Cultivated Composition

A sophisticated but subdued interior by Joel Kelly allows his client’s art collection to shine.

If every piece in an interior demands attention, the space devolves into cacophony. However, like a symphony prelude, when elements are introduced in a methodically balanced order, it escalates to a memorable whole. When Joel Kelly was hired to create a downsized but highly sophisticated home that included a significant art collection, it was nothing short of a symphonic movement.

Moving from a sprawling suburban house to a Midtown town house is challenging under any circumstances, but this move was complicated by the fact that the town house, originally constructed in 2009, had been left vacant and only partially constructed. In 2013 Kelly faced the daunting task of planning the interior spaces and designing the four-story home around the client’s notable 20th-century art collection. “It was a complicated process that required creative solutions,” says Kelly.

Most contemporary art is bold, both in size and content, so the interior furnishings needed to complement rather than fight for attention. “There was an edict from the client to create a gallery-like feeling to highlight the art,” says Kelly, who kept the same color palette throughout the house, using warm white walls and tones of gray and blue to highlight important pieces by renowned and iconic 20th-century American artists.

The massive Donald Sultan painting commands attention in the family room, where bookshelves provide an architectural and decorative frame to the impactful piece. Kelly reupholstered some of the couple’s furniture, including pieces by Donghia and a postmodern Memphis-style wing chair, but he also integrated new items for a fresh 21st-century design. Custom Tai Ping carpets were designed for several spaces while classic, uncomplicated Holland & Sherry wool draperies define each space.

As prominent as the art is in the home, its utilitarian spaces are equally beautiful; the kitchen won the 2015 Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles Kitchen of the Year contest, receiving praise for its creative wall of windows that permits light while providing privacy.

A project such as this one that combines space planning, interior design and art placement risks resulting in an overwhelming crescendo. However, with a deft hand, Joel Kelly created a unifying symphony in a town house filled with powerful art.

Cultivated Composition INTERIOR DESIGN Joel Kelly, Joel Kelly Design; 425 Peachtree Hills Ave., Suite 12B, Atlanta. (404) 221-0422; LANDSCAPE DESIGN Bennett Design & Landscape; 2310 Clyde Dr, Atlanta. (770) 457-3100;