Photography by Sally Kolar
A Grovetown couple deftly weaves wit and whimsy, texture and timelessness into their eclectic Grenelefe Park home.
A place for everything, and everything in its place. Just don’t expect to find things where you think they belong in the Grenelefe Park home of Imogene and Chuck Ford.
Imagination reigns in this Grovetown house where the Fords have a piano in the breakfast room, a hutch in the master bath and a sideboard in the master bedroom. And why not?
After all, the breakfast area doubles as a game room where the Fords play cards and board games; a hutch can hold towels just as easily as it can hold dishes; and the sideboard is the perfect complement to the other bedroom furnishings.
“I like to take pieces and use them in a different setting,” says Imogene.
Right Place, Right Time
The Fords were ready for a different setting of their own after living in the same house for 28 years, so they decided to build a larger house with a smaller yard. They fell in love with Grenelefe Park and built one of the first houses in the neighborhood six years ago.
“We had never built before. I had heard nightmares about building, but it was fun. We thoroughly enjoyed it,” Imogene says.
Chuck agrees. “This was our one and only house to build, and we hit the jackpot,” he says.
The Fords feel blessed to have found the neighborhood, and they gave the home their own special blessing as well.
“When the house was going up, my cousin gave me the most wonderful idea,” says Imogene. “She suggested we write scriptures on the framework.”
The scriptures include two of their favorites – Philippians 4:13 and Micah 6:8. Although they can’t see the writing on the walls, many cherished mementoes – from Imogene’s cross stitch pictures to Chuck’s collection of clocks – are on full display in the house.
The 102-year-old – and still functioning – clock on top of the chest in the foyer belonged to Chuck’s paternal grandmother. “She kept it on the mantel in their house in downtown Augusta,” he says. “My grandfather gave it to her on their second wedding anniversary.”
Imogene and Chuck gave each other a clock for their 10th anniversary, and it hangs in the living room. Chuck’s father bought the Ridgeway grandmother clock in the back hallway 60 years ago. “I had it redone and got it back in shape,” says Chuck. “It has a beautiful sound to it.”
In his study, he has a replica of an old DuPont clock like the ones in schoolhouses along the Delaware River in the 1800s. Chuck winds the clocks about every four days, and when they start chiming at night, the Fords don’t even notice.
The Fords also have lots of insects in the house, but they’re no cause for alarm. In fact, they’re a feature, not a bug. “I like little creatures,” Imogene says.
Of course, her little creatures – from dragonflies to bumblebees to grasshoppers – aren’t real. The bugs might be strategically placed decorative metal pieces, or their likenesses might appear on pictures or pillows.
“The house is very eclectic,” says Imogene. “I like the cottage-y, garden look. I don’t do formal at all. I like a little whimsy.”
Other common features in the house include heart pine flooring and five-paneled doors. “Chuck picked out the doors because the doors in his grandmother’s house were like this,” says Imogene.
The arched front door, which is framed by an arched, stacked stone entryway to the front porch, makes a statement as well. “We designed the porch around the door,” Imogene says.
With the potted plants, mixed textures and charming décor of the porch, some visitors might feel content to stay put and never go through the front door. Two black rockers offer the perfect place to sit a spell, and a round wrought iron table is sandwiched between the chairs.
A distressed lantern and a lamp with a tan and beige buffalo-checked shade sit on the tabletop. Greenery spilling out of a planter catches the attention of a metal turtle and a metal dragonfly.
A black turtle-shaped footstool rests between the two rockers. “That is a treasure for me,” Imogene says. “My Uncle Charlie made it for me when he was 93 years old.”
The front porch also features shake shingle walls, a bead board ceiling and acid-washed concrete flooring – a fond reminder of Charlie, who passed away last year, as well.
When he saw the “stains” on the concrete floor, he generously offered to find a pressure washer to clean it. “I said, ‘I think we paid good money for that,’” Imogene says.
Inside, the charm and creativity continues from the foyer to the screened-in porch on the back of the house. Although the Fords didn’t need a lot of new furniture for the house, they bought something for the foyer.
Imogene, who likes to shop at consignment and antique shops, found the perfect piece – a wood chest, which features drawer pulls carved into the shape of grape clusters. She also made a decorative “F” out of Styrofoam and faux boxwood and hung it above the chest with a ribbon of burlap. A spindle chair with a low, rounded back is tucked at the end of the hallway.
The adjoining living room features a raised hearth fireplace with a slate surround. “There were two things I wanted that I never had – a fireplace and a screened porch,” says Imogene. “We use both of them a lot. We use the whole house.”
Two woven seagrass chairs and a matching footstool are mixed in with an upholstered couch and a leather chair, and a natural woven rug lies on the floor.
The Fords have a number of paintings of rural churches throughout the house, but the one in the living room has special significance for them. This painting depicts their church, Liberty United Methodist, which was built in 1804.
“To put that in perspective, Thomas Jefferson was president at the time, and a year earlier, he sent Lewis and Clark on their expedition,” Chuck says.
An Appling man, who made furniture in the 1980s and early 1990s, built the pine coffee table in the living room. In fact, the Fords have several pieces that he made for them.
“We could take him a picture of a piece of furniture that we liked, and he would build it,” says Imogene.
