explains Lee Stough. "It needed a new HVC system, more closet space, and a new roof," giving them the opportunity to change the roof line. They also enlarged the family room and added another bedroom upstairs over the garage along with a dormer. They decided at that time not to add-on to the kitchen, but upgraded the appliances. Initially they did get some ideas from architect Tim Winters. However, John Stough, who his wife says has a great sense of proportion and is a frustrated architect, worked with a draftsman for the final draft.
In terms of the decorating, remarkably Lee Stough has not bought any new furniture pieces, but has used her existing furniture. Her collection of furniture, accessories, and art have been acquired over her 19-year marriage and 16 years of working as an interior designer (15 of those years were spent at Ewald Associates).
Stough is fortunate that early on in starting her collection she found "the thing" that makes her happy, and that is the South of France. "It just makes my heart sing. I feel so lucky to have been able to find it. If I can't live in France, I'm going to bring it here." And that she has. If she didn't get it from France, then it looks like she did. Stough's passion for southern France has served as the essence for the design of her house. She further explains, "I love everything French. It's not high French. It's not empire style. It's comfortable, somewhat country-rustic finishes and bringing the outside in."
Working in conjunction with Stough's love for French style is her goal for designing and decorating the house to make it comfortable, beautiful, and interesting at the same time. "Rooms should evolve. They should look lived in, not too perfect." In this house she says they live in every room, and with two children and a dog, no one's afraid of hurting anything if they want to put their feet up.
Stough has achieved a balance between comfort and beauty by the materials she has chosen. The beautiful fabrics, rich old hardwood floors, honed marble floors in the family room, the French doors leading out to the pool, the built-in bookcases, stone fireplaces, original brick wall in the family room and pickled beamed ceiling, original heavy dark wood doors throughout, along with the French, Italian, and English antiques all exude a sense of substance with a touch of relaxed elegance. The materials that add an element of informality are the terra cotta urns and plates, wrought iron coffee table and drapery hardware, clay pots filled with plants, and vases with cut flowers from the garden.