Sissy and John Bateman planned to downsize. They really did.
They sold their large house on Jefferson Highway and moved to Meadow Lea. But in the 20-plus years in their present home, they have continued to “upsize” with two major additions, several renovations and a complete landscaping of their property.
Because their big house sold quickly, the Batemans had to rent a house while they looked for something to buy. That’s when they found out a house down the street was going on the market.
“We were standing outside the house praying that it had 9-foot ceilings,” said John Bateman, a well-known local banker.
Even though it was only a two-bedroom house, it did have tall ceilings.
“James Hamilton Smith built the house like a fortress for a family that had no children,” John Bateman said. “It was spotless and in wonderful condition.”
The Batemans moved in and immediately began work on a master bedroom suite and a library-study.
Over time, they made other changes. They painted the walnut paneling in their den, removed wall-to-wall carpeting, installed wood floors, added a wood mantel to the den fireplace and renovated the kitchen.
But as much as they did to the house, there was still one big problem.
“The living room was a dead room that nobody used,” John Bateman said.
It opened to the dining room, but was completely separated from the den by a long wall between the two parallel rooms. The only entry to the living room was through the front door or at the back of the foyer.
At the suggestion of designer Joan Covert, the Batemans opened part of the wall between the living room and den, and immediately the home had flow between the public areas.
In 2003 and 2004, the Batemans did their largest addition, designed by architect Kevin Harris.
“We made a place for our children and grandchildren to come visit,” Sissy Bateman said.
They extended the dining room 7 feet and added cabinets on either side of a new large window.
They also added a two-story addition with a garage, laundry room, breezeway and greenhouse on the bottom floor and two bedrooms, a day room and bath upstairs.
As the Batemans were leaving Harris’ office after a meeting to discuss plans, John Bateman had a final thought. He told Harris he would like the front to have a more unique look.
“I wanted the front to look less like a subdivision house,” he said.
Harris designed the new front and two-story addition to blend perfectly with the original house. Even though the original brick was not available, you cannot tell the old from the new.
Part of the beauty of the home is the landscaping, which was originally done by Steele Burden and completed by Michael Hopping after Burden’s death.
“When we bought this house, there was not a stick of landscaping, especially in the back, which was plain grass and one nandina bush,” Sissy Bateman said. “Steele landscaped everything.”
Burden outlined the beds, and the Batemans spent the weekends lining them with border grass, one sprig at a time.
“We would be gone, but he would show up with George Raby and Malcolm Tucker and plant,” John Bateman said.
“We would know he had been here because he would leave roses in a tin can,” Sissy Bateman said.