Art of the Craft

Barbara Westbrook fashions a cosmopolitan pied-a-terre for a pair of fine arts loving clients high above Peachtree Road.

When it comes to Atlanta’s high-rise real estate, very few residential properties boast the kind of square footage—nor the 360-degree views—afforded by the full-floor residences at the Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta. Freshly built-out by architect Robert Tretsch of Harrison Design, this particular four-bedroom condominium, measuring more than 5,000 square feet (not counting a pair of terraces), was snapped up by interior designer Barbara Westbrook’s ultra-discerning clients as a chic, cosmopolitan home-away-from-home for a vibrant family with three young adult sons.

After falling for Westbrook’s timelessly tailored, subtle glamour—brought to life in the form of a decorated model unit on site—the wife interviewed (and promptly hired) the designer by phone to oversee the build-out and design of this sweeping Buckhead residence.

An artist in her own right, the wife, who has worked with a celebrated West Coast designer on previous residences, holds a genuine appreciation for craftsmanship and artisanship. “She understands that craft, whether you’re an interior designer or a painter, is how you make a living,” says Westbrook. “It’s not just a passion, but a livelihood, and we really honed in on that.”

To further foster that sense of respect, the wife looked to engage both Atlanta and Southern artists to enliven their lofty space, procuring a significant collection of sketches, silver-gelatin prints, photographs and sculpture from Radcliffe Bailey, Angela West, Brian Coleman, Todd Murphy, Maren Kloppman, Jack Spencer and the Moulthrop family, to name a few.

While Westbrook admits these investments were more intuitive than purchased with a particular space in mind, the unit’s architectural envelope—think rounded walls and vestibules, and ample hallways—provided a gallery-like backdrop for proud display.

To pay further tribute to the art of the craft, even the designer’s furniture selections were purchased with authenticity in mind. Pieces such as Caste’s rounded coffee table in the living room, whose hand-carved walnut base and Carrara-marble top make it difficult to budge, add a pleasing volume to the lofty space, while hand-blown glass pieces, such as the John Pomp pendants in the kitchen, and the seeded glass chandelier by Coup Studio in the breakfast room, create a truly bespoke feel.

Choosing pieces with power—a concept Westbrook learned early in her career at the hand of Atlanta design legend Nancy Braithwaite—was indeed of great importance in this project, to both the clients and the designer. Despite a predominantly neutral palette, the beauty of even the most voluminous, masculine-skewing elements—such as Jean de Merry’s ebonized Soho table with geometric base and antiqued mercury top, used as a bedside table in the master bedroom—feel feminine in form.        

To be fair, feminine details also abound in the unit, though primarily in the unit’s more private places. Westbrook Interiors project designer Elizabeth Hanson worked hand-in-hand with the architect and contractors to carve out a separate dressing area in the master suite for the wife. A custom, pencil-drawn pattern, rendered on a white glazed silk Fromental wallpaper, envelops the space, while a Powell & Bonnell dressing table and mirror up the glam factor. The formal powder room is also a visual feast, thanks to a large-scale Phillip Jeffries bloom, hand-painted in India ink on white manila hemp ground.

“Great thought went into each and every piece, even the simplest pieces,” Westbrook says. And, as expected, the clients’ enthusiasm also parlayed into the designer’s own work. “When we wrapped the project with the client, and a glass of wine, she told us she had the chicest apartment in Atlanta,” Westbrook smiles. Indeed. 

INTERIOR DESIGN Barbara Westbrook and Elizabeth Hanson, Westbrook Interiors. (404) 355-9430; ARCHITECT Robert Tretsch, Harrison Design. (404) 365-7760;