Modern Life

For a couple seeking contemporary ease, Joel Kelly crafts a pared-down house that invites the outside in.

After 10 years and too many weekends toiling on home repairs, Atlanta couple Savas Koutsantonis and George Michaels turned a homeowner 180. The duo traded in their 100-year-old Craftsman-style manse to build a thoroughly modern abode designed for the way they live, no longer the other way around.

“Not only were we constantly working on the next project, but also there were fully furnished rooms that no one ever walked into,” says Koutsantonis of their former house. “We desperately wanted a more minimalist lifestyle and a house that allowed a lot of natural light.” The reasons for leaving their old house provided the framework for their biggest project to date.

Wishing to remain in their Midtown neighborhood, the duo chose to build their forever house where a dilapidated 1920s apartment complex stood. “The neighbors threw a party to thank us for removing the eyesore,” says Koutsantonis. In its place they built the neighborhood showstopper.

Also stepping in was their longtime friend and Shutze Award-winning interior designer and architect Joel Kelly, who helped the pair contend with the delicate balance of planting a modern home among Midtown’s Victorians and Craftsman-style bungalows. “Even though it’s a stark contrast to the surrounding homes, it doesn’t feel like it’s out of place; it feels special,” says Kelly.

To prevent the contemporary house’s aesthetic from being intimidating, Kelly bathed the exterior in warm white paint and natural stones. “Color is crucial. Cooler whites can easily come across sterile, but the milky white creates a comforting envelope,” says Kelly, who carried the color palette indoors as well.

Stepping inside, you’re immediately struck by a sense of space. “We started with the premise that the dining room, living room and kitchen would be integrated, sort of like a loft,” says Kelly, who employed a neutral color palette and texture in the form of stacked quartz rock walls to enhance the cohesiveness of the ground floor room. Peppered throughout is the homeowners’ art collection. From abstract to tribal, the various pieces personalize the space and punctuate it with color.

“We have a couple of large rooms and a garage, so I refer to it as a condo on steroids,” quips Koutsantonis, whose overall impression of the house is “easy.” In fact, a common thread in Kelly’s design repertoire is comfort. “My first thought is how it will feel,” he says. “I want every person who walks into a space to connect to it on some level. One of my favorite things to hear is, ‘It’s not my style, but I love this house.’”

Not only did the couple gain a house with the space and feel they wanted, but they also regained their weekends. Located within walking distance to Piedmont Park, the spacious, open home is an entertainer’s delight. “If there’s a concert, then our friends know to congregate here first,” says Koutsantonis. “The great ambiance makes them want to stay.”

INTERIOR DESIGN Joel Kelly, Joel Kelly Design, (404) 221-0422;