The careful restoration of an 1897 Highlands home by Sarah Mattingly and her husband Ben Botkins returned much of its original charm while adding modern day livability for their family of four.

Written by Christine Fellingham | Photographed by Kylene White

As two of the four partners in the chic Bellwether Hotel, it’s hardly surprising that Sarah Mattingly and Ben Botkins have renovated an antique house in the Highlands into a stunning but completely unpretentious home for themselves and their two young sons.

Their flair for seamlessly mixing mid century modern decor with modern needs and early 20th century architecture makes for a magical experience from the minute you walk in the door. The decor is somehow at once elevated and understated; you know a family lives in this space– and really lives in it.

All of this is even more impressive when you consider that when the couple purchased the home in 2019, it had been converted to a stripped-down duplex. It took vision, patience and the right team to transform it into the place they proudly call home. Here’s what Sarah has to say about how they turned this diamond in the rough into a gem.

What made you fall for it?

“We knew we wanted something we could make our own and we wanted to stay in the Highlands neighborhood.” What have you changed since you’ve lived there?

“The home was built in 1897 and was converted into a duplex in 1924, making it the perfect project. We spent seven months completely gutting and restoring the home back to a single family home. Most of the original historical features have been removed or had been uncared for for the last century– such as the brass door handles and the original mantles. We spent a great deal 

of time at Architectural Salvage sourcing pieces that were era-appropriate and slowly we were able to create something we had been dreaming of for the last ten years, a historical property that we could make our home.

During the remodel, we worked with architect Jeff Rawlins to completely rework the floor plan and convert the duplex to a space that would work for our family of four. We took a sample of the original molding to the lumber yard and they made a special knife that could create the same molding from 1897. We found a mantle that was removed from a house built in 1895 and that now resides in our sitting room. We had all of the wood floors completely restored. One of my favorite parts of the house is the modern addition that serves as our dining room. During the renovation we removed the second staircase that was in the rear of the home and added floor-to-ceiling windows; this allows the home to keep its historical roots while adding a modern twist.”

What’s your design philosophy?

“I don’t know if I have a design philosophy per se, but I always work to keep the space’s historical integrity. For example, in our home I researched late 1800’s wallpaper patterns and had a stencil made to replicate the pattern for our sitting room. I also love mid-century modern architecture and design so it’s been fun finding a way to mix the two.

Do you and Ben agree completely on decor or do you have any differences?

“For the most part we agree. We both love historical buildings and want to see them preserved whenever possible. The only time we have really disagreed was picking a wall color for one of the suites in The Bellwether. I had chosen a rosy blush color and he was adamantly opposed (although the suite name is The Rosewood Suite). I ended up prevailing and it’s now one of most booked rooms.”

What’s your decor shopping style and what are some of your favorite sources?

“A few of my favorites are Architectural Salvage, the one-of-a-kind building at Blue Ocean Traders, No Direction Home (the best furniture store in the city in my opinion) and Alcott and Bentley.”

Do you use an interior designer?

“I have served as the designer on our projects along with my good friend Shelley Hulsey.”

You two also own a beautiful boutique airbnb/hotel together. Can you tell us a little about how your home decor style is similar and different from the hotel?

“Our love for historic buildings and properties had us fall in love with the two buildings that now make up The Bellwether Hotel. They are similar in that the design inspiration for both was to be as era specific as possible and to honor the spaces original architectural features.”

What are your favorite spaces in the home and why?

“I would have to say the front sitting room. I love sitting in front of the fireplace in the winter and it’s the spot that we always hangout in when we have friends over.”

How much entertainment do you do generally? During the holidays?

“The second thing we love most next to historical buildings is traveling so we usually spend holiday breaks exploring new places with the kids. That said, when we do entertain it is usually with friends and family who also have children so having multiple ‘living spaces’ in the home is important. Our third floor was completely unfinished (think squirrel apartment building) when we bought the home and we knew that as the boys got older they would want their own hangout space. We finished the remodel two months prior to March of 2020 and having a second living space served as a life saver during the next year and a half of home schooling due to the pandemic.”

How does this space make you feel?

“I love our home. Everytime we return from a trip I am reminded of this. It’s a thoughtfully and beautifully designed space that feels homey and lived in.”