Interior Instincts

An art-enthused tastemaker gets back to her roots and builds the perfect Buckhead home.

Nancy Hooff has long been an arbiter of the Atlanta arts scene—supporting the Forward Arts Foundation by way of the Swan Coach House Gallery, serving on the board of the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, chairing the 1997 High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction, co-hosting the High’s inaugural Collectors’ Evening and tirelessly championing emerging Georgia artists. She’s also worked, intermittently, for esteemed Atlanta designer Carter Kay over the past 15 years. But if you ask Hooff to describe her role, she won’t say “interior designer” or “decorator;” instead, she simply prefers “assistant.”

Still, nary an aesthete would argue that Hooff’s tastes are anything but exquisite. After all, she garnered many of her design instincts from her mother, a passionate collector of contemporary art and past editor of Southern Accents and Impressions magazines. “Because of her, at a very early age I was fortunate enough to be exposed to women designers who thought outside the box,” notes Hooff. “Hence, I have always been more attracted to gutsier, more masculine design.”

Hooff met Kay, a comparable design talent, while studying business at Mount Vernon College in Washington, D.C. But as a third-generation Atlantan with storybook memories of growing up in Buckhead, Hooff was eager to return home. In 1995, she and her husband, Gene, found their forever home in the Peachtree Battle neighborhood of Nancy’s youth. And though the two at first had to share a small bedroom and downstairs bath, the humble home was an ideal fit for their family, which included two young sons. They were unfussy about the extras; renovations could come slowly over time.

For the first phase of renovations, Pope-Ozio & Associates landscaped the backyard and created a play area for the boys. And when it came time to add on a master suite, Norman Askins proved masterful at making the addition blend seamlessly into the exterior of the 1930s home. Askins and William Litchfield also joined forces to overhaul the kitchen, installing raw granite countertops and concealed appliances while ridding the room of upper storage cabinets. Litchfield reconfigured the upstairs bedrooms, as well, giving the two sons—now 24 and 28—inviting places to come home to. A formerly unused room was even converted into a sun-splashed guest suite. Finally, Litchfield helped transform a dilapidated patio into an inviting sunroom.

Throughout the process, not a single decorating decision was made without Kay’s input. Thus, the home reflects the designer’s touch at every turn, from the richly textured velvet sofas and tactile woods to the extraordinary Peter Fasano fabric lending the dining chairs the look of exotic speckled eggs. Hooff, whose style might be best described as eclectic or collected over time, treats her design preferences casually; “I find that if you get things that don’t work, you know it immediately,” she says. Yet they remain irrefutable evidence of her innate sensibilities. A chair purchased for Gene on a whim perfectly matches a pillow fabric selected for the sunroom years before, while understated kilims add pops of color to bare floors and a collection of weathered wood shutters in the master bedroom is an ingenious alternative to a conventional headboard. Naturally, works of contemporary art also pepper the home, bringing with them fantastic stories of Hooff’s friendships with the artists.

For a delightful denouement, the Hooffs installed a luxurious saltwater pool and cabana—complete with a vibrant art installation by Mario Petrirena. “It’s interesting being on a very busy Buckhead street; you can hardly tell when you’re sitting back here that you’re in Atlanta,” she says. “The summer we installed the pool, Carter asked me to give her my hours for July. I added them up and it was only five, because I was sitting outside every day!” The picturesque setting is perfect for parties, as well; the couple has hosted everything from bluegrass shindigs to more formal occasions, including an elegant engagement celebration. “We love to entertain out here,” Hooff says enthusiastically. “The boys have their parties on Saturday and we have ours on Sunday.”

While the poolside scene provides a wonderful respite during scorching Atlanta summers, a cozy fireplace and curtain panels enveloping the cabana make it just as enjoyable during cooler months—one of the many reasons Hooff considers the abode a winter home above all. Its warm-toned interiors boast plush fabrics, tactile woods, a toasty fireplace and even artwork by Clem Bedwell that seems to reference dancing flames. So as November’s chill descends, Hooff is happier than ever to be spending time at home, not straying far from her chosen environs.


INTERIOR DESIGN Carter Kay and Nancy Hooff, Carter Kay Interiors, 318 Broadland Rd. NW, Atlanta 30342. (404) 261-8119; ARCHITECT Norman D. Askins, Norman Davenport Askins Architects. 2995 Lookout Pl. NE, Atlanta 30305. (404) 233-6565; ARCHITECT William Litchfield, William B. Litchfield Residential Designs Inc., 800 Lambert Dr. NE, Suite B, Atlanta 30342. (404) 733-1889; BUILDER Daniel Person, 1695 Hartland Dr., Decatur 30033. (404) 512-6666. GRAY MOHAIR ON SOFA AND CHAIRS Larsen DRAPERY FABRIC Bergamo PILLOW FABRICS Pollack CUSHION FABRIC FOR KNOLE-STYLE CHAIRS John Hutton Textiles ART Cindy Loehr, Gordon Chandler, Isabele Melchior and Donna Rosenthal CUSTOM DOORS Barry Bearden, 2693 Moon Cabin Dr., Powder Springs 30127. (770) 943-9922 TURNED-WOOD MOULTHROP BOWL (FRONT) The Signature Shop & Gallery TURNED-WOOD BOWL (BACK) Homeowner’s own COUNTER STOOLS Emeco 1006 Navy stools in brushed aluminum POTTERY AND ART Homeowner’s own