Designer Carter Kay Gives 1940s Craftsman a Fresh Start

For clients with a love of history, art, and antiques, Atlanta designer Carter Kay fashioned a bungalow not only to house their collections but also to host family and friends.

In the bedroom, an 18th-century English chest, mid-century bedside tables and lamps, antique Spanish library table, and Regency drinks table all live together harmoniously. In the wife’s bathroom, a glossy wallpaper imitates the look of lacquer. The mullioned windows over the tub add Craftsman charm to the space.

Text: Lydia Somerville
Photos: Emily Jenkins Followill

Our clients wanted a house convenient to friends and with enough room for entertaining inside and out, as well as bedrooms for their growing family of grandchildren,” says designer Carter Kay. Empty nesters eager for change, the couple found a 1940s Craftsman bungalow that offered the perfect setting for their next phase of life. Nestled in the Garden Hills neighborhood, the house boasted old heart pine floors, plaster walls, and the smaller, defined rooms of a previous era. Kay, who’d worked with the couple on their previous house, took on the challenge to reimagine uses for cherished pieces and give their new home a bright, fresh look.

Fresh Start

In the living room, a bowl by renowned woodworker Ed Moulthrop takes center stage on a table surrounded by books reflecting the owners’ interests. “They use this space for discussions on art, history, and religion,” says Kay, “like a Parisian salon.”

Fresh Start

Above the fireplace, a Federal style mirror is flanked by a pair of contemporary sconces in a carefree mix of old and new.

Fresh Start

The dining room’s impactful wallpaper was designed by Arkansas artisans to offer contrast to the living room’s cool mood. A glass-and-acrylic table surrounded by traditional chairs takes the formality down a notch, along with contemporary touches like the wall sconces.

Fresh Start

A curved cased opening frames the breakfast room and bar. Industrial metal notes in the shelving and light fixture lend an airiness to the kitchen. Kay used concrete for the kitchen counters, with leathered marble on the island.

Fresh Start

In the family room, a roughly striped rug is forgiving of spills. Orange swivel chairs add a pop of color and can turn toward the kitchen.

Fresh Start

In the wife’s bathroom, a glossy wallpaper imitates the look of lacquer. The mullioned windows over the tub add Craftsman charm to the space.

Avid collectors, the couple especially love the work of Ed Moulthrop, world-renowned woodturner. In the living room, a piece by Moulthrop takes pride of place on a library table, surrounded by books that reflect the owners’ passion for art and history. “Because they value antiques and love history, they like combining family heirlooms with current furniture and artifacts,” says Kay. A mixture of pretty antiques and contemporary notes, like the Federal-style mirror flanked by modern sconces, merge wide-ranging sensibilities in a timeless fashion. “The crystal chandelier and table were our clients’ first dining set, and we decided to put a fresh spin on them here,” says Kay.

In the dining room, the couple’s passions are on full display, with antique mirrors and French chairs mingled with a glass-and-acrylic table. The wall covering is notable for its vaguely ikat design and energizing effect. “Knowing we would need a concentrated jolt of color and pattern, we commissioned the paper from a company in Arkansas,” says Kay.

African elements add depth to the design. In the side entry, an African bench is covered in a fabric resembling a zebra stripe. “With the Persian rug, the disparate elements have fun playing with each other,” says Kay. In the family room, among the playful notes of vivid orange swivel chairs and ratchet arm benches, an African child’s chair lends a sculptural note to the arrangement. On display around the house are handmade baskets and textiles that speak to a well-traveled aesthetic, like the kitchen table runner, a geometric patterned cloth suggestive of a far-flung market find.

Elsewhere, Kay designed shallow shelving on the paneled landing to accommodate a collection of beer steins. In the kitchen, cabinetry features a niche to display Tadelakt pottery from Morocco. An enormous key suspended from the ceiling was a serendipitous find. “We knew the kitchen was missing something, even after all the planning and arranging of accessories,” says Kay. “My assistant, Nancy, found this key at a local flea market on installation day, and we realized it was the linchpin for the whole house.”

With the wide-ranging collections, dynamic mix of old and new, and timeless architectural detail, the house looks like it naturally evolved over time. But for the clients, seeing their beloved treasures in a fresh setting is a brand-new experience.