Blurred Lines

Cara Cummins and Jose Tavel of TaC studios fashion a southern twist on modern for a pair of art collectors in Ansley Park.

“To have a modern house doesn’t mean it can’t be a Southern house,” says architect Cara Cummins. When she and partner Jose Tavel, owners of TaC Studios, were first enlisted by a pair of art collecting homeowners to design and build a house on a prominent lot on Ansley Park, creating a structure that would also be a gracious neighbor was top of mind.

The site, previously home to an apartment building that had burned down in the 2000s, had left buried debris and other materials on the half-acre site. When Cummins and Tavel first walked the site and the neighborhood—the initial step in a 16-month design and construction process—the architects discovered that they could engage the existing Deodar cedar and magnolia trees and use materials, terraces, porches and garden walls to keep the modern home from looking like it “landed from outer space,” Cummins says.

Utilizing granite and limestone, wrap-around terraces on two levels and the guidance of landscape architect Jeremy Smearman of Planters all served to soften the approach from the street. “We didn’t want to have this huge, hulking façade,” she says. “We wanted to create a slow-appearing house from the street. We wanted it to settle in and be a good neighbor.” It was a fresh opportunity for the homeowners, who were moving from the suburbs and desired a home that would not only would age gracefully in the historic neighborhood, but also marry the indoors with the outdoors.

Also important: creating gallery-like spaces for the homeowner’s extensive and diverse art collection. Early on, the architects reviewed more than 60 pieces in the couple’s art collection, including a historically significant collection of lithographs, photographs, paintings and sculpture by Bryan Hunt, Afruz Amighi, Karin Davie and Ross Bleckner, to make sure wall space and niches would adequately display and protect the pieces.

Adding to the home’s one-of-a-kind appeal is furniture handcrafted by a local artisan using wood harvested from a dying pecan tree and a red oak previously on site. Pieces such as the master bedroom headboard and nightstands, floating built-ins in the second-floor office/guest room, a vanity and even accessories, from wood-turned bowls to cutting boards, received a showstopping second life.

Marrying the modern property to its Midtown location—which includes scenic city views from the tree-lined property—required deft maneuvering. Putting elements in place to keep the views intact required exacting precision, so TaC Studios enlisted The Garrett Group to lead the construction.

The resulting sliding glass walls and pocket doors blur the boundaries between the indoors and out on both levels, joining rooms to each other and to spacious, tree-lined outdoor spaces. In addition to entertaining often, the homeowners’ four grown children still gather at their parent’s new urban abode, so the main-level outdoor space includes a kitchen, dining area and lap pool—in addition to a front porch positioned high enough to take in skyline views through the property’s trees.

Keeping in mind that the homeowners would look down on the flat roof above the gym from their second-level balcony, Cummins and Tavel engaged Live Roof to install a green roof, which joins a geothermal system and high-performance windows as sustainable additions to the home.

The homeowners, who have embraced the Southern twist on modern, enjoy the hospitality the indoor-outdoor connection affords. “Most of the time when the clients are at home, there’s no use for doors,” says Cummins.