Opposites Attract

Musso Design Group and Spitzmiller & Norris reimagine a Buckhead beauty, balancing traditional and contemporary elements to help the homeowners find common ground

The renovation of this Buckhead house had all the potential for a gripping reality television show. The Southern-born husband leaned firmly in the traditional camp, while the wife, whose roots are in France, desired a look that was sleek and more contemporary. Enter a duo of residential designers known for their classical architecture prowess, who had conceived the house’s plans 30 years prior but hadn’t been involved in their execution and were less than pleased with what had been constructed. Then hire interior designers who describe their firm’s work as streamlined and edited, who can practically finish each other’s sentences but also freely admit they don’t always see things the same way. Surely a few sparks were destined to fly.

While initially the homeowners’ goal was to redo the kitchen and add on a family living area and screened-in porch that would be open and light-filled, the scope of the project eventually spilled into almost every corner of the house. For Frederick Spitzmiller and Robert Norris of Spitzmiller & Norris, revisiting a house they had envisioned all those years ago proved to be immensely satisfying. “The bones and floor plan were good, but a number of the details had been misapplied or exaggerated,” Norris says. “This was the opportunity to make it right.” As they were designing the addition, they corrected many of the exterior and interior elements, often just by going back to their original drawings. However, they also incorporated a few architectural surprises, collaborating with interior designers Bill Musso and Seth van den Bergh of Musso Design Group on details such as steel-wrapped fireplaces in the kitchen and addition. “The homeowners were open-minded about rethinking room designations and letting their house be read in a different way than it was presented to them when they purchased it,” says Spitzmiller.

For Musso and van den Bergh, the challenge was to meld the couple’s aesthetic differences to create a scheme that would flow seamlessly from room to room. One aspect the clients agreed upon from the start: They wanted the addition to be conducive and convertible to indoor/outdoor living. “Once we established the look of the addition, we didn’t want there to be a disconnect between what was new and what was existing,” says Musso. The wife remained firm about wanting a pared-down approach with clean lines and a restrained palette, which fell right in line with the designers’ own sensibilities. But throughout, the designers always kept the husband’s preferences in mind. “They both share a love of the water and sailing, so we found that any time we could give things a slightly nautical spin, he would be happy,” says van den Bergh. Adds Musso: “Having an architectural framework that was mostly traditional helped bridge the gap as well.”

Ultimately the collaboration would not result in a mid-episode meltdown or anyone being “voted off the island.” “Because there were always a number of design opinions and options around the table, the clients never felt they were being talked into any one particular point of view,” says van den Bergh. Indeed, after a two-year process that all involved describe as collegial, the only reality here is a house that truly fits the family who lives in it to a T and is a testament to the fact that a little design give-and-take doesn’t have to mean compromising anything in serious style.

INTERIOR DESIGN Bill Musso and Seth van den Bergh, Musso Design Group RESIDENTIAL DESIGN Frederick Spitzmiller and Robert Norris, Spitzmiller & Norris, (404) 812-0224; spitzmillerandnorris.com