Cottage Charming

After a skillful renovation and decoration by architect William B. Litchfield and designer Jackye Lanham, a Buckhead house beckons with an abundance of style and personality

On a verdant Buckhead street graced with grand old dames and classic beauties of the architectural—and, no doubt, human—variety, a 1930s-era Colonial Revival cottage radiates a welcoming, girl-next-door sensibility. Although not quite as stately as many of its neighbors, the house proved to be the right fit for a woman moving from San Francisco to Atlanta. She was, in every sense, coming home, both to the city where she was raised and to the very street where she had lived as a child, only this time to a place of her own and with a young daughter in tow.

Although the cottage certainly had its fair share of curb appeal, it required some updating to suit its new occupants. The owner turned to architect William B. Litchfield and designer Jackye Lanham, who have collaborated on numerous houses, including several for members of the homeowner’s family.

“It was important to be sensitive to the neighborhood, the period and the style,” says Litchfield. “The front of the house was in good shape, and inside the proportions were good, but we needed to make some tweaks, create better flow and return the interior architectural detailing to what it might have been originally, as it had been through other renovations through the years.” Perhaps what it needed most of all, both architect and designer agree, was a whole lot more charm.

One of the client’s first requests was for an interesting staircase. Litchfield came across the ideal solution in one of the many books he mines for historical research: an intricate design from an 18th-century house in Maine, which felt more correct and compelling than the previous plain wood pickets. “It has a contemporary, graphic appeal, but it’s based on a classic motif,” he says. That statement could easily characterize the creative team’s approach toward the entire project.

“I’ve known the homeowner since she was in elementary school,” says Lanham. “She grew up surrounded by traditional things and has a deep appreciation for them, but we also needed to use a light touch to keep the look young, fun, and to feel like her.” Lanham wove the owner’s love of pale blue, lavender and dusky apricot hues throughout in fabrics and finishes, and used inherited pieces along with the designer’s own finds for a mix of furnishings and accessories that appears both fresh and collected over time.

Although the renovation didn’t involve adding any square footage to the existing footprint, one significant alteration allows the house to live much larger. A former screened porch was transformed into a year-round space after screens were swapped for iron-clad windows and a door leading out to the garden. French doors that separated the porch and living room were removed and replaced with portieres, improving circulation and encouraging the spaces to relate directly with each other.

The stacked-stone fireplace, which both Litchfield and Lanham believed looked more appropriate for the mountains than in town, was parged (smoothed with plaster)and whitewashed. With a black, contemporary twist on a starburst mirror hung above the mantel, it has become a striking focal point on axis with the front door. “It draws you right through the house into that room, and it’s a friendly space that feels good,” says Litchfield.

“Everything just seems to embrace you from the moment you walk in,” says Lanham, reflecting upon the project’s completion. That much-needed infusion of charm emanates from the entryway to the daughter’s cozy bedroom and guest rooms carved out of former attic space and dormers upstairs. Indeed, from top to bottom, the renovation and decoration capture the style and spirit of the young family while amiably paying respect to the origins of the cottage they now call home.

Jackye Lanham, Jacquelynne P. Lanham & Associates (404) 364-0472; ARCHITECT William B. Litchfield, William B. Litchfield Residential Designs, Inc. (404) 467-4600;