Interior designer Sara Steinfeld worked closely with architects Brian Bell and David Yocum, a good fit as all three are well-versed in contemporary design.
The newly raised kitchen, now level with the pool outdoors, starts the stair-stepping in the new addition that goes all the way to a roof deck. “From the roof, the view is just stunning,” says architect Brian Bell. “You’re looking around Ansley Park, you’re in the trees and you’ve got the Midtown skyscrapers above you.” Landscape design by Planters.
What was originally two separate spaces is now one long living room and, at one end, comfy armchairs circle in front of one of the room’s two fireplaces. The wall above is void of artwork but that’s just fine with Steinfeld, who would rather leave it bare until the perfect piece is found. Besides, she says, it allows you to thoroughly appreciate the luster of the Venetian plaster. Chairs, Cameron Collection through Ainsworth-Noah & Associates. Rug, Moattar Ltd.
In the foyer, an antique Chinese chest from Parc Monceau teams up with a custom mirror and hand-blown glass vase, providing a hint as to the traditional-meets-contemporary interiors that lie beyond.
A traditional table is juxtaposed with contemporary artwork, the diversity increasing the impact of each.
When closed, tall-and-narrow ventilation openings in the new family room all but disappear into the siding but, when open, not only provide fresh air but also an audible link to the outdoors.
The traditional facade of this Ansley Park home all but completely conceals its predominantly glass addition.
An angled fireplace at the far end of the living room was uncovered during demolition. Its subtle surround doesn’t compete in the least with the room’s carefully edited furnishings, from the clean-lined Donghia sofa and slipper chairs to the more ornate Chinese chests and French desk and armchairs. The custom Ironies cocktail table features a quartzite top from Walker Zanger.
Steinfeld and the architects designed a sleek buffet with a sink, which can double as a convenient ice bucket or chiller for wine and Champagne. Above the buffet, the frame-like moldings existed, but she replaced their cream-colored interiors with antiqued mirror panels.
“I saw this wall covering and told the homeowner that she had to keep it,” says Steinfeld. “It’s so special and I knew we could modernize it.” The clients’ own dining chairs now team up with antique host and hostess chairs, all tied together with the same watery blue hue. Above the McGuire table, the designer used Holly Hunt light fixtures that have an Asian influence. “If we start out traditional in a room, I want to put in something contemporary,” Steinfeld says, “and if we start out contemporary, I want to put in something traditional.” Drapery fabric, Great Plains silk through Jerry Pair.
This vantage point in the kitchen offers one of the best interior views of the new addition. It’s designed as a series of split-levels, each spiraling around a new central staircase. The stairs, with no visible stringers, culminate at a roof deck with a breathtaking view.
Glass curtain-walls soar in the two-story kitchen, blurring the boundaries between indoors and out. Steinfeld intentionally chose the custom plank table from Hudson Furniture in New York to complement the linear architectural elements. “Everything was so straight; I felt we needed something more organic,” she says. Around the table, Knoll chairs are covered in mohair that matches the blue used in the dining room, so they can be pulled in for extra seating, as needed. The large artwork is by James Way, who is represented by Mason Murer Fine Art.
The owners wanted the den to have the feeling of a dark library—no surprise considering their love of books. “We used darker stone and gave the space a more organic feeling,” says Steinfeld. “But plenty of light still comes in from the nearby side door, because it’s all glass.”
Cantilevered over the den, the glass-encased guest room is suspended from steel tension rods. Much of the room’s appeal lies in the fact that there’s a clear view to the kitchen and the backyard beyond. But, come nighttime, curtains can be pulled to provide complete privacy.
The same opposites-attract theory that’s evident throughout this traditional-meets-modern home is echoed in the kitchen, where stainless steel and walnut surfaces co-exist beautifully.
In the new addition, a carbon steel core creates a fireplace wall in the family room, accommodating the TV as well as built-in bookshelves, then continues up to the roof deck where it gives rise to an outdoor fireplace.
A close-up view of the master bedroom’s sitting area proves how striking a monochromatic scheme can be.
Located in the original portion of the house, the master bedroom stretches the entire length. That allows plenty of light into the space, streaming in from two sets of French doors as well as windows on either side of the limestone fireplace.
An antique French desk from Parc Monceau gets paired up with a linen-slipcovered chair with a more straightforward silhouette.
A metal tub in the master bath, an import from Europe, not only retains heat well; visually, its graceful lines balance the room’s more hard-edged elements.
