Trial by Fire

By Margaret Daniel
Photos by Amy J. Owen.

If your house was on fire, what would you grab on your way out to safety? A pet, a favorite photograph or a beloved book are typical answers for the familiar, if inconsequential, icebreaker. On July 16, 2021, Kelly Hitchcock discovered her answer when she arrived home to find a two-alarm fire engulfing her home. Leaping from the car, she ran to rescue the family’s dogs; a Welsh Corgi named Beau, and Rosie, a Golden-Labrador Retriever mix. 

The Big Green Egg, burning off after a night of smoking meat, had crashed to the ground, the table bearing it up collapsing after years of wear, sending sparks up to the wooden soffit and setting ablaze the first and second levels simultaneously. 

For more than three hours, the Augusta Fire Department fought back the flames, dousing the fire and the Hitchcock’s belongings with water. “Everything got taken down to the studs and the foundation. The upstairs came completely off the house and the back wall, too,” says Kelly. “We were able to salvage the front brick, front porch and the side brick on the [main] floor.”

After the smoke cleared, Kelly and her husband, Chris (Oak Film Co.), called in Craig Peel (House Plans, Inc.) to re-work their home’s layout and Chris Lutz (Southeast Restoration) to handle construction. 

“Insurance says you must work within the existing foundation if it’s not compromised, but you can move walls around,” says Kelly. “We wanted to make sure the front of our house felt and looked the same, so we kept the rooms where they originally were.”

But with four grown boys, Michael (24), Will (22), John Reid (19), and Watts (16), and a large extended family, Kelly and Chris elected to tweak the entertaining space, opening the kitchen onto the den and breakfast area. They added a spacious island and replaced a picture window with a pair of French doors leading out to a new covered patio and lap pool.

With the floor plan finalized, Kelly called in Holly Weaver (Design Images & Gifts) to fill the home with new furnishings and art. “I wanted it to be light, airy, comfortable and for people to feel happy,” says Kelly. “I wanted it to feel like home again.”

From the crisp, white foyer and the playfully wallpapered powder room to the gracious back patio, the Hitchcock’s home is a lesson in traditional comfort. Kelly’s salvaged antique furnishings anchor each room and, for touches of unexpected glamour, Weaver spread funky upholstery, art and lighting throughout the house. 

“The challenge and fun of it has been to incorporate her antique pieces with the new,” says Weaver. “You have to throw a little punch of something fun in there. Sometimes she thinks I’m crazy, but she needs that fun. She’s a busy mom of four boys.”

A custom Lee Industries sofa finished with taupe tape trim (a genius trick of Weaver’s) and a pair of blue velvet armchairs feel right at home with Windy O’Connor face pillows and a chic zebra skin rug in the formal living room. 

The breezy blue and green color palette carries over into the open concept living space with its large abstract paintings, blue table lamps and vibrant green leopard print pillows. White, wipeable bistro stools, a pair of leather chairs and a sofa in performance fabric ensure the family’s guests can relax and put their feet up.

“[Holly] helped me think through our day-to-day,” says Kelly. “She helped me pick fabrics that can handle our dogs and four boys that I could wipe clean.”

With the construction dust settled, Chris and Kelly once again savor retiring to their primary suite at the end of a busy day. Aiming to create a serene retreat for the couple, Weaver stuck to a neutral palette that flows seamlessly into the bathroom tucked behind a pair of French doors. Here, a spacious, stone-clad shower and soaking tub offer the perfect spot for relaxation and sweeping views of the backyard while his and hers vanities ensure linens and cosmetics all have a home.

The monumental loss behind them and their family home finally complete, Kelly reflects on this chapter of her family’s story with gratitude — for life and the help her family received along the way. “So many friends and family came alongside us to care for and love on us, and Holly [was] just so wonderful to work with, so patient and gracious,” says Kelly. “It’s crazy to think about who should have been at home and what should have happened, but the Lord spared our family.”

Photo of the Hitchock's back patio by Amy J. Owen.
The home’s back patio.

Architect/Planner: House Plans, Inc., Craig Peel
Builder: Southeast Restoration, Chris Lutz
Interior Designer: Design Images & Gifts, Holly Weaver 
Paint: Sherwin-Williams, Pearly White
Wallpaper: Thibaut
Cabinets: The Millwork Shop
Lighting: Visual Comfort and Currey & Company
Furniture: Lee Industries, Uttermost, Highland House Furniture, Villa & House, Country Chair, Gabby, Elk Home, Whitaker Rugs

As seen in the May 2023 issue of Augusta magazine.

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