Relaxed Refinement

Designer Will Huff helps frequent hosts Zak and Cara Isdell Lee refashion their stately Buckhead home into a French-inspired abode fit for roaring fetes or unwinding when their calling cards have a rare respite.

Zak and Cara Isdell Lee are no strangers to entertaining. As recurring hosts and attendees of weekly societal engagements, the charming pair wanted to revamp their Buckhead home to accommodate both guests and family, including 7-year-old son Rory. As an ardent traveler who has lived on five continents, Cara incorporated her globe-trotting perspective—particularly summers spent at her family’s retreat in the South of France—into the home’s aesthetic. Having always admired the lavender-scented countryside of her childhood, she sought out designer Will Huff of Huff-Dewberry to curate a Francophile style to match her memories.

Huff worked with the traditional layout of their sprawling 11,000-square-foot abode, designed by architecture firm Spitzmiller & Norris, to create a provincial retreat. The mission: design an elegant yet approachable space to match the family’s various needs. The solution: a soothing color palette of grays and blues, versatile furniture that works in various arrangements and an abundance of French antiques. “The house pulls from my life, especially my fondness for France and French furnishings,” says Cara. “Life’s too short to not have antiques.”

Every space mixes equal parts comfort and glamour. Knowing that the formal living room would be used most at parties, Huff nestled an assortment of perching spots throughout the room—perfect for clusters of cocktail-party conversations. Mixing red wine with a cream chaise longue might bring a hostess to an early grave, but Huff had the bright (and inconspicuous) idea to use a linen-like outdoor fabric that facilitates quick cleanup after party fouls and stands up to youngsters in the house.

The approachable refinement continues in the dining room, which is comfortable and inviting, even though it houses formal antiques. Blue chairs upholstered in Sabina Fay Braxton’s old-world textiles resonate with Cara’s taste and easily transition into the living room for spillover seating. Complementing this print is a swoon-worthy, silver-leafed Gracie wallpaper, adorned with custom, hand-painted blue birds. The romantic wallcovering balances the rustic earthenware buffet lamps, creating a room that is royal yet inviting.

When starting the redesign, Cara had one specific request: “I wanted a lavender-colored room somewhere in the house,” she says. “I love the lavender fields around our family home in France—I have bushels of it scattered everywhere—and wanted to incorporate that color in a big way.” Huff satisfied her request with a serene master suite with monochromatic variations of the hue in the linens and textiles. Creamy gray walls and an industrial custom bed keep the room soothing without being overtly feminine.

The media room, however, boasts the masculine feel of a man cave. The film-noir space facilitates movie watching and state-of-the-art unwinding on its custom chaise-like sofa. Zak, a huge James Bond fan (Sean Connery, of course), put his touch on the room with a commissioned Mark Boomershine art piece of the Ian Fleming persuasion.

While the romantic charm of the Lee estate resonates with a landscape across the pond, Cara stayed true to her Southern roots throughout the redesign. “France was always a great escape, but Atlanta is still—and always will be—home.”

INTERIOR DESIGN William Huff, Huff-Dewberry, INC, 2300 Peachtree Road NW, Atlanta. (404) 355-7600;