Natural Beauty 2012

In north Georgia, architect William H. Harrison and designer Barbara Howard create a chic cabin retreat for an Atlanta family.

All too often, a project gets caught in the crosshairs between architecture and design. But for West and Katie Johnson’s modern take on an Amish-style cabin in the rolling hills of north Georgia, the collaboration of the two came together flawlessly to form the dream project for all those on board.

With the architecture by William H. Harrison of Harrison Design Associates and interior design by Barbara Howard of Marshall Howard Interior Design, the second home operates under the concept of what Harrison describes as “refined rustic.”

“It’s using natural and honest materials throughout the project, but put together in a very light and modern aesthetic,” the Atlanta architect says of the project. “We started with the concept of these two log buildings connected by a central space—a generational concept with a put-together feel.”

Those natural materials—such as the 12-inch thick, hand-hewn, native white pine logs found throughout the home—form the shining backdrop to the understated elegance of Howard’s signature interior design. “What I love most is that it’s a beautiful space on its own,” says the designer.

The homeowners, personal friends of Harrison and his wife, bought into an idyllic conservancy located in Batesville with the idea of a safe house open to the surrounding countryside. “They wanted to feel safe and secure from the wilderness when they were in the  home’s private spaces, but they wanted the main living space to be transparent to the environment,” Harrison says. “There was a lot of care and effort put into respecting the natural beauty of the property and transferring that into the natural materials of the home that are indigenous to that area.”

The main challenge each member of the team faced was balancing the scale of the home with the comfortable lifestyle the homeowners were looking to achieve. “They have a fairly traditional home here in Atlanta, and were ready for cleaner lines and an easier style of living,” Howard says.

Harrison adds, “The cabin comes off as warm, cozy and comfortable, but the scale in the main space is pretty large. Mixing a lot of different elements in a manner that works proportionally with the scale was a challenge, keeping it an exciting, open and volumetric space.”

In each room of the design, Howard says the entire team was on the same page. One of the more important elements throughout the space, the subtle finish on the walls, was perhaps the most difficult to get right. “The artisans that were on the project all cared about it equally,” she notes. “There were so many hours spent getting everything just right.”