Say “spec house” and you might think “cookie cutter”—a residence that looks like every other house on the street. But architect D. Stanley Dixon took the concept and turned it on its ear, creating something so spectacular it’s already been given the prestigious Shutze Award.
“I was hired by [developer] John Mears, who bought the land, to design a custom house to be resold,” Dixon explains. “And John gave me free reign to do whatever I wanted.”
Those two little words—”free reign”—were music to the architect’s ears. And, for his part, Mears knew precisely what he was doing. “I try to create custom homes on a speculative basis, to deliver a perfectly done jewel box for the high-end client,” says Mears, president of Rivers Residential. “I’ve done 10 or 12 projects with Stan. We have such great chemistry; there’s always a terriﬁc exchange of thoughts and opinions.”
“I designed it as I would want to design a house for myself. It was fun to play out what has really inspired me as an architect—classic, timeless design with a clean aesthetic,” says Dixon. “The lot was interesting because it was in an in-town neighborhood full of gorgeous homes that are very eclectic in style. Some are French, some English, some Georgian; there’s just a little bit of everything. Instead of designing to a particular style of the street, I was mostly interested in how it related to the street in scale and proportion.
“While maintaining gracious 12-foot ceiling heights on the main level, we kept the roof line simple and lowered the eves at the second story to keep in scale with the neighborhood. Keeping the form of the house simple but very well-proportioned was key to making it blend. Yet, it has its own personality, character and deﬁning style.”
The strength of this residence lies not only in its simplicity but also in its straightforward approach. “We designed the driveway so it was very axial,” Dixon explains. “As you turn off the street, you’re right on center with the front door. And that axis goes all the way through the house to the swimming pool and the pavilion beyond.”
Playing off that main axis, the layout of the house is symmetrical. “I paid a lot of attention to visual corridors,” says Dixon, “so that when you look down an axis something receives you. That something ranges from a wall for art, a framed view of the gardens beyond or an architectural detail such as a ﬁreplace. There aren’t a lot of rooms; they’re just well-proportioned with an easy ﬂow.”
Interior elements, too, were chosen as if the architect were his own client. “The ﬁnishes of the house consist of painted boards, plaster and limed beams with a restrained amount of trim. This simplicity is often harder to accomplish because you can’t hide behind trim work and molding; the proportion and scale of each room, combined with the quality of light, becomes the focus. We thickened a lot of walls. The front façade of the house was 12 inches thick so the windows and doors sit deep, giving a lot of shadow and depth. We also thickened a lot of the interior walls so, when you’re walking from one room to another, you get a sense of depth and substance.”
The ﬁnished residence drew high praise, not only from the architectural community but also interior designers like Betty Burgess. As it happened, she’d just been retained by Derek Lowe; the Atlanta Braves pitcher and his wife, Carolyn, were searching for a home in their newly-adopted city. “They’d narrowed their search down to two homes when Carolyn brought me on board,” Burgess recalls. “And I was rooting for this house.”
Derek had signed with the Braves in January 2009, and the couple bought the house one month later. But, for Burgess’ part, there was a catch: The interior design had to be completed in time for the Lowes to move in by Opening Day in April.
“We did the whole house in two months. I’ve never worked so hard in my life!” she recalls. What Burgess did have going for her, though, was Dixon’s impeccable design. Plus, her new client had complete faith in the designer.
“Carolyn saw nothing in the house before they moved in,” says Burgess. “In fact, during my ﬁrst interview with her I asked what colors she liked and she said ‘I could tell you but I don’t want to inﬂuence what you want to do.’ But I did discover that she really does like red and that started the wheels turning; I did red and blue accents throughout the main areas.”
The Lowes also didn’t want the house to feel too contemporary, but that played right into the designer’s signature style. “I worked for Dan Carithers until 2004; he taught me the fundamentals of traditional design,” Burgess says. “Since going out on my own, I’ve taken that knowledge and translated it into my own vision. My style would probably still be best described as traditional; it has classical anchors with unexpected surprises thrown in. And art is my passion. I like to mix traditional with modern, and mix media, too.”
The entry to this residence is oval-shaped, a clue to a recurring architectural theme throughout; there is, for instance, an oval-shaped window in the powder room as well as oval transoms over interior doors. Portiere curtains provide privacy, given the glass front door, and lend softness as you go from the foyer to the living room. “That’s something that Betty and I brainstormed on together,” says Dixon. “When the Lowes bought the house, she and I sat down together and went through some big-concept ideas.”
To the right of the foyer is the paneled study. “It’s the darkest room in the house,” says Burgess, “so whatever I used there had to pop. Once I saw the color of the wood, I knew that ‘pop’ had to be royal blue velvet.” Across the hall, the designer’s deft hand for mixing things up is at once evident; an oh-so-modern chandelier is right at home with much more traditional chairs from Belgium and a French enﬁlade.
In the living room, two furniture groupings are beautifully balanced; one is formal and the other casual, one is decked out in velvet while the other’s in linen. To take full advantage of the impressive courtyard view, Burgess decided to mirror the room’s entire back wall—three days before the Lowes were set to move in. The last-minute change of plans was well worth it, though; that single decorating decision effectively doubled the drama.
