Neutral Territory

Phoebe Howard's elegant style helps a Buckhead couple usher in a new era.

Every home has a story to tell. Some pay homage to family heirlooms while others reveal tales of architectural inspiration or reflect a collector’s passion. But this Peachtree Heights townhouse shares a story of new beginnings.

Homeowner Tom Chapman first met decorator Phoebe Howard in 2006 at the urging of his late wife’s best friend. “His wife had always done everything in the way of housekeeping and decorating,” recalls Howard. “So, throughout the course of re-decorating his Florida condominium, I helped Tom discover his own style.” That set the stage for the decorator-client relationship to blossom into a cherished friendship by the project’s end—so much so, in fact, that he turned to Howard again when he began a new chapter in his life several years later. He was remarrying, and the new couple would be moving into his four-story townhouse in Buckhead.

Tom and his wife, Karen, wanted their residence to be a streamlined yet comfortable oasis—and Howard delivered just that. Her trademark use of soft monochromatic shades helped play up the home’s calm and subtle aesthetic. A palette of soft ivories, taupes, greens and blues—used for every facet of the rooms, from the furniture to the window treatments, right down to the accessories—gives each space an inviting ambience. But equally important was editing the homeowners’ individual possessions. For instance, Howard utilized Karen’s extensive art collection, transforming the townhouse into a gallery of treasured photography, paintings and sketches.

“Along with combining items from both of their homes, I introduced a lot of fresh, new pieces, as well,” says Howard, pointing out items like the 1940s Italian-inspired chandelier that takes center stage in the dining room. A work of art in its own right, it’s made up of dozens of hand-blown glass horseshoes beautifully arranged on a series of rings. Likewise, a custom display cabinet on the terrace level also commands attention. Howard designed the piece herself to showcase Karen’s exquisite Blanc de Chine vases and jars; an interior coat of pale green paint plays up every line and curve of the delicate white porcelain.

Throughout the home, Howard brought to life the Chapmans’ vision of an airy abode. Their reaction to the final product? “They loved it and were so excited,” shares Howard. “They got married right around the time they moved into the home, so it was a double celebration. We toasted to their union and a new beginning. It was a very happy time.”


Tips from color connoisseur Phoebe Howard

+ Make sure to look at fabrics in bright sunlight, and also at the job site. It’s important to be very careful; color can hide a lot of mistakes, but mistakes in neutral schemes are glaring.

+ Each individual piece needs to be carefully considered. The scale and form of furniture in a neutral room takes on a prominence that might be less important in a busier scheme.

+ Light is your friend in a neutral room, both daylight and artificial light. Make sure you have plenty of lamps and fixtures, and have dimmers on all of them. Experiment with different colored lightbulbs; pink, for instance, casts a soft glow at night.

+ Art and antiques can add a lot of dimension and depth to a neutral room. In fact, I think it is hard to pull it off without them.

+ Use a variety of textures to add interest, in both fabrics and rugs. Also, reflective surfaces—metal finishes, mirrors and glass—add a welcome touch of sparkle.


INTERIOR DESIGN Phoebe Howard, Mrs. Howard, 425 Peachtree Hills Ave., Suite 23, Atlanta 30305. (404) 816-3830;  WALL COLOR Benjamin Moore Cream Fleece TRIM COLOR Benjamin Moore White Dove MIRROR & SERVER Mrs. Howard LAMPS Baker WAVE CHAIRS Pierce Martin DINING CHAIRS Hickory Chair DINING TABLE Dessin Fournier through Grizzel & Mann CHANDELIER Vaughan Designs CURTAIN FABRIC Schumacher CURTAIN TRIM Passementerie through Travis & Co. PAINTING Claude Bauret Allard PHOTOGRAPHY Frederic Ohringer through Fay Gold Gallery  BOOKCASE Mrs. Howard BLANC DE CHINE VASES AND JARS JF Chen CURTAIN FABRIC Rose Tarlow through Ainsworth-Noah SECTIONAL Hickory Chair PILLOW FABRICS ZR/Travers and Lee Jofa OTTOMAN Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams CHAIR Hickory Chair RUG Merida GRASSCLOTH Gramercy  WALL COLOR Benjamin Moore Cream Fleece TRIM COLOR Benjamin Moore White Dove SOFA Baker CHAIR Baker COCKTAIL TABLE Julian Chichester SQUARE END TABLE & PILLOWS Mrs. Howard ROUND END TABLE Beeline Home CURTAIN FABRIC Schumacher CURTAIN TRIM Passementerie through Travis & Co.  WALL COLOR Benjamin Moore Cream Fleece TRIM COLOR Benjamin Moore White Dove CURTAIN FABRIC DOGWOOD SCULPTURE Kimo Minton SOFA & CHAIRS Baker PILLOWS & PAINTING Mrs. Howard ROUND END TABLE Arteriors Home RUG Crescent  WALLPAPER Farrow & Ball CARPET Stark HEADBOARD Mrs. Howard PAINTINGS OVER BED Peter Schroth through Sears-Peyton Gallery COVERLET & SHAMS Yves DeLorme DUVET RB Casa PILLOW FABRIC Donghia BED SKIRT FABRIC Schumacher BENCH Hickory Chair CURTAIN FABRIC Duralee CURTAIN TRIM Schumacher CHAIRS & OTTOMAN Baker END TABLES Oly FLOOR LAMPS Robert Abbey CHARCOAL DRAWING Rocio Rodriguez through Fay Gold Gallery CURTAIN FABRIC Duralee CURTAIN TRIM Schumacher