History in the Remaking

Vivian and John Bencich’s personal home is not unlike their commercial work—comfortable, restrained and filled with plentiful markers of their personal taste

While it may not reside in the busiest segment of the city that they’ve been instrumental in reinvigorating, the charming Druid Hills neighborhood that Atlanta architect John Bencich and his wife, interior designer Vivian, call home is within walking distance of school, soccer practice and walking trails for their 17-year-old daughter, Lilly. Designed by local architect Clement J. Ford in 1939, the white-brick bungalow they purchased in 2008 is an Atlanta classic, featuring thoughtful and precise architectural details—such as graceful archways and built-in bookcases—throughout.

“Our [Inman Park] office was once a Clorox storage facility,” says Vivian, who cofounded architecture and design firm Square Feet Studio (SFS) with her husband in 2001. Known for repurposing older buildings—such as brick warehouses—for modern offices, restaurants, retail and multifamily residential, SFS is skilled at mining the unique needs of clients, distilling down to their most appropriate expressions, and creating iconic community destinations that develop organically, rather than adhering to any prescribed style or aesthetic. 

“We don’t design for abstract reasons; we design for real needs. And the needs of our own house were very particular,” says John, who, during his first visit to what would become their third Atlanta home, immediately intuited its potential via a napkin sketch that forecasted three major renovations and “half a dozen small tweaks” over the following decade.

Situated on a “long, skinny lot” bordering the bucolic Druid Hills Golf Club, the bungalow is modest by modern measures, occupying less than a quarter of its 16,000-square-foot plot, so they happily focused efforts on its outdoor spaces. 

Floralis Garden Design owners Lucinda Bray and Tyne Martinez fashioned the clean, Zen-like landscape using mondo grass, American boxwood, hydrangeas, hollies, Edgeworthia, autumn ferns and more, creating a lush compound that’s elegantly layered—from the white picket fence and gingko tree at the front to the covered terrace, manicured gardens, swimming pool, open-air pool house and lounge area with fire pit at back near the welcome shade of oaks and pines.

Both the fire pit cover and streamlined dining table were custom crafted by celebrated local furniture craftsman Skylar Morgan, with benches built by up-and-comer Kendrick Anderson. French doors and a swing bed help blur the transition to the interiors, which the couple modernized by removing a cased opening between the living and family rooms, then updating the kitchen with white-oak cabinetry lime-washed by Morgan. Countertops are laid with the same Georgia-sourced marble SFS employed for West Egg Café and The General Muir, while the counter stool seats are covered in a favorite commercial-grade vinyl offering the look of leather.  

Patterns add an expressive sense of playfulness throughout (“I think I counted nine wallpapers total,” Vivian notes) and converge boldly in the foyer, where the most recent phase of renovation revamped the attic stair as near sculpture.  

“John worked to ensure all stair treads lined up with the boards,” says Vivian of the wall treatment they continued into the upstairs retreat, where a relaxed hangout space, office and guest suite round out the now-three-bedroom residence. 

From this sky-high perch, the family now has access to incredible views of the tree canopy—Chinese elms, crepe myrtles, cypress and more—that makes their home base a thrilling place to be.

INTERIOR DESIGN Vivian and John Bencich, Square Feet Studio, (404) 688-4990; squarefeetstudio.com