Every house tells a story, and when a major renovation is part of the narrative, the tale can sometimes take a few dark twists and turns. Fortunately that proved to be anything but the case for a 1930s-era, Georgian-style beauty in Buckhead that underwent a yearlong makeover in the hands of architect William B. Litchfield and designer Jackye Lanham.
“Bill and I have worked together on a number of projects, including another house for these homeowners,” says Lanham. “We’re all at a point where we speak the same design language and can almost finish one another’s sentences.” That collegial spirit between architect and designer, along with clients who have sophisticated tastes and a deep interest in the process, resulted in a house with a dramatic—but practically drama-free—transformation.
“When the wife first saw the house from the outside, it spoke to her immediately, and it was in a neighborhood she loved,” says Lanham. Although it had been through prior renovations and updates, the floor plan needed some rearranging to fit the family’s needs. After an initial walk-through with Lanham and Litchfield, ideas quickly began to surface. “I’ve always believed that a house tells you what to do—what it needs or wants to be. You just have to listen,” says Litchfield. Here, good bones, generous proportions, and great natural light provided a solid story line. But the architect wanted to strengthen the house’s Georgian-style roots and take them in a more Regency direction, which meant, among other things, a face-lift for the front façade that included adding a portico with refined columns, and a rethinking of windows to make them more stylistically appropriate.
Inside, the design team plotted not only to “charm the house up,” as Litchfield says, but also to make significant changes that involved reconfiguring and ultimately relocating some rooms, including the kitchen, to create better connections between spaces so they would also relate more clearly to one another. “For instance, after you came into the entry, you walked through the dining room to get to the living areas, and that didn’t feel quite right to me,” says Litchfield. He designed an arcade with graceful columns to foster better circulation and moved the dining room off to the side, without boxing it in, to create a natural progression through the house on axis with the front door.
For Lanham, skillfully rendered architectural details allowed her to eloquently articulate her decorating point of view, one that feels light and airy but well grounded with comfortable upholstery and beautiful antiques. “The wife gravitates toward a look that is tailored but feminine, with soft colors and not too much pattern,” says the designer. Many of the furnishings came from the home Lanham decorated for the couple before this one, a larger house with much bolder European influences. “We still loved those things, and it wasn’t like we needed to start from scratch. The challenge was making some of it fit in this environment,” she says.
Lanham didn’t hesitate to get creative. Among the things she hated to leave behind from the former house were curtains that had been made up with a striking woven pattern. “It was killing me that we were going to abandon them, so we took them apart and upholstered the walls in the dining room. I call it my bit of a Scarlett O’Hara moment,” she says.
That fictional character’s ability to give window dressing a whole new meaning is perhaps an apt metaphor. Indeed, with its sensitive renovation and stylish decoration, Lanham and Litchfield have written the next chapter for this house, too, one with a satisfying—and thoroughly classic—ending.
INTERIOR DESIGN Jackye Lanham, Jacquelynne P Lanham & Associates. (404) 364-0472; jackyelanham.com. ARCHITECT William B. Litchfield, William B. Litchfield Residential Designs, Inc. (404) 467-4600; litchfielddesigns.com.