Modern Adaptation

Thanks to a time-honored facade, a contemporary Brookhaven dwelling by Harrison Design coexists peacefully with its traditional neighbors

Fitting in doesn’t necessarily mean giving up one’s own personality. For example, the three-bedroom brick abode that architect William H. Harrison and interior designer Karen Ferguson designed for empty nesters in Brookhaven has a traditional gabled form that allows it to blend in with the neighboring homes. Inside, however, it’s a different story.

“These clients are hip, and they were ready for something sexy and more modern,” Ferguson explains. The duo drove the point home in the front foyer, where a contemporary steel stairway with walnut treads appears to float in the space. While the sculptural element makes a grand first impression, it’s barely visible from the front sidewalk.

“The brick columns create a veil that hides the modern element behind it,” Harrison says.

This effortless blend of old and new is a hallmark of this residence’s design. A black-painted center island, for example, juxtaposes the white shiplap walls and perimeter cabinetry in the spacious kitchen.

The neutral palette flows into the sprawling living room, which is divided into two distinct seating areas. In one, a simple pendant light illuminates a quartet of barrel-back swivel chairs nestled around a square cocktail table. In the other, plush sofas face the tailored limestone fireplace. Texture in the form of linens, leathers and hair on hide add interest to the white walls and walnut flooring.

“They wanted a modern house with no clutter, and throughout the project, I had to remind them of that,” Ferguson says, pointing to the simple metal lantern-style chandelier over the custom dining table and skirted chairs. “It’s open and airy. We didn’t want anything fussy.”

 Both the living and dining areas have a floor-to-ceiling glass NanaWall sliding door system that opens to a brick-walled loggia with bluestone tile flooring. For much of the year, all the doors are open, creating a large indoor-outdoor space that is ideal for entertaining.

There’s another balcony off of the master suite, where leather-wrapped sconces flank an upholstered bed dressed in sumptuous neutral bedding. Lack of color is also a defining characteristic of the en suite bathroom, which is clad with veiny white marble. “It feels like you’re in a cloud,” Ferguson says.

 You could say the same about the upper-level terrace, which is tucked discreetly into the attic’s roofline. Although the owners originally feared that they would never use the third-floor space, Harrison lobbied hard for it. “You can see all the large buildings beyond the tree line,” Harrison explains. Outfitted with a fireplace, it has become one of the couple’s favorite spots. 

Ecstatic about the end result, the homeowners hosted a sit-down dinner to thank everyone involved in the renovation. And although both Ferguson and Harrison had spent months perfecting the project, experiencing the home as a guest provided them with a whole new appreciation for the space.

“This is a simple house full of natural light and beautiful views,” Harrison says. “That’s a really nice way to live.”

ARCHITECTURE & INTERIOR DESIGN William H. Harrison and Karen Ferguson, Harrison Design, (404) 365-7760; BUILDER Builders II,