When JoAnn and Dillard Browning saw the four-bedroom stucco villa on Meigs Street, they knew right away they wanted it.
"It reminded us of a European house," said Mrs. Browning. The couple lived three years in both Frankfurt, Germany, and Sagamihara, Japan, before returning to Augusta in 1976.
They owned several old houses in Augusta's Hill area when they purchased the Meigs Street house just over two years ago. They were living in Martinez when they began buying large homes and converting them into apartments as a retirement venture.
Moving to Summerville brought them closer to their 68 rental units. But it was the character of the 70-year-old house, as well as the neighborhood, that really sold the Brownings.
"It just almost talked to me, and I saw the potential here," Mrs. Browning said. They did almost all of the renovations on the two-story home themselves, with a little help from crews that maintain their rental units.
"We like to do any kind of restoration work," Mrs. Browning said. "It's more satisfying. We wanted to take a place that needed some tender loving care and give it to it. ... We have a lot of blood, sweat and laughter in this house."
The Brownings removed carpeting to expose flawless oak floors and replaced heavy draperies with white sheers all over the 4,500-square-foot house.
Mrs. Browning kept the 8 1/2 -foot mirror and the original chandelier in the foyer.
The living room boasts wall-to-wall treasures that the couple collected over the years. Amid a combination of antique and contemporary furniture and accessories sits a floor screen from Hong Kong, painted in rich gold, black and red.
The 7-foot-high mantel in the living room was one of the things Mrs. Browning was first attracted to.
"I love the height of it. It looks so majestic," she said.
The walls in the sun room are a bright coral to match the outside color. With three sides of windows, Mrs. Browning found the room to be a great place to hang a soft, cotton hammock, complete with throw pillows that match the walls. On the tile floor, a Greek flokatis rug offers bare feet soft indulgence in its pure wool pile.
A peach tree shades the room's back windows from afternoon sun, adding a touch of Southern charm to the abundance of international decor.
But Mrs. Browning's favorite room is the kitchen.
"It has that comfortable, come-in-and-sit-down feel," she said. The counters and bar are covered with Italian tile in muted, earthy tones. The gas stove is built into original brickwork that once housed an oven. A hanging rack over the stove supports several copper pots.
Mrs. Browning painted a couple of support columns in the kitchen a weathered green color with a crackle finish.
"I restored them to look Old World," she said. "We didn't want anything to look brand-new."
Mrs. Browning used rich colors throughout the downstairs, sometimes to the surprise of Mr. Browning. The living room has sage-green wallpaper; the dining room has deep red; and the foyer and stairwell use a pattern that combines those colors with some neutral tones.
"He's always told me that I shock him," Mrs. Browning said. "But in the end, he likes the results."
Upstairs, in the bedrooms, she kept colors a little more neutral.
In one guest room, which the Brownings' daughter, Jody, claims as hers when she visits, Mrs. Browning used lacy white curtains and bed covers on the four-post bed.
"That bed was the first thing that we bought together," she said, referring to newlywed days with Mr. Browning.
She complemented the white with lavender accents, including a wardrobe that she salvaged after a tenant threw it away. She covered the doors, which had a few cracks, with two oval mirrors and painted it.
Although the master bedroom technically belongs to Mr. and Mrs. Browning, the real queen of the house is Dolly, a 3-year-old gray Persian cat that claims the bed as her own.
The master bath, which used to be a small bedroom and a tiny bath, has a standing shower stall and a large whirlpool tub.Delicate, cream-colored Austrian sheers hanging in the windows offset the dramatic cocoa-brown walls.
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