August 2011: Timeworn traditional

Photo by Nick Strocchia. Photo by Nick Strocchia.

When Cate West Zahl first laid eyes on the Rugby-area rental she and her family (husband Dave and 10-month-old Charlie) would inhabit after their move from New York, she was taken aback by the living room’s canary yellow walls and crimson accents. “It was like…a Monticello yellow. I get it,” she says, “but I don’t think that it was livable.”

These days, a soft white paint job keeps things cozy yet sophisticated, a feeling especially evident in the living room, where intricate crown moulding lines the walls and oversized windows stream in light. It’s a bit like 27-year-old Zahl herself, actually—youthful, but with a serious sense of hospitality.

Earlier this year, Zahl, who writes for local blog, The Charlotte, hosted a “Princess Party” here for 15 of her friends to watch the royal wedding. She poured “Blushing Bride” cocktails and served—what else?—princess cake from Albemarle Baking Co.

Since the party, she’s made a few decorative changes—albeit, nothing too major.

“I get restless, so I’m constantly changing things around,” she says. “But this room I’m just going to keep like it is. I think I got it right the first time.”—Caite White


“It’s the prettiest room, I think. The other rooms are probably a little more edgy.

“The idea was that the blue in this room would lead the eye into a darker sea foam color in the kitchen. I made it a cooler color on the walls because I wasn’t going to paint the cabinets, so that was kind of the idea.

“For me, it’s not as much about the furniture. It’s more about the accessories—the bulky lamps to ground it all, the stacks of books around everywhere.

“Honestly, I don’t even pretend to be a good painter, but when you have a whole house to fill, the work you’ve done in art classes you took in school comes in handy. Basically my philosophy with art is to try to put all my favorite pieces in a place that I will be able to enjoy them the most. I’m the one who spends most of the time in the house, after all.

“I love these two paintings done by my dad, who is also a painter. All of the work I’m lucky to have of his in my house are my favorites, so having them right here flanking this grouping suits me well. Getting to see them all the time is nice.

“In New York, we had these really high ceilings so I just went white, white, white. It was all white, and we just went crazy on art, and decorated that way. I feel like in a house you really need color in the rooms to make them warm and livable.

“My joke with Dave is that the next place we live is going to have to be one big, cement box with nothing. No moulding. We’ve always picked charm over comfort, one too many times, but I just can’t help myself.”