Bright Idea

Designers Carter Kay and Nancy Hooff use soft colors, clever arrangements and supple textures to make a sunny Buckhead abode feel larger than life.

When a Buckhead couple decided to downsize to a 1930s Garden Hills cottage, they wanted a home that would not only appear precious from the street, but also live luxuriously. It was a challenge approached with enthusiasm by designer Carter Kay, who had designed the family’s former home 20 years ago, and had recently worked on their Savannah retreat with design associate Nancy Hooff.

The empty-nesters are members of a passionate, art-collecting brood, and thus have a profusion of inherited and collected fine art. But with fewer blank walls to hang it upon, Kay and Hooff were pressed to get creative, consolidating the collection into a series of eye-catching galleries. In the living room, one of these galleries serves as the backdrop for an intimate seating nook, creating a layered and comfortable space that Kay likens to a French salon. The gallery also presides over an elegant arrangement of new upholstered pieces—a William Yeoward sofa, Nancy Corzine slipper chairs and a classic needlepoint chair, which are tempered by a sleek and thin acrylic coffee table.

In the dining room, Kay and Hoof were careful to create that telltale mix of traditional and modern, of old and new. Case in point: A gilded chandelier holds court over a glass-and-acrylic table surrounded by Smith Grubbs dining chairs, while a bank of metal windows is punctuated by antique columns.

What was most important to the homeowners, though, was adding character to the home. “The husband is a real creative, and one of the more thoughtful men I’ve ever met,” Kay recalls. “In one of the first conversations I had with him, he immediately spoke about enhancing the home’s architectural history.”

The designers called upon architect William Litchfield to make such authentic adjustments, like adding wood beams to the dining room ceiling and expanding a window wall in the master, where a dreamy, king-size bed can now be accommodated without obstructing views or light from the outdoors.

If the whole house reads especially light and bright, that’s partly because it’s painted the same shade of linen throughout. As a result, its spaces are neutral and uncomplicated, yet textured and sophisticated, just like the wife. “She always dresses classically with a twist—usually in khaki pants, with a cream-colored top and a scarf in a great color,” explains Hooff. In fact, her outfits informed many of the decorating decisions. Invariably, the objects she was drawn to would mirror her outfit that day. In fact, it was those kind of cues that influenced the subtle blue-green and curry shades peppering the rooms.

“I think her house looks like who she is and who she’s always wanted to be,” notes Kay. The man of the house, for that matter, seems to feel the same. “He wrote us the sweetest note,” she adds humbly. “He said it was the house he’d always dreamed of owning, but he never thought he’d have.”


ARCHITECTURE William Litchfield, William B. Litchfield Residential Designs, Inc., (404) 467-4600; INTERIOR DESIGN Carter Kay and Nancy Hooff, Carter Kay Interiors, (404) 261-8119;