Home Decor: White Ideas

Julie DeVito Butler has always loved the color white and the fresh canvas it creates. In recent years, though, the pristine hue has become an obsession.


White paint saturates nearly every room of the interior designer’s New Albany home, providing a serene backdrop for her collection of rustic and modern furniture.“I like the simplicity, and then when you do put something against it, it really pops,” said Julie, who studied photography and co-owns home décor shop Bungalow. She describes her vision for the home with words like beachy and comfortable. Guests often say she captured the carefree elegance of the Hamptons. Julie keeps her monochromatic scheme interesting by mixing neutral shades of creams, taupes and browns with light-reflecting materials such as glass and metal. The subtle palette doesn’t just look pretty: It highlights the home’s unique architecture, which includes lofty ceilings and dramatic windows.“We’ve hit on a good balance of comfort and openness,” said Michael Butler, Julie’s husband, who works for a venture capital firm. The couple, both Ohio natives who also have lived in Houston and Denver, bought and sold three other New Albany houses before collaborating with Brian Kent Jones Architects and builder Kevin Knight to design their dream home. They moved in on Christmas Eve in 2008. “People think of New Albany houses as being heavy and traditional, and I don’t think there’s anything heavy or traditional about that house at all,” Knight said. In the past, Julie had decorated each new property with resale in mind. This time, she took a different approach. “I did it for me,” she said. “I did everything I loved.” There are no walls dividing the spacious kitchen, dining and living rooms, giving Julie the freedom to reconfigure her furniture countless ways. “I change things around daily,” she said with a laugh. (Michael jokes that being married to Julie requires a strong back.) But amid all the rearranging, one thing remains untouched: the wall color. “On a beautiful, sunny day, it’s something to be seen,” Michael said. “You almost need sunglasses inside.”


Open House: The main living space resembles a lofted barn, complete with exposed beams and a pair of sliding barn doors that offer a glimpse of the second-floor master bedroom from below. “It’s a very open, multi-purpose kind of space,” Michael said, adding he and Julie have comfortably entertained as many as 70 guests. A wall of windows beyond the dining room table fills the room with natural light and offers relaxing views of a nearby pond. The steel chandelier suspended above the 10-foot-long dining room table was designed by Julie and made by Bernard Electric. This is where Julie and Michael eat most of their meals, along with nephew R.J. DeVito and his wife, who occupy one of the home’s guest rooms. Slipcovered Verellen chairs and a padded wooden bench offer ample seating at the table. The dining room flows seamlessly into the living room, which is a comfy gathering spot. A fireplace framed by stone from the demolished Ohio Penitentiary makes for a unique centerpiece. Julie, who owns an English mastiff named Baby, swears by slipcovers to keep her white furniture looking vivid. “Everything is slipcovered, so everything can be washed,” she said. “That would drive me crazy if I could not wash it.”


The Cafe: Julie doesn’t cook much, so she admits she focused on making the kitchen look pretty. She chose white marble countertops, Shaker-style cabinets and white floating shelves to display her white dishes. The window behind the range was originally supposed to be a wall, but “I just kept adding more windows,” Julie said. The large center island was built using salvaged wood shutters and rugged beams from an old barn. “I want it to feel warm,” Julie said. “I don’t want it to be sleek. I like clean, but not contemporary.” The adjoining breakfast nook—one of Julie’s favorite spaces—is perfect for sipping coffee and watching the sunrise.


Novel Ideas: French doors connect the living room to the library, which doubles as a first-floor guest suite. The room has a cozy vibe and includes a fireplace, a couch that converts into a twin bed, and a private adjoining bathroom that was created to be ADA accessible for one of Julie’s family members. (The chocolate-brown bathroom is one of only two rooms in the house that isn’t painted white.) Custom bookshelves hold a collection of signed first editions, from Toni Morrison to John Grisham. A pair of pillows on the couch display the number 44 to represent Julie’s father’s old football number. And, in the corner, a ship’s ladder with a galvanized pipe railing leads to an outdoor balcony with an oversized chess board.


The Entertainer: Julie and Michael love to entertain, so they designed the home with that purpose in mind. The expansive lower level is where they gather to watch movies or play games, such as ping pong and euchre. “I just wanted this to be the cozy area. Upstairs I wanted it to be beachy, and then this I wanted to be cozy,” Julie said. She chose an ultra-soft carpet for the room because she wanted the texture to feel like sand on bare feet. The room includes several intimate seating areas— “We play a lot of euchre, so there had to be places to play when the family is here,” Julie said—and a large velvety sectional accented with pillows from Bungalow. Plus, this level boasts a workout room where the couple’s many race bibs and medals are displayed. Julie and Michael considered the gym a necessity when building the house. “We usually use it every day,” she said. The lower level also includes a bar and small woodshop where Michael enjoys carving. His one-of-a-kind creations, including the wine stops at left, are displayed throughout the home.


Simple Serenity: Shades of white and cream in varying textures and fabrics give the master bedroom a calming aura. “I wanted it very peaceful,” Julie said. “We don’t have a TV in our room. It’s just serene.” Nightstands made from old balusters flank a Verellen bed draped in crisp white bedding. A sliding barn door makes a novel entrance. An interior window offers a bird’s-eye view of the downstairs living space. And French doors lead to an upper-level balcony.


Sweet Surrender: The master bath is a vision in white, too, with accents of glass and metallics. The bath features a white cast-iron bathtub, white heated marble floors and all-white linens. “Everything I look at, I go to white,” Julie said. “That’s what I love.” There was a time when she favored rich colors, florals and plaids, but her style has gradually shifted to neutrals. “My nephew once said to me, ‘Is your favorite color plaid?’ That was just hilarious. Ralph Lauren was a big influence. And now, I like everything simple.”


The Great Escape: The home offers plenty of outdoor living options, including a giant chess board on the upper deck patio off the library (right) and a garden pavilion (below). “I recall a neighbor saying, ‘These people must have kids, because they’re building a playhouse,’ ” Michael said, referring to the pavilion. He now jokingly calls it Julie’s Playhouse. “We really love to be outside,” Michael said, “and it’s a great area here.”

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