Lexington, KY – Though it has a simple and rather unassuming exterior, one step inside the Henry Clay Avenue home of Scott Crosby and Jeanne Brownlee reveals a highly personalized living space that reflects a decade of the couple’s creative vision, artistic energy and DIY labor – a marriage of her creative vision and his skillful handiwork (she’s an art teacher at Liberty Elementary; he works at Lowe’s).
Originally from Georgia, Jeanne bought the home about 10 years ago, after visiting her sister in Lexington and falling in love with the town; Scott, with whom she had been in a long distance relationship, moved in shortly thereafter. And with influences that range from art deco to country bungalow, the couple has transformed the home into a place where they rarely want to leave.
“It’s so wonderful to have someone who has the ability to pretty much pull off anything, and who loves to work on it alongside you,” Jeanne said of Scott, who has a long background of developing his craftsman skills, and a significant artistic wherewithal to boot – he’s done plumbing and carpentry, electric work and welding, pottery and textile art, hardscaping and quiltmaking.
“I have the creative imagination to dream up the design, but I don’t have the (technical ability to execute it),” Jeanne added.
Her seemingly endless levels of energy and elbow grease make up for any slack in technical skill, and the couple has not had to hire any contractors to help transform their 1950s cottage – having gotten a number of quotes for various projects over the years, Scott always balks after realizing how much more affordable it would be to just do it himself.
From the paneled ceilings and refinished floors to the hand-built cabinets and vintage-washed columns, he has done just that. Many of the home’s original features -
the retro wooden cabinets in the kitchen, the gold-glittered Formica sink in the bathroom – remain intact, though nestled among the couple’s personalized touches, which includes lots of original art. The decor comes across less mid-century traditional and more Bohemian art.
From April to October, however, you’d be hard pressed to find the couple spending much time inside. A glimpse into their backyard reveals why: over the past five years, Scott and Jeanne have transformed the space behind their house – equipped with only grass, trees and a small shed when they moved in -
into an enchanted shade garden, complete with water features, art sculptures, hardscaping, hundreds of hostas, impatience and other shade-loving plants, and a multi-level deck leading to boardwalks that snake in and around the edges of the garden. The backyard is the product of hundreds of hours of careful planning and physical labor, with Jeanne keeping a detailed journal of what works and what doesn’t.
“I’m kind of a lazy gardener,” Jeanne said – though admiring the beauty and lushness of her yard, you’d likely be hard-pressed to agree. “If the plant doesn’t fit into the way I garden, which is ‘water every day, fertilize once a week,’ it’s not a plant I repeat the next year.”
While she said that the complete shade of the backyard initially presented a challenge, it was one that she is now grateful for – especially during the dog days of summer, when it remains 10 -
15 degrees cooler and feels generally less humid.
“It’s like a microclimate with all the trees and shade,” she said. “Even in these really hot days, I’ve been outside all day. In the morning, it’s so beautiful and pleasant.”
The backyard, which contains a sitting area perfect for enjoying a glass of wine in the evening, has become a retreat for the couple, who find themselves rarely wanting to leave home. A gardener’s work is never done, however, and they still have a handful of major projects they plan on undertaking in the next couple of years – before they start expanding their extensive landscape to the front yard.
“I’d say in the next five or maybe 10 years, there won’t be any grass in the front yard,” said Scott, who has already started inching the garden that way with some potted tomato plants along the front sidewalk. “I want to get rid of my lawnmower.”