Stephen Braswell couldn't stand to see one of Savannah's stateliest historic mansions turned into a law office or a guesthouse for a posh men's club. "The dental clinic would have been the worst," says Braswell, a former insurance executive who started his own executive search firm, Braswell & Associates, in 1996. He and his wife, Tena, share an affinity for traditional southern homes. When they moved to the area in 2001, they fell in love with the Georgian Revival architecture of the Lane-Morrison house, built in 1909.
Before the family could move in, however, the house needed two years and $4 million worth of sprucing up. Despite the formality of 13 chandeliers and nine fireplaces, Braswell tries to keep his high-profile house warm and inviting. "You will definitely find our Labrador retriever's stuffed duck on the floor," he says. "It's a home, not a museum."
"When we bought the house, the columns had 34 coats of paint on them. We had a work crew keep chipping away until they got to the wood."
The Entrance Hall
"We commissioned a Savannah painter, Bob Christian, to paint murals in the entrance hall for us. They're fairly faint, with light yellows and warm greens. We picked a lot of the fabrics to match them."
The Sitting Area
"I like to spend time in the sitting area on the second floor. You can look out into Forsyth Park from there. Savannah rarely gets below freezing, so people use the park all year."
The Music Room
"It's the most magnificent room in the house. It has the piano, the antique English secretary (one of my favorite pieces), and the red and gold firefly chair."
The Side Porches
"Side porches are a Savannah tradition. We put up floor-to-ceiling shutters and painted them dark green. We can close the shutters but still see the park."
The Big Changes
"The house was in great shape structurally, but it had never had air conditioning or central heat installed. In the '50s, an addition to the garage had been tacked on. Cinder block with stucco on it. We had that demolished."
"The biggest challenge is opening the front door without ruining somebody's picture. People are always taking pictures of our house."