Jewel Box Beauty

Suzanne Kasler, Spitzmiller & Norris and Graham Pittman transform a 1927 treasure in the heart of Buckhead with color, craftsmanship and a heaping dose of patience

Call it serendipity. When Clarke and Meghan Magruder first spied this sprawling property in the heart of Buckhead, they put in an offer on the spot—no matter that the couple was within inches of embarking upon a renovation of their current home.

Shortly thereafter, Clarke, who earned his master’s degree in architecture from Georgia Institute of Technology, set his sights on local firm Spitzmiller & Norris to reclaim the circa-1927 jewel box, while Meghan had compiled magazine tear sheets through the years that all pointed back to the work of one designer who just so happened to be based in Atlanta—the inimitable Suzanne Kasler.

After securing their design dream team, which extended to include builder Jerry Bonner and landscape architect Graham Pittman, the Magruders moved forward with what would ultimately become a massive, three-year project that would strip the main house down to the studs; increase the footprint with a three-car garage, breezeway, billiard room and loggia; and clear the sloping, overgrown forest of a backyard in favor of a pool, pool house, tennis court, bocce lawn, garden, vegetable garden, fire pit and “barn.”

In short: the aging, overgrown two-acre property was transformed from beast to beauty, giving this Renaissance couple, who are consummate entertainers, resort-like amenities within arm’s reach.

“What’s interesting about the Magruders is that both of them have a real passion for not only design but detail,” Kasler says. “They found a house that had a history they could really embrace … and it became a passion for them.” And ultimately, says the designer, that architectural sensitivity helped preserve the fabric of the neighborhood, an important consideration since the residence was one of the original houses on the street.

From an architectural standpoint, Rick Spitzmiller reimagined the original Adam-style house, enhancing its unusual one-and-three-quarters framing and altering the entry sequence to where guests would be invited in through a formal entrance on the side—not unlike a Charleston single house, he says. And, while Spitzmiller admits that the interior architecture of the original house was “plain-Jane,” Meghan points to examples of unearthing gems like cobblestones—many of which have been given new life at the base of the new drive—mined from beneath an asphalt driveway as evidence that “in an old house every now and then you get this treasure; you find something that’s really great.”

Remaining sensitive to the historic home’s architectural envelope also proved visually demanding, says Kasler, as most of the first floor spaces open up to each other. “The challenge was: How do you have a house sequence through and each room still have its own sensibility?” she asks. Kasler’s secret, of course, lies in her innate ability to allow a home’s color story to strategically unfold.

Like beautiful choreography, the visual sequence she’s created allows threads of color to resonate from room to room. The icy blue from the side entry foyer, for instance, makes an appearance in the form of glass accessories in the cream and champagne living room. Similarly, hints of cinnamon in the soft gray library adjacent to the dining room reflect back to the sparkling silk Jasper draperies, silk metallic Phillip Jeffries wallcovering and Samuel & Sons chair piping. Even the lacquered navy billiard room, which Kasler admits could have been “quite strong” peeking in from the natural linen family room, draws you in.

“I think it’s remarkable that we were able to bring in so much color in a house that’s very neutral. There’s a strategic way of how to use color without it being so jarring,” says Kasler, and it’s clear that with this project, she accomplished just that—but in a way makes the storied architecture look fresh, youthful and edited.

The Magruders agree: “People really react to and love the way she worked with color in this house,” says Meghan. “Suzanne and Rick both are great artists, and their eye for detail made such a difference.”

INTERIOR DESIGN Suzanne Kasler, Suzanne Kasler Interiors (404) 355-1035; ARCHITECTS Rick Spitzmiller and Robert Norris, Spitzmiller & Norris (404) 812-0224; LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT Graham Pittman, E. Graham Pittman & Associates (770) 480-9814 BUILDER Jerry Bonner, Jerry Bonner Custom Homes (770) 423-0249;