Blake Walker-Mercure and Marc Sanchez-Mercure take pride in being different from the typical suburban couple. Their home celebrates their passion for Egyptian and Greco-Roman mythology popular during the Napoleonic era in early 19th century France, known as French Empire I.
The couple’s love affair with this style began with their engagement about 11 years ago. Each room of their 5-bedroom/4½ -bathroom Governors Club home is curated to create a vignette of Hellenistic themes with Egyptian references punctuated by a bold color palette.
“One of the things we noticed as we got invited into many homes is that there’s always a deep similarity, even in the color,” Blake says. “A lot of interiors are yellow. And, when we bought our home, that’s one of the first things we started to rework. We use very shocking colors to some people. For example, I’m sitting right now in one of the front rooms, and it [has] a vaulted ceiling. It was chalk white when we moved in, but the walls were red. So, we said, ‘What’s up with that?’ We made the room white, which says boring, but the ceiling is a punchy tangerine orange. When people come [over], they say, ‘I would’ve never thought to have done that, to put color on the ceiling versus the walls.’
“We just do very different things. We’ve definitely marched to our own beat, and we’re always getting ideas,” Blake says. “It could be a small idea, and we’ll scale it up into a whole room, or we might get a big idea and figure out a way to scale it down that will work for our space.”
Before the pandemic forced a global quarantine, the pair would visit Paris about twice a year to explore local shopping districts filled with antiquities instead of tourists.
“We’re always looking for objects of the past and trying to figure out a way to use [them] in a new way, or to use [them] in a way that won’t look so stodgy,” Blake says. “We strive to use objects of the past without being stuck in convention.”
Blake’s flair for saving all the drama in a single point of focus is unmistakable. Step inside the entry hall of their immaculate 5,283-square-foot home, and no visitor can resist a closer look at a unique portrait of a temple priest for Serapis, a composite deity of Osiris, lord of the underworld, and Apis, god of fertility.
Blake and Marc commissioned Molly B. Right, a Charleston, South Carolina-based artist, to create a 45-by-60-inch mosaic of thousands of flattened bottle caps.
“And she nailed it,” Blake says. “She did a wonderful job. It’s a monumental size because bottle caps kind of forced large scale.”
Marc draws attention to the artist’s humor hidden amid the piece, like the 7UP bottle caps that form the seven-pointed star in the crown, and one special reference: “There’s just one pyramid in the whole piece,” he says, pointing to a single cap with the iconic shape.
Marc, who is a federal regulatory attorney, grew up in Cubero, New Mexico, a remote desert patch off of old Route 66. He was 16 years old when he first traveled outside the U.S. with his high school class to another desert in Egypt. Marc describes a surreal experience.
“The scale of the monuments is immense,” he says. “Whether crawling inside the Great Pyramids or passing through towering pylons, the grand architecture left me in awe. To see amazing monuments and artifacts that had only been facts in books is a life-changing experience. It struck me then, and still today, what myths of progression modern society cloaks itself in. The ancient Egyptians were sophisticated and brilliant, and no amount of sand or age could hide that. Technology, religion and norms have changed – the bustling streets and alleys of Cairo made that clear – but so much stays the same.”
Marc and Blake find inventive ways to interpret antiquities in modern times. One example is a pair of custom-made, oversized portraits that flank the family room fireplace.
“The cropped perspective was intended to inject modernity into two classical portraits,” Blake says of the paintings of Willem van Vyve and Pope Gregory XIII’s son Giacomo Boncompagni.
Blake says all the interior designs are their own but credit for the work belongs to a long list of North Carolina furniture makers and contractors, which include Lee Industries, Southern, Hickory Chair, Baker and Wesley Hall. Remodeled in 2019, the kitchen’s custom cabinetry was done by Woodmaster Custom Cabinets of Youngsville, North Carolina. The stone was all sourced, cut and installed by Urban Granite.
Other recent renovations include a hospital-grade air filtration system with humidity control and installation of appliances by Thermador, Monogram and Bosch, with finishes by Waterstone.
“While sheltering in place this summer, we have taken the time to create and execute some energetic designs in the home,” Blake says. “Marc is the green thumb, and I am the design maker. Together, we spend a lot of time breaking the suburban rules in the house and garden.”
Marc has a large collection of potted plants – at least 100 of them – outside. When they moved from Portland, Oregon, in 2017, the couple installed 280 boxwoods and herbaceous borders along with 115 hydrangeas. To avoid using chemical fertilizers in their yard, Marc and Blake replaced the backyard grass with a European fountain as a focal point of their stone patio, where they take their meals and cocktails.
They feel connected with nature when the afternoon sunlight filters through a 25-foot wall of windows and fills the open space of the main living room that flows directly into the kitchen, bar and breakfast area.
“This house specifically had the architecture in terms of what we wanted – a lot of light and windows,” Blake says. “We wanted to really see as much nature as we could. There’s not one room without windows. It really kind of looks like we’re in the mountains. We can always feel connected to the trees outside. That was really important for us.”
Inside, reminders of the natural world are on the feet of furniture, (think lion paws), bronze statues and among a collection of crystals. But it’s the numerous stone and glass obelisks that link Egyptian influences on Napoleonic stylings.
Guests are treated with a collection of luxury brand Hermès soaps and fragrances in the half bath on the main floor. A winged Mercury graces a marble-topped circular table with gilded wings in a well-appointed office upstairs. A blue painting of Hermès anchors the corner where Marc usually works. In nearly every room of the three-level home, there are references to Hermès, the Greek messenger god, who is also known by his Roman name, Mercury.
The Greco-Roman deity unites Marc and Blake in another way – their chosen surname, Mercure.
“Mercure chose us,” Marc says. “Its origin goes all the way back to the classical world when families had household patron gods. For us, the god Mercury/Hermès is the symbol of learning, scholarship, transformation, communication and commerce. Mercury also is a cultural crossroad shared by the people of Greece, Rome and Egypt. We see ourselves in that cultural intersection and feel that we are children of the world and a bigger fabric that is the human race.”