Text: Jeanne De Lathouder
Photos: John O’Hagan
Ingrained in the design industry with a sharp eye for style, an Atlanta couple knew they had unearthed a diamond in the rough when they fell in love with a property nestled quietly within the heart of Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood. Built as a 1950s Federal-style ranch that had undergone several renovations over the years, the home sits on a plush three-acre lot—pool included—in one of the city’s most desirable neighborhoods.
Coveted for its lush landscapes and towering trees, the setting deceivingly seems worlds away from Atlanta’s vibrant downtown scene. The owners, a family of four with two boys and two dogs, immediately saw the home’s potential and purchased it eight years before beginning their own plans for a complete overhaul. They took their ideas to Elle Cantrell, founder and lead interior designer of Elle Du Monde.
“When the clients came to us, they were ready to update the whole house and wanted to lighten the spaces throughout,” says Cantrell. “The owners’ suite was especially dark and did not function well. The footprint was a bit tight, leaving a small closet, and the house was also lacking a mudroom and connectivity between the main living room, dining area, and kitchen. As a designer, I believe that function is just as important as form, and I do not believe in adding unnecessary square footage.”
The owners agreed and handed Cantrell and her team the reins to rework the existing plans. They renovated the home’s interior and exterior, updating both to suit the clients’ tastes and needs. They added a 14-foot addition to the owners’ suite and completely reconfigured the space, allowing for pool views, loads of natural light, and two large walk-in closets. They also added five feet onto the existing powder and laundry room, which was reworked to make way for a side entry and mudroom. This was the only square footage added to the house, which now totals 4,200. To address the home’s lack of connectivity to outdoor living, they created a large porch that opens out from the sitting room and sunroom.
“The clients own a commercial furniture showroom, so both have an exceptional sense of style,” says Cantrell. “When I first met the wife, she told me her favorite color is white. The house had existing red oak flooring, which we carried through to all the additions. So, we challenged them to use a custom white stain as the basis for our palette, and they jumped at the idea. Next, we contrasted the predominantly white shell by infusing texture, stained woods, and charcoal limestone throughout.”
Because the homeowners had already acquired a beautiful collection of furnishings and art, Cantrell generated an inventory of their existing items. Her team reevaluated, rearranged, and reupholstered many of the pieces, layering in new furnishings, art, rugs, lighting, and other decorative accents to complete the design. She encouraged the owners to push outside their comfort zones with some contemporary lines and materials and sourced antiques in France and locally to round out the modern look.
The clients wanted an inviting yet striking interior suited for family get-togethers, entertaining, and everyday living. Cantrell’s utilization of performance fabrics allowed peace of mind without sacrificing style. Textural elements, such as wicker, sisal, and cowhide, help to create a laid-back environment ideal for life in the South. The crisp interiors provide the perfect backdrop for lush greenery, metallic accents, and mixed textures in the holiday décor. Cantrell draped fresh cedar garlands, introduced fresh-cut florals, and styled everything with pinecones and other organic embellishments.
“I believe a home should be a reflection of those who live in it, so it is important to incorporate personal touches in the design,” Cantrell says. “We mixed old with new and contrasted formal and casual elements. These juxtapositions are a direct reflection of Southern style.”
The couple loves that their home is now explicitly suited for their lifestyle and aesthetic. They spend most of their time between the kitchen and porch but utilize every room in the house. They enjoy entertaining small groups of friends, both sets of family, and hosting dinners.
“Our favorite aspect of this project is the relationship and trust we built with the family,” says Cantrell. “Their house has become quite an attraction, and they often have people stopping to take photos. They even had two strangers knock on their front door to ask about the design—both of whom are now our wonderful clients.”