When Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles launched a major design competition this past spring—a collaboration with the Georgia Chapter of ASID and iStar Residential—the response was unprecedented. The concept called for creating a three-bedroom model residence for a couple who loved to travel and collect fine art. But, given the location—the artsy and contemporary Residences at the Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta—it also had to have an edge.
Robert Grayson of GraysonHarris received notice of the contest via ASID, in a mass email like any other. But this one stood out, and he immediately forwarded it to business partner Andrew Harris with the unequivocal statement: “I want this.” It was all this pair needed to set their imaginations in motion. “When we were pulling our presentation together, there was no question in my mind that we would win,” reveals Harris, with a touch of humble hesitation. “I can’t explain it; I just got this feeling that we had figured this space out.”
His intuition proved right. When the juried panel narrowed the entries down to three stellar submissions, readers submitted a startling 15,000 votes, ultimately naming GraysonHarris the winner.
Essential to the duo’s design scheme: the interior architecture by Harrison Design Associates, which marked the first in a series of new floor plans designed by the highly acclaimed firm for the Mandarin Oriental, following its transition from the Mansion on Peachtree. As modern studio director Robert Trestch explains, his team played up the angles of the unusual, octagonal architecture of Robert A.M. Stern, developing a layout hallmarked by interesting twists and turns.
“It was important to us to embrace this architecture, to support it and enhance it,” says Grayson. Playing off the existing light black floors and warm gray surfaces, the pair delivered a scheme that spoke to a single overarching theme: Life is art. Going above and beyond the obvious—collector-worthy pieces by such talents as Joseph Guay and Aaron Whitehouse—the designers selected sculptural lighting, textures and patterns interesting enough to make visitors stop and stare as if the space were a canvas on a gallery wall.
In the combination living-dining area, the pair shook up the floor plan, turning a designated dining space on one end into a convivial keeping room, then placing a contemporary table by Skylar Morgan in the center. An inset elliptical ceiling detail specified by Harrison Design Associates runs the length of the rectilinear room, softening the room’s sharp angles. GraysonHarris mimicked its shape with a sensually curving sofa on one end and an integrated custom desk by Beau Holland Studio on the other. Taking center stage in the living area: a deceptively simple fireplace created with a monolithic slab of book-matched Calcatta gold marble, negating the need for art.
Pops of color appear in every bedroom—one guest space bears a splash of amethyst; another, juicy citron. The master takes a sunnier approach, with lemon yellow pillows and equally engaging rugs. Just one room over, an oversize rubber ducky injects fun into the angled master bath, as does Jonathan Adler’s brass Maxime chair, recovered in nubby Persian pony hair by Bjork Studio. In fact, nearly every piece of upholstery in the residence—dozens of headboards, chairs, barstools and more—was crafted locally by the lauded workroom. Very new for the studio was the extensive metalwork involved, which GraysonHarris insisted upon for an extra shot of gleam. And in the end, it offered just the haute couture effect the firm was after.
“This is the level of sophistication that iStar Residential said they wanted, and this is the level of sophistication we always want to give our clients,” Harris explains. “We didn’t want this to be a model; we wanted it to be a home.”