A wide entryway leads from the living room to the dining room.
“The original house plan called for this to be an open space,” Imogene says. “But I like defined areas, so we put up walls with big openings so the house still flows.”
In the dining room, an old farmhouse pine table is lined with a trio of Windsor chairs on each side. A woven seagrass chair sits at each end, and another woven natural fiber rug lies beneath the table. A pinewood server with a drawer and two open shelves provides plenty of storage space, and Imogene made the hydrangea wreath that hangs above it.
A striped wing chair with a dragonfly pillow is nestled in a corner of the room, and the iron chandelier features branches, crystals and six candle lights.
“I just love the branchy, woodsy look of the chandelier,” Imogene says. “And I love pillows. You can change a room instantly by putting different pillows in it.”
The kitchen features granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, a tile backsplash and a walk-in pantry.
“I like the open area of the kitchen. So many people can be in it at the same time, and we love the bar,” Imogene says. “I like people sitting and talking to me when I’m in the kitchen, but Chuck is more of a cook than I am.”
Baskets for everything from dish towels to pairs of glasses line the countertop. “I love baskets. I love woven things. I love texture,” says Imogene.
Her cousin painted the oil still life of pears in the kitchen and gave it to them as a housewarming gift.
More artwork can be found in the breakfast room, where a trio of oil paintings by their late friend and Augusta artist Maggie Meldrum is stacked on a wall. The scenes were painted on cutting boards that are hung by a loop of thick rope. Another “Maggie” on pegboard, a scene from the corner of Broad and Eighth streets in Augusta, was a wedding gift to the Fords.
A church painting hangs above the piano in the breakfast room, and Imogene made the hydrangea arrangement on the piano.
“I’ve always enjoyed decorating. When I was growing up, our house was always nicely decorated,” she says. “As a girl, I loved looking at house and garden magazines.”
The Appling furniture maker built the pine sideboard in the room, which also features a natural woven rug. A green wreath hangs on one of two double doors leading to the screened-in porch, but the Fords usually keep the door open.
The study, which includes a built-in desk and built-in book shelves, is Chuck’s favorite room. A Civil War buff, Chuck has two prints of the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse and another print from the war on a wall. The shelves are full of biographies and Civil War books.
Furnishings include a leather recliner and a TV. “This is the most utilized piece of furniture in the house,” Chuck says of the recliner. “A chair, a remote and a television. That’s all I need.”
Imogene made sure she got what she needed from the room as well. “He can close the door, but I put glass panes in it so he can’t hide too much,” she says.
One of the guest bedrooms includes a pine two-poster bed and a pine desk that were crafted by the Appling furniture maker. A wicker storage trunk sits at the foot of the bed, which is covered by a yellow and white buffalo-checked comforter.
A wheat sheath wall hanging is behind the bed, and more “Maggie” paintings hang on other walls.
A second guest room features a four-poster bed with a black and white buffalo-checked skirt and a gray and white floral comforter. A chair upholstered in black and white buffalo checks and a floor lamp occupies one side of the bed, and a chest that belonged to Chuck’s mother sits on the other side.
“Chuck painted the chest black for me, and I put glass knobs on it,” says Imogene. “His nephew couldn’t believe that we painted it black. Now the joke in the family is that Joey will not be at my funeral because he will be stripping the chest.”
A pocket door from this bedroom leads to the guest bath, which includes tile flooring, a vessel sink, an oil-rubbed bronze faucet and a transom window above the shower/tub. A chair rail tops bead board on the walls.
Another rural church painting hangs across from the sink, and rolled towels fill a vintage metal laundry basket on wheels.
The master bedroom features a four-poster bed and a sitting area with a couch and a butler’s table. Prints of Squeaky’s Tip Top and Augusta Coca-Cola Bottling Company hang above the couch, and Chuck’s bronzed baby shoes stand on the sideboard.
In the adjoining master bath, the Fords installed the walk-in tile shower where a garden tub was supposed to be. The pine hutch, also made by the Appling furniture maker, occupies the original spot for the shower.
“In our old house the hutch was in the kitchen and filled with dishes,” says Imogene, “but I always imagined it with towels in it for some reason.”
With hardy board walls on two sides, the screened-in porch also includes wicker furniture, a ceiling fan, acid-washed concrete flooring and lots of plants. Chuck’s daughter painted the floral acrylics on canvas that hang by green ribbon on one wall, and a “man” made out of terracotta pots occupies the top of a wicker plant stand.
“The screened-in porch is one of my favorite places in the house,” says Imogene. “We can use it year-round.”
The Fords have a beautiful backyard garden enclosed by black wrought iron fencing, and they call it “Sadee’s Yard” in honor of their Jack Russell and rat terrier mix that died in January at age 13.
Filled with plants such as hostas and zinnias, the garden also features a brick patio, brick pathways, a bistro table and chairs, a red Adirondack chair and a tall white birdhouse.
Chuck enjoys taking care of the yard. “I’m meticulous about everything. I like for it to be neat,” he says. “Doing the yard is a real joy for me. I can do it in 30 minutes. The responsibility is small, yet we have a nice, roomy house.”
By Betsy Gilliland