Brighter Days

A Brookwood Hills cottage now matches its energetic residents after a spirited renovation, inside and out

“Vibrant” is a word interior designer Betty Burgess cites more than once when describing a charming cottage tucked away in Brookwood Hills. Step inside and it’s easy to be swept away by the home’s charming yet forward-thinking style—but that wasn’t always the case. Knowing their home had the potential to live and feel larger than its modest 1940s footprint, the homeowners initially reached out to architect (and neighbor) D. Stanley Dixon. 

He remedied the home’s choppy layout and minimal daylight with a few strategic strokes such as removing gratuitous walls and extending the kitchen. With a better sense of circulation in place, the home was primed for its new look. “From our very first meeting, the wife’s great energy and fun sense of humor really inspired me,” recalls Burgess. “I knew she was on board to push the design in a fresher, more lively direction. And it was clear to me that she definitely liked color.” 

Given the wife’s passion for art (she’s an active docent at the High Museum of Art), Burgess took cues from the couple’s personal collection to zero in on a palette of plum and lavender hues mixed with splashes of acid greens and yellows. “I photographed and printed every piece of art in their home, knowing I had to figure out how to create cohesion yet still let each one shine,” she says. To accent photography by renowned French artist Henri Cartier-Bresson and a piece by Irish sculptor John Behan, Burgess selected an assortment of fabrics ranging from delicate florals to geometric patterns. For the furnishings, a mix of traditional and modern enhances the home’s eclectic sensibility.  

Family also dictated the home’s new design. With 12 grandchildren, plenty of space to spread out is undoubtedly crucial, a need that prompted Dixon to enclose the screened porch and transform it into a spacious family room. An arched iron window reaching 11 feet bathes the room in natural light, while cedar shingles on the once exterior walls remain as a nostalgic reminder of this home that’s been loved and evolved over time with its owners. 

 As renovations along the rear of the cottage developed, effectively changing the home’s relationship to the backyard, landscape architect John Howard was called upon to reconfigure the entire landscape. “To help the backyard feel much larger than it is, we created terraced levels for some visual depth,” explains Howard. The bottom paved terrace is now suited for lounging and dining, while the upper terrace acts as a lush backdrop boasting mature Cryptomeria trees alongside southern staples like endless summer hydrangeas and Becky daisies. Howard even transformed a neglected, out-of-sight area of the property into a charming sunken-in pea gravel space that he likens to a secret garden, a feature delightfully welcomed by the wife. 

“As a team, we really tapped into her energy and it inspired us to stretch our imaginations,” reflects Dixon. “That helped push the project along and in turn gave the cottage its own unique personality.”

INTERIOR DESIGN Betty Burgess, Betty Burgess Design. (404) 841-7707; ARCHITECT D. Stanley Dixon, D. Stanley Dixon Architect. (404) 574-1430; LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT John Howard, Howard Design Studio, LLC. (404) 876-7051;