A Sophisticated Sanctuary

A massive double-sided fireplace anchors the McCraws’ family room. A company in Dallas, Old World Stoneworks, designed the 3, 600-pound centerpiece, which had to be unloaded piece-by-piece in the cul-de-sac and assembled on site. “It was an unbelievable feat, ” Cissy says.

Cissy McCraw can sum up her sumptuous brick home in three words: Expect the unexpected. In her spacious new Cottage Hill digs, contemporary design meets antique craftsmanship; sleek new pieces sit alongside comfortable old heirlooms. The resulting package is a many-layered space that begs to be explored.

The house was half a decade in the making. Cissy and her husband, Lee, bought the lot in June 2005, but their building plans were derailed just two months later, when Hurricane Katrina barreled into their existing home on Dog River. Floodwaters damaged many of their belongings, and construction plans for their new home were put on hold while they dealt with the storm’s aftermath.

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Cissy contacted Russell Nelson Restorations to survey the damage. Nelson deemed the furniture salvageable, so the McCraws packed up their belongings and placed them in a pair of 24-by-16-foot storage units. Nelson took the pieces one by one, methodically restoring them to their former beauty.

The years after Katrina threw the McCraws into limbo. “It was like camping out for a couple of years, ” Cissy says. Finally, in July 2009, the couple broke ground on their inland dream home. Cissy delved wholeheartedly into the building process, guiding everything from the floor plan to the placement of each curio. With the help of architect Chris Lacoste, her vision became a working plan.

The McCraws moved into their new place in November 2010, but Cissy spent the next nine months perfecting the details. She credits Ann Navarette for executing the finishing work. Navarette’s hand is evident throughout the house; she worked on the trim, the fireplace, the cabinets – even the toilet hinges in the powder room.

Cissy really enjoyed the challenge of crafting a living space from scratch. For every fixture and finish, she carefully researched vendors to find the perfect fit. “I had a file cabinet full of notes and brochures, ” she says, “and I did a lot of digging and searching.”

Her hard work paid off. The home neatly combines unexpected elements, resulting in a unique and balanced space. “I’m an out-of-the-box person, but I still wanted to be surrounded by my family heirlooms, ” Cissy says. “I can tell a story about everything in our house.”


ABOVE The McCraws’ dining room evokes the elegance of an old-world ballroom. A sparkling custom-made chandelier hangs over expertly restored furnishings; window treatments by Cotton Capers sweep like ladies’ gowns. “I wanted something light and airy and delicate and elegant, ” Cissy says. Fairhope’s Sean Howard created the wall treatment, a unique finish, called weathered stone, that looks like masonry. In this technique, pieces of canvas are painted, then glued to the wall in a collage pattern. Metallic chargers and napkins are the finishing touch.

ABOVE An avid cook, Cissy deftly combines form and function in her one-of-a-kind kitchen. The stove is a six-burner Monogram gas range, with a moon beam onyx subway tile backsplash. “I hunted a while for something really neat to match my granite, ” Cissy says. “When I saw that tile and brought a box of it home and spread it out against the granite, I knew I’d found the right thing.”


ABOVE LEFT A crystal chandelier adds a touch of elegance to the kitchen table.
ABOVE RIGHT “Antique doors are beautiful and have so much character, ” Cissy says. “They add depth and dimension to the newer parts of the house.” The McCraws’ home showcases several antique doors from Charles Phillips Antiques and Architecturals, with custom casements by Ford Lumber.


ABOVE LEFT The weathered stone wall finish continues from the dining room into the foyer.
ABOVE RIGHT The family’s black walnut secretary showcases keepsakes that belonged to Cissy’s grandfather, attorney Clifton B. Gillmore.

ABOVE The master bedroom is a tranquil sea of greys, silvers and chocolate brown, with crystal and mirror accents. Cotton Capers fashioned rich custom linens made from luxurious silk textiles. Cissy knew she wanted a very large floor mirror, and this one fit the bill – except for its original bronze finish. Ann Navarette refinished it to match the room’s antique silver leaf motif.


ABOVE LEFT Curios include diaries and appointment books, as well as a passport and reading glasses. Although the secretary itself had to be painstakingly restored after Hurricane Katrina, her grandfather’s items were stored in an attic and spared from the floodwaters.
ABOVE RIGHT Cissy and Lee McCraw’s home was truly a labor of love. After a five-year process, the couple was able to move into their Cottage Hill abode in 2010.

text by Catherine Dorrough, photos by Summer Ennis

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