But if there’s one room that perhaps best illustrates the synergy of this architect and designer, it’s the kitchen. Dixon mixed Belgian inﬂuences with French while Burgess juxtaposed an 18th-century French farm table with patent leather-upholstered bar stools. Dixon created a “secret” pantry that’s accessed by punching through doors that appear to be tall cabinets. And Burgess provided a surprise of her own, using the end caps of propane tanks to fashion over-the-island lighting.
Make no mistake: These two design pros, at the top of their games, have hit a home run for the Lowes.
INTERIOR DESIGN Betty Burgess, Betty Burgess Design, 3209 Paces Ferry Pl. NW, Atlanta 30305. (404) 841-7707 ARCHITECTURE D. Stanley Dixon, D. Stanley Dixon Architect, 2300 Peachtree St., Suite C-101, Atlanta 30309. (404) 574-1430; dsdixonarchitect.com DEVELOPER John B. Mears, Rivers Residential LLC, 2300 Peachtree Rd., Suite C-101, Atlanta 30309. (404) 574-1433 TILE FLOORS AND LIMESTONE MANTELS Materials Marketing OIL PAINTING by Charles Wiggins BERGERE CHAIRS 19th-century covered in “Charcoal City Stripe” by Lee Jofa COFFEE TABLE Mid-century Chinoiserie STEEL WINDOWS IN LIVING ROOM Rod Gibson DRAPERIES “Nun’s Veiling” by Gretchen Bellinger SOFA TABLES Bradley-Hughes SOFAS Bradley-Hughes PHARMACY FLOOR LAMPS Circa Lighting CHANDELIERS 19th-century French from Parc Monceau DOORS 19th-century French from Architectural Accents VINTAGE SWIVEL CHAIRS Francis Wedthoff Carpentry CONVEX MIRROR Custom through Paul+Raulet BENCHES 19th-century French through Riviera Antiques BLUE SOFA PILLOWS “Indigo” by Lee Jofa INDIAN STOOLS BD Jeffries RED SOFA Covered in red velvet from Kravet SILK SOFA PILLOWS Covered in Kohli silk BARSTOOLS Terra Cottage CUSHIONS Glant black patent leather and Tessuti Uno red patent leather ANTIQUE LADDER Flea market find CHALKBOARD Custom by Francis Wedthoff Carpentry FARM TABLE 18th-century oak from Provenance Antiques BREAKFAST CHAIRS Early 20th-century American CUSHIONS Covered in black-and-white ticking stripe by Lewis & Sheron CANDLESTICK Neiman Marcus CLOCK 19th-century French from Parc Monceau CHANDELIER “Lumiere” by Jean De Merry OIL PAINTING Kenson Thompson through Betty Burgess Design DINING TABLE Bradley-Hughes DINING CHAIRS 19th-century Belgian with original leather, covered in fabric by Rogers & Goffigan MOHAIR GIZZEL CHAIR Bradley-Hughes SILK DRAPERIES Silk Trading Co. PILLOW Marvic Safari RHINOCULOUS FLOWERS designed by Betty Burgess, supplied by Cut Flower Wholesale WALLPAPER “Flowering Quince” by Clarence House BENCH “Flowering Quince” by Clarence House ANTIQUE ENGLISH TOLE PLANTER Parc Monceau ARM CHAIRS 19th-century French covered in Manuel Canovas “Lafayette” fabric ANTIQUE LOUIS VUITTON TRUNK Interiors Market DESK Mid-century burled walnut from Parc Monceau DESK CHAIR 19th-century French from Zimmer & Rhode DRAPERIES Clarence House METAL AWNING A&P Iron Designs, Lithia Springs TEAK FURNITURE “Picket” from Summit CUSHIONS Perennials PILLOWS Stanton Home Furnishings LAMPS Bungalow Classic IRON TABLES WITH LIMESTONE TOPS Millwright Inc. COFFEE TABLE 19-century French PORTIÈRES Perennials LOUNGE CHAIRS Richard Shultz through Summit HEADBOARD Designed by Betty Burgess and fabricated by Corn Upholstery BEDSIDE TABLE Design by Betty Burgess and fabricated by Paul+Raulet QUARTZ LAMP Betty Burgess Design INTAGLIO RELIEFS Framed by Fred Reed Picture Framing LINENS Susan Shepherd Interiors FAUX ANIMAL THROW Betty Burgess Design DRAPERIES “Vicenza” Hodsoll McKenzie SETTEE 19th-century French, upholstered in “Pullman” by Hodsoll McKenzie SLIPPER CHAIRS Bradley-Hughes, covered in Ulster Linen LUMBAR PILLOWS Fortuny PLEXIGLAS PEDESTALS Designed by Betty Burgess, fabricated by Custom Plastics TWO-WAY TV MIRROR Designed by Betty Burgess, framed by Fred Reed Picture Framing COFFEE TABLE Flea market find GARAGE DRAPERIES Sunbrella TABLE Designed by Betty Burgess, fabricated by Frank White DRIVE-THRU SIGN Flea market find