Changing Spaces

Last year, Americans spent an estimated $192 billion on home renovation, according to the National Association of Home Builders Remodelors Council. Courtland Bivens III, an aerospace engineer, and his wife, publicist Regina Lynch Hudson, were among them. And the couple knew that in order to transform their new Roswell, Georgia, home into the neoclassical European villa of their dreams, they’d first need to imagine and then create it themselves. Before moving into this upscale North Fulton County community over a year ago, the couple spent five months and thousands of dollars — not to mention countless hours of hard labor — converting this three-story, 6,000-square-foot structure into an artistic showcase.

Lynch Hudson spent roughly five hours a day stuccoing most of the house’s huge rooms, while Bivens adorned the formal dining room’s ceilings — inspired by the Louis XIV era — and installed ornamental moldings.

“If you come up with a unique idea, finding someone to do it would be problem No. 1. And No. 2, the cost would be astronomical,” says Lynch Hudson. While the couple didn’t take classes before they began, they both have prior experience and knowledge in home design and took inspiration from home décor magazines and programs on networks such as Home & Garden Television. They also worked with companies to handle projects such as replacing and installing tubs and laying down floors.

The couple’s more than $160,000 do-it-yourself project included painting, a complete kitchen overhaul, and new lighting throughout the home. Other decorating features include a spiral staircase; beveled leaded glass that adorns the home’s doors; and the dining room’s nearly 2-foot moldings with black-ribbon trim incorporated throughout the home, which Bivens designed and handcrafted.

Next on the couple’s agenda is a custom wine cellar with a mirrored ceiling and a set of 10×40 foot interchangeable murals designed by local artists.

For decorating aspirants, some renovating tips:

  • Think outside the box. Don’t let lack of design or construction expertise scare you. Seek professional advice. Home Depot ( offers free in-store consultations. Punch in your zip code on Lowe’s Website ( for a list of free how-to clinics at a store near you. Lowe’s sessions include everything from planning to installation. It also offers a how-to library and a buying guide for materials and tools.
  • Look abroad for inspiration. If the feel of a Moroccan marketplace or Tuscan countryside moves you, capture touches of these in your décor. Publications such as Metropolitan Home, Architectural Digest, and Dwell offer trends and global designs.
  • Set a well-defined budget. Nothing’s worse than running out of cash halfway through your project. Always expect to spend more than you planned. Lowe’s offers an online project calculator, that can help with cost projections.