Elements of Style

Lee Kleinhelter infuses an all-white buckhead high-rise with pretty pattern, dramatic texture and a dash of whimsy.

One must first know the rules in order to break them. That may be the basis of the classic reference book, The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White, but the dictum translates just as easily to the tenets of good design. And if there’s one Atlantan who is not only well-versed in the language of design, but also knows how to bend tradition to her liking, it’s Pieces boutique owner Lee Kleinhelter.

An interior designer who cut her teeth with some of the best in the business (Dan Carithers and Barbara Westbrook to name two), Kleinhelter’s style leans toward the bold and unexpected—but always with an unequivocally fun approach. So when the long-time Sovereign resident was invited to design a model unit at the Buckhead high-rise, she jumped at the chance to visually stretch her imagination.

Using the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel as her inspiration, the design statement began in the living room (with views spanning from Buckhead to downtown), where she covered a wall in a large-scale tropical Schumacher print. “This space is very open with walls of windows,” Kleinhelter says. “We didn’t want it to feel like a jungle but to be the beginning of a story.”  That narrative became largely about taking risks, as she envisioned a homeowner for whom this condominium was not a primary residence. In the guest room, for instance, she suspended a bed from the ceiling and selected a “busier” wallpaper to camouflage the building’s architectural angles, a solution that draws the eye towards the floating element of the bed rather than the angular walls that make the room asymmetrical.

And in the hallway, in lieu of hanging art on the walls, the designer secured papier-mâché objects to the ceiling for an ethereal white-on-white effect. Also living up to the fun factor: Kleinhelter installed a faux-boxwood wall in the master bath as an interesting counterpoint to a room full of stone. “One great thing about having the freedom to design what you want is to say, ‘How can we do this, and do it differently than we’ve ever done before?’”she says.

But, as any good adventurer knows, there are limits. As Kleinhelter says, “it’s all about editing and knowing when to stop.” Because the designer is familiar with the high-rise lifestyle—she shares a Sovereign residence with husband Kevin, son Holden, step-daughter Madison and English cream golden retriever Rider—she also wanted the space to be comfortable (and whimsical) enough to appeal to children and pets. In the windowless den, a silver grasscloth on the walls adds shimmer, while sculptural grapevines eliminate the need for framed art. Coffee table cubes, which also illuminate, add subtle light in the space. It’s a beautiful balance of scale, texture and color that’s simply elementary for this designer.