Mary Louise and Robert Hagler felt at home in the West Augusta house where they raised their children over the past 18 years. The new empty nesters knew it was in need of some updating and minor changes.

They even considered downsizing. At first she thought the grass might be greener somewhere else, but after looking around a little, she realized the home had everything they really needed—plus it was filled with fond family memories. So they decided to stay. That was the birth of #wedecidedtostay, which Mary Louise, master gardener and blogger used on her social media handles when she documented the renovation process step by step.

Hagler’s high-energy inspirational social media posts have earned her a large blog following. Her readers are treated to a host of topics like healthy cooking, living with purpose, gardening, floral arranging and most recently her renovation. Whether public speaking to garden clubs and other community groups, hosting flower camp or wreath workshops in her backyard, Hagler stays busy. Her husband, Robert is a successful attorney in town and the couple have two grown children.

Like many older homes, some aspects of their floor plan were constricted, but by opening up some spaces and giving the interior a facelift, they knew they would be able to achieve the look and feel they desired. “I wanted functional space. I didn’t want a formal living room or dining room anymore. I just wanted usable space,” says Mary Louise. The main goals for the renovation process were to renovate the kitchen to incorporate stylish, but functional areas designed for entertaining and family time. They also wanted to open up the rooms that were once closed off. For this job, the couple enlisted the help of Ellen Pruitt with Studio 3 Design Group who came up with space plans and the construction drawing to guide the renovation project.

They chose neutral tones for the walls and accessorized with a color palette inspired by Hagler’s favorite piece of artwork, a vibrant abstract painting by good friend Mary Louise Nechtman. The color palette became the inspiration for pops of teal, apple green and pink in their home. Jerry Tice helped Hagler select fabric that reflected the colors of the painting. “I know what I like but I don’t like to shop so I told him that this piece of art has all my favorite colors in it,” says Hagler. From there, Tice was armed with what he needed to offer appropriate selections.

Removing select interior walls opened up the existing kitchen floor plan, creating one great room that serves as an open concept kitchen and dining room. To break up the large spaces and add interest, the Haglers used salvaged wooden beams, which served as a visual separation between the kitchen and dining areas. The space has two islands. The first island acts as command central. Food is prepared here, there is ample barstool seating and Robert sometimes keeps his wine making kit here (he’s busy making a Sauvignon Blanc and has already had success with some red wines) A second island was carefully designed and acts as an additional visual room divider. Deep teal in color with a wooden top, the second island features mirrored panels on the side facing the dining room. On the flip side, functional storage drawers allow room for table linens, serving pieces and other items for entertaining. It also acts as a buffet when the Hagler’s entertain. The white kitchen cabinets and white rhino marble on the perimeter counter tops give the space a clean feel. On both sides of the range are two large windows that create a focal point as they draw the eye straight out to Hagler’s garden filled with everything from peach and olive trees to a handmade rebar arbor covered in coral honeysuckle.  The teal and lime green window treatments give the space enough color without overpowering the room. The sunlight from outside floods the kitchen with light and when night falls the winter gold orb pendant lights cast the perfect amount of light above the soapstone island.

The dining room table was handmade by a retired architect with Studio 3 Designs and contains several leaves for added seating. There is even a cozy corner fireplace in the dining room offering warmth on a cool day. Off of the kitchen and dining room, one can choose from four spacious living areas. There’s his little den, the sitting room, her office and a curved screen porch just off the dining room double French doors. The curved screened porch complete with skylights was the piece de resistance when the couple was house hunting 18 years ago. “We looked for houses for a long time and when we walked out on that porch I said Ok, I’ll take it,” says Hagler. “It’s a nice screened porch. We sit out there and it is great for entertaining now.” The couple frequently dined alfresco during the renovation.  They grilled most of their dinners regularly often documenting the meals on social media. The space is really ideal for spring and fall when the cooler temperatures make alfresco dining and living possible.

Each room is inviting and visually easy on the eyes with a neutral color palette and comfortable furniture. Robert is an accomplished hunter both at home and in Africa. His love for hunting is apparent all over the home especially in the sitting room where four white upholstered swivel chairs surround an ottoman covered in zebra and sable from one of his many hunting trips to Africa. Flanking the corners of the sitting room are a variety of African Taxidermy mounts from Robert’s hunting trips. The couple often shares morning coffee or evening wine in here with the zebra, fox and red hartebeest keeping them company. In her office, unique artwork hangs forming a gallery wall of both traditional and sleek modern framed floral pieces mixed with portraits. Each piece has a story. One painting was even painted by Mary Louise’s grandmother. A skull mount of an Oryx provides a nice contrast to the floral artwork. Grounding the space in her office is a giraffe skin rug that was also a trophy from Robert’s time in Africa. Hagler succeeded in her efforts to make the interior feel like a nice mix of both of their styles.

It is easy to see how revising the current spaces, updating the home, and moving a few walls gave the Hagler’s a new lease on life here without having to add any new square footage. The couple was fortunate to have access to design professionals to help them fulfill their dream so they could thankfully say #wedecidedtostay!

This article appears in the May 2017 issue of Augusta Magazine.

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