Providing design continuity, the countertop in the master bath is crafted of the same limestone used on the fireplace of the adjacent bedroom. Plumbing fixtures by Dornbracht.
It all started innocently enough. The owners of this Ansley Park home needed an architect’s expertise to help rethink a window in their too-dark kitchen. They contacted Atlanta’s Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects who, in turn, recommended two of their former employees—Brian Bell and David Yocum, formerly senior project architects with the firm, whom had since moved on to start their own company, bldgs.
“The original kitchen was four feet below the exterior grade,” recalls Yocum. “Also, there was an addition done in the ’80s—which was the footprint for our work—but there wasn’t a clear path from the back of the house on the lower level up to the back of the house on the upper level. The staircase [in the original house] was the only way; it didn’t make any sense. But the reason the kitchen felt ‘buried’ was that, after the addition was done, someone came along and put the pool in, and they backed it right up against the house. It blocked a lot of light.
“The owners said they had some ideas, but wanted to see what we could come up with, too. And we decided the problem was the whole back half of the house.”
The homeowners knew that the architects’ work was consistently contemporary; Bell and Yocum typically use a lot of glass and non-standard materials, things common in commercial settings but not necessarily residential. But even though the clients had always lived in old houses, the complete departure in terms of style was a non-issue. “They were very interested in contemporary art and contemporary architecture and contemporary furnishings,” says Yocum, “so it wasn’t like we were pushing against a door that wasn’t already open.”
The architects took some of their first design cues from the fact that the owners are very fond of the nearby Midtown skyline. Yocum and Bell also knew their clients were interested in a visual connection to the back yard, something not as enclosed—nor as traditional—as the existing addition. “The original scheme we came up with was almost all glass in the back,” says Yocum. “We priced that but it was a little too far over the budget. So we scaled it back, redistributing the relationship of glass and wall, and made the project a little smaller.”
Just as they were getting up to speed with an interior designer, the architects happened to see the home of Sara Steinfeld—a designer herself and, coincidentally, the clients’ neighbor. “The decorator we were working with just didn’t feel right,” says Yocum, “so we suggested that they talk to Sara.” In another twist of fate, their clients happened to see Steinfeld’s own home at about the same time, finding that she’d done the same kind of thing that they were planning—make an old house a little more contemporary. Their like-minds were a perfect match.
With that, the design team was in place. “The choice of interior furnishings and colors was important; it had to be something that would highlight the difference between old and new but not be too abrupt,” says Yocum.
“And it couldn’t be too stark,” chimes in Steinfeld. “I think that was [the client’s] fear of contemporary, that it wouldn’t be comfortable. For example, they’re avid readers; you’ll see that throughout the house. They wanted a spot in every single room to be able to read—and to have the right light to read.”
So with her keen eye for editing—choosing which furnishings from the old house should go and which ones could stay—and her deft hand at mixing traditional and contemporary pieces, Steinfeld created interiors perfectly suited to this couple’s lifestyle.
“They had some wonderful antiques, like the Chinese chest in the front entryway,” says Steinfeld. “They were so excited that I chose to put it in the foyer, building off of it with a custom mirror and that sort of thing. This is what I love, mixing good antiques with more contemporary pieces.”
To call the finished project a success is a vast understatement. But neither Steinfeld nor the architects are willing to take all the credit. “The great thing about the owners is that they can operate at a very high level of discussion, conceptually, but they’re also able to make a decision; they’re executives. And they’re also very trusting,” says Yocum. “They were incredible visionaries in the way they helped us make decisions, but they inspired us, too.
ARCHITECTURE Brian Bell, AIA and David Yocum, AIA, bldgs, 786 Murphy Ave.
Atlanta 30310, (404) 758-0466; bldgs.org
INTERIOR DESIGN Sara Steinfeld, Sara Steinfeld Ltd., (404) 213-7415; firstname.lastname@example.org
CONTRACTOR Brownlow & Sons Co., (770) 977-8484; brownlowandsons.com
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE Jeremy R. Smearman, Planters, (404) 261-6002; plantersgarden.com
STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Palmer Engineering Company, pecga.com
MECHANICAL ENGINEER Minick Engineering, minickengineering.com
LIGHTING DESIGN Gabler-Youngston, gableryoungston.com
CUSTOM CABINET MAKERS Bill Thomsen, Thomsen Ltd., (404) 607-0808; thomsenltd.com
DRAPERY R. Hopkins & Co., (404) 351-6441
FLORAL DESIGN Mark and Scott, (404) 841-4890; markandscott.com