If doubts linger that model homes can have the character and finesse of private dwellings, look no further than the 38th floor of the Residences at Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta, where interior designer Barbara Westbrook has fashioned a condominium that dazzles with good looks and an abundance of personality.
Having previously decorated a model residential unit in a neighboring Buckhead building, Westbrook professes a fondness for designing these ephemeral spaces: “You get to be creative because you don’t have a client who has to approve everything,” she says. Given only a two-month deadline and a directive to make the space look current and fresh, the designer, assisted by Elizabeth Hanson, set out to create a residence that is rooted in classic style yet thoroughly instilled with a modern attitude.
“With condo living,” says Westbrook, “you think of a more modern lifestyle,” a notion that informed both the unit’s interior architecture, which was conceived by Atlanta architect Robert Tretsch of Harrison Design, as well as its furnishings. In keeping with the condominium’s architecturally clean lines, Westbrook selected mostly contemporary furniture in metal and dark wood finishes. For interest and patina, she introduced antiques, including a few Oriental pieces, which allude to the Mandarin Oriental’s Asian roots. And bridging the gap between the old and the new is vintage 20th-century furniture, such as a set of 1940s French Modern dining chairs.
When it came to selecting colors and fabrics, both the condominium’s lofty location and its minimalist architecture prompted most of Westbrook’s decisions. “When I think of a house suspended in the sky, I think of blue,” admits the designer, who punctuated her beloved neutral color palette with teal accents, which “gave the visual excitement that this space needed.”
Textured fabrics, including velvet, wool and chenille, do double duty, imparting both visual interest and warmth to the sleek space. “It’s about using textures together to make the space feel warm and feel as good to the eye as to the touch,” explains Westbrook.
By lavishing this unit with the attention most often reserved for private dwellings, Westbrook has blurred the line between model unit and personal residence. The result is a warm and welcoming space that many—including a number of the workmen involved in this project—wish to call home. As the interior designer remarks, “We know we’ve done our job well when the guys love it.”