Text: Lauren Gentry Walker
Photography: Emily Jenkins Followill
In 1921, a cedar shake Colonial Revival home was designed and brought to life by the prominent Atlanta architect Neel Reid. The home was built for then-Georgia governor, Hugh M. Dorsey and, during its early years, included a horse barn in the backyard and cows that would graze up and down the avenue.
The house changed ownership several times before the current homeowners acquired it in 2005. Adamant about keeping the home as historically accurate as possible, the couple continued their restoration journey by hiring architect C. Brandon Ingram (@cbrandoningram) to draw up the plans and builder Liz Davies of ESD Homes to execute them. The owners also discovered several original fireplaces that had been bricked over and began working to restore those as well. An expert examination proved that the home has a total of nine fireplaces, but only five have been found.
Ingram’s plans for the home included the finishing of the attic with a workout room, living room and office. On the second floor, the master bedroom was moved to the old sleeping porch, and a fourth full bathroom was added to service one of the guest rooms.
A walk-in closet was added to the master bedroom, and two other bathrooms were completely rehabilitated. Downstairs, the kitchen was returned to its original historic design by creating a scullery and butler’s pantry, and a china closet was added in the dining room. While the preservation of the home’s history and character remained the priority for its owners, they still needed it to be functional and practical for their daily needs.
“I LOVE HOW THIS HOME HAS A DEEP HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE, AND THE DESIGN TEAM IS SO PASSIONATE ABOUT ARCHITECTURE, HISTORY, AND PRESERVATION”
–NINA NASH LONG
Enter design duo Nina Nash Long and Don Easterling of Mathews Design Group (@mathewsatl) in Atlanta. Once it was discovered that the home was a Neel Reid, Ingram knew they were perfect for the project. Both Ingram and Easterling remain devoted fans of Reid’s work and have spent years researching and studying his designs.
Their passion for the history, combined with Long’s talent for selecting proper and beautiful furnishings and finishes, made the three an ideal team. “So many fabulous old homes in Atlanta are simply torn down, and their history is lost forever,” says Long. “This wasn’t the path for this home, and it’s story is so special; this house has soul.”
Each room in the home included original elements that Long and Easterling took special care to complement. “It was such an honor to be a part of this special house,” says Easterling.
“Neel Reid was often called the ‘Master of Scale,’ and he certainly did not disappoint with this one.” Since the wife is British, the designers also prioritized intertwining English touches throughout the decor while highlighting its fascinating history.
The family room, for example, was an old addition to the house dating back to 1935. The owners at that time were moving from Massachusetts to Atlanta and had purchased a chestnut-paneled library from a homeowner in New England. They then shipped the library and its hand-carved plaster ceiling piece by piece to Atlanta via railway.
It was then reconstructed in its entirety and incorporated into the home as the family room. “I love how this home has a deep historic significance, and the design team is so passionate about architecture, history, and preservation,” says Long. “These things were of the utmost importance to us during this entire process. Nothing was left to chance, and we always asked ourselves, ‘What would Neel Reid do?’”