Rewriting Contemporary Design

A new and inspired take on iconic design

photography by Jordan Weiland

As they set out to put down roots in Lakeland, young, energetic homeowners Hillary and Jason DeMeo took on a hefty renovation project. Their house off of Cleveland Heights Boulevard has morphed from a disjointed historic 1920s’ cottage to a stylish, hip, fresh home. This isn’t a time warp, though. By rewriting contemporary design with timeless appointments, it’s a new and inspired take on iconic design eras.

Twelve years ago, Jason and Hillary met and fell in love as students at Southeastern University. Today, they have been married for eight years. Jason is the director of spiritual formation and communication at Oasis Community Church, a role he has had for five years. “I have the privilege to help people on their path by opening up spaces for our congregation to engage God and one another,” he says. Hillary is the director of leadership at Southeastern University, a position into which she transitioned after the birth of the couple’s daughter, Eliana, because it allows her the freedom to spend part of her week at home.

Hillary and Jason assist and support each other in their respective careers and at home, and they worked together as a team on their home renovation project. Says Jason, “Hillary and I are opposite on every metric, which has given us a roller coaster of love. Over the years, though, we’ve learned to appreciate the differences that God has given each of us, and we are both better people because of it.”

With the help of many friends, including John Kazaklis and Pat Peaster, Jason and Hillary began an ambitious first-home resurrection after discovering and recognizing the potential of their 1920s’ cottage. “We were in a bit over our heads, and our community rallied behind us to make this project a success. This home and our family are forever indebted to them.” Over time, the old house had become disjointed, lacking a consistent and harmonious flow. Jason and Hillary found continuity could be achieved by staining the floors a single color and selecting a balanced, modern, and cohesive color palette. “We took a large canvas and made our own storyboard for the house. We pinned up ideas for each room and collaborated with our designer friend Mary Galletta in picking colors.”

THE DeMEOS’ HOUSE HAS MORPHED FROM A DISJOINTED HISTORIC 1920S’ COTTAGE TO A STYLISH, HIP, FRESH HOME.

Initially, Jason thought the kitchen would need only paint and new appliances, keeping the renovations simple and manageable. Hillary had other plans, though. As things turned out, they invested a sizeable chunk of their time and money into the kitchen, with no regrets. After removing walls, tearing out the ceiling, relocating the plumbing and gas, and building an entirely new wall, the new kitchen reaches out and invites guests to enjoy conversation over a hot latte. (Yes, they have a latte machine for just those occasions.)

When asked about their design aesthetic for the house and furnishings, the couple said, “The architecture of the home is from the 1920s, so we wanted a restrained color palette and wanted to incorporate some traditional elements into the design. At the same time, the roof on the home has a very modern feel to it with strong geometric lines. This gave us a little more liberty to express our own personal taste of modern and mid-century decor. Our home, as we see it, gives off an authentic, historic vibe while the modern and mid-century touches give it an updated, hip feel.”

Jason has always been drawn to design. The couple collected their furnishings over a three-year period, combing yard and estate sales, local vintage stores, and online sources for eclectic yet functional pieces, always aiming to score a deal. They are both followers of the work of Hans and Florence Knoll, and Ray and Charles Eames, husband-and-wife teams and major contributors to architecture, furniture, and graphic design. This influence is evident in the design decisions found in every aspect of their home. They found a Knoll-style leather couch for $300, now at home in their living room. A contemporary dining table is surrounded by 1960s’ embossed vinyl chairs. At the end of the foyer, a Scandinavian rug leads to a four-stack lawyer bookcase. The office is located off the living room and contains an old school typewriter on the corner of a mid-century desk and a tribal-style, hand-knitted rug on newly stained oak floors.

With a discerning eye and distinctive taste, Jason and Hillary have pulled together contrasting elements from a former time and combined them to create a unique and modern home.

For inspiration and to create a look like the DeMeos’, visit their online shop, CURIO, at etsy.com/shop/weareCURIO. Use the coupon code, THELAKELANDER, to receive a 30 percent discount.

The shelf life of design, like fashion, can be relatively short. But classic design endures through the years and manages to survive the passage of time and mistreatment of careless generations. If you pause and look around, you might just find that one great piece that will complete a space, establishing the perfect tone. And, if you’re smart about it, what used to be Grandmother’s credenza can have a new life in your home today. Using their love of design and unique furniture and objects, Jason and Hillary created an Etsy shop called CURIO. It’s filled with vintage pieces, like the ones found sprinkled throughout their home, old objects with stories to tell and new lives to live.

Jason and Hillary discovered that renovating an old house is equal parts challenge and stress, teamwork and initiative, frustration and satisfaction. But, overall, the rewards far outweigh what can be described as the do-it-yourself remodeling blues. “Now that we’ve made it through,” Jason says, “I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.”