Frank & Cynthia Downs Keep House & Home Close to Their Hearts
Frank and Cynthia Downs enjoy life and it shows. Frank’s bubbly and enthusiastic and luckily for him, Cynthia is calm and disciplined. You might say she’s found her yin teaching yoga. The adventurous couple enjoys family, travel and fine dining. Both retired, mornings usually begin with Frank waking first and making coffee.
Nestled in downtown Newberry, the Downs’ home reflects their life and love. Their Garrison style house has a distinct, first-story exterior of cement stone that accentuates the recently painted 2nd wooden story. “We’re getting use to the color,” says Cynthia, giving a nod of acceptance that the chosen bluish-gray paint is darker than expected. The home is eye-catching—a visual stunner in contrast and juxtaposition.
Built in 1939, the home was vacant for years before grabbing Cynthia’s attention in 1983. “I was just driving down the street one day and wondered if I could get inside, so I pulled in the driveway. The back door was open—anyone could have gotten in,” says Cynthia. “I loved what I saw - especially the archways.” Cynthia jokingly says they were soon the proud owners of two homes—and one needed selling. To make the house habitable, Frank and friends spent long hours making necessary repairs.
Over the years the house has been redesigned and twice renovated. Nine-foot ceilings add spaciousness, oriental rugs anchor rooms, and lots of oversized windows offer ample lighting.
Any room is a good room for reading and drinking a hot cup of clove tea, but the most popular room enjoyed by the couple is the Keeping Room, just off the kitchen. Cozying up with their pup, Emmie, this open floor concept gives way to spectacular views of the kitchen, courtyard and hallway. Prominently built in the corner is a working gas grill with a copper hood. Seldom used for its original purpose, the unusual piece compliments an inviting atmosphere.
Adding ambience to the fully remodeled kitchen are walnut stained cabinets and Peacock green granite countertops. A bar, kitchen island, and multi-functional desk make this comfortably designed room a great place to hang out morning, noon and night. Shiny light fixtures and stained-glass windows add layers of color and charm, but the room’s masterpiece is inarguably its ceramic blue floor tiles. With a penchant for color, the highly fetching tiles were set in concrete by first home-owners, Gordon and Elizabeth Clarkson. “We think Elizabeth entertained a lot, so the tiles will be here forever,” says Cynthia.
The formal dining room features built in china cabinets and a bookcase that Cynthia’s father built while in high school. The dining room table was found years earlier in an antique store and serves as the last point of staging before delivery of the couple’s notoriously delicious homemade Christmas cakes. Made from an original recipe found in a 1987 Southern Living Magazine, these cakes are hand-delivered to friends and family. “Every year we say it’s going to be the last year,” says Frank. They’ve continued the laborious tradition for nearly 30-years.
Handed down to Cynthia from her great, great, grandmother and situated in the foyer is a relic of Rye England—a marble cabinet console with mirror—decorated with blue glassware and family pictures. Flowering Dogwood wallpaper winds its way to the top of the curved staircase, and a German antique grandfather clock, a gift to Frank from his family, chimes throughout the house.
An enclosed sunporch showcases cement stones and a wall of windows, creating a nostalgic castle feel to the home. Daily used as an office, the generous space allows Cynthia to display her mothers’ well-loved piano. “I can’t part with it,” she says. Adding to the flow is a private balcony with wrought-iron railing and broken tile designed flooring, an original footprint to the home.
The formal living room is the largest room and holds generations of stories—stories that are sometimes recited during a casual card game at the game table. At the rooms center sets a red floral-patterned sofa, and a round cloth-covered end table. Topping the end table is a teapot—hand-painted by Cynthia’s grandmother, and Franks favorite picture of he and Cynthia—who he openly and often professes is the love of his life.
When the Downs’ aren’t cozied up indoors, they like to gather around the firepit in the courtyard, especially with their children and grandchildren. Akuba and Bonsai plants add greenery year-round, while flowering Zinnia, Verbena and Penta’s add color in spring. Not quite ready to bid farewell to winter, a sled stands in the courtyard, ready and waiting for Newberry’s first snowfall of the year.
Photographs by Ted B. Williams