After five years of living the high life in the Sovereign—a towering residence that soars over the Buckhead skyline—Kevin and Lee Kleinhelter discovered that the grass might just be greener in Brookwood Hills thanks to its picturesque, tree-lined streets, charming homes and a much-anticipated yard.
The couple owned a rental home in the neighborhood for years, intending to one day build their personal manifesto on the spacious lot. This year, the pair turned their dream into a reality, replacing the dated duplex with a modern manor that plants a fresh, contemporary face to the street—without uprooting the storied neighborhood’s traditional feel.
And, where many find it hard to stay grounded when creating a home from the ground up, this wasn’t the first rodeo for this design-minded couple. As the founder of K2 Construction, Kevin specializes in custom homes and renovations; Lee is a nationally renowned interior designer and owner of Pieces, the acclaimed Buckhead interiors boutique. After decades of employing their impeccable skill sets to patrons across the country, the couple became clients of their own for the project of a lifetime.
Lee—famed for her modern styling and attention to rare and interesting details—sought to incorporate industrial and coastal elements into the project to create a Dutch meets West Indies–style façade with the help of talented friend and famed architect Yong Pak of Pak Heydt and Associates. The resulting exterior seamlessly transitions into a 4,160-square-foot contemporary interior that treats its lush, treetop surroundings like a cocooning living room.
Natural light pours into painstakingly edited rooms that are grounded with a classic black, white, and gold palette, midcentury vintage touches and small surprises that make huge statements. Here, Lee reveals a closer look into their highly personal dwelling.
AH&L: We love the way the lush landscape of the neighborhood peaks through the house at every corner.
Lee Kleinhelter: It feels like we live in a tree house with all our windows. It’s amazing to be in the city but feel like you’re in the mountains. K2 Construction created custom iron windows made with modern mullions so we’d get the full view of the nature preserve that’s behind our property but looks like our backyard.
What was your overarching vision?
We’re fortunate to design a house that tells the same story outside and inside. There is a circular theme that flows through the home, starting with arching windows on the façade and custom round cement pavers that lead to the front door, and then with mirrored globe pendants that hang in the stairwell’s front window that continue to tell the story from the inside out.
After years of designing picture-perfect homes for your own clients, did you find it tough to know where to begin? did you ever go against your own grain?
Our initial color palette was black, white and gold. I first selected the black grasscloth that lines the walls of the main level, striped Missoni carpet for the stairs, and a mix of new and vintage pieces to keep things interesting. While black, white and gold was the base throughout the house, I carefully selected interesting fabrics and finishes to keep each space unique. But not every room is completely black and white—[my son] Holden picked orange for his room, and the guest room pops with bright yellow. The key is to not have a formula and know when to stop. Editing is everything.
What’s your favorite architectural detail?
The most interesting material used in the house is the burnt wall in the living room. I saw this used in a Japanese restaurant and knew it had to be incorporated in the house. A special process chars the wood to give it the blackest color and layered texture. The Japanese used this as a natural way to keep bugs out of their home. It’s fascinating and certainly the conversation piece. It was also the perfect horizontal line we needed for the oversize long gas fireplace on the same wall. It perfectly tied in the play on textures and woods.
Speaking of texture and wood, the kitchen is an impressive mix of style and efficiency.
I don’t like clutter or waste, so it was essential to utilize every space in the house in an organized way. The kitchen cabinets inset seamlessly into the walls, creating a streamlined aesthetic with tons of hidden storage. We chose a black-and-white real wood veneer for the face of the cabinets, with custom Lucite and brass hardware. Some people have lovely paintings, but I obsess over interesting textures and hardware—this is art to us.
As the owner of pieces, did you come across any rare finds that just had to find their way into your house?
I am lucky to have amazing vintage resources as the owner of Pieces. However, this does not mean it is always easy to find what you’re hunting for—even for your own home. I fell in love with a pair of vintage Lucite and brass bar stools that were perfect for the kitchen island; unfortunately, I needed four. My design team at Pieces hunted for weeks to find two more. The stools are now one of my favorite pieces in the house. They tell a story and are truly a vintage find.
What was your strategy when shopping vintage for your own home?
Sometimes I know exactly what I am looking for and other times I stumble across something supercool and build the look around it. For instance, I found amazing vintage hardware that I used for the master bathroom and Lucite knobs for Madison’s bathroom. However, it’s not just about finding stuff; it’s about how to edit and knowing when to stop.
Tell us about the rock climbing area above Holden’s room. Was this a special request?
Kevin’s great at space planning and brainstorming these ideas with clients. It’s fun to always ask, ‘Why can’t we use this space?’ or ‘How can we use this in a different way?’ We tried with this project to think outside the box. We had a large ‘bonus’ space over Holden’s bunk beds, so we turned it into a climbing room. I wanted to create a space that’s fun and active for friends to come over and use. It’s actually been fun for all ages.
ARCHITECTURE Yong Pak, Pak Heydt and Associates, 600 Virginia Ave NE, Atlanta, GA. (404) 231-3195; pakheydt.com. Kevin Kleinhelter, K2 Construction, 2870 Peachtree Road #113, Atlanta, GA. k2atlanta.com. INTERIOR DESIGN Lee Kleinhelter, Pieces, 3234-A Roswell Road, NW, Atlanta, GA. (404) 869-2476; piecesinc.com.