River of Dreams

A restaurant icon assembles an accomplished design team to bring his vision of a modernist dwelling to the shores of the Chattahoochee River

A longtime fly fisherman and sailor, George McKerrow has enjoyed a lifelong love affair with the water. In fact, his aptly named restaurant, Canoe, one of many in his portfolio, is located along the banks of Atlanta’s Chattahoochee River.

So, when a nearby 1-acre property hit the market, George and his wife, Ginair, planted a proverbial flag and hired architect Jordan Williams of Plexus R+D, builder Michael McLaughlin of Craft and interior designer Melanie Millner of The Design Atelier to design the modernist home they had long envisioned. “Our backyard is a canvas that moves with the weather and the time of the year.” says McKerrow. “It’s an ideal spot.”

To capture those views while protecting against floods, the house is built atop concrete piers, its boomerang-like shape ensuring that the river can be seen from every room. On the street side, a sinuous stone wall conceals the piers, perfectly complementing the home’s white stucco and stained cypress exterior.

Interrupting the stone, a transparent wall of water offers visitors just a hint of the water on the other side of the residence. “The design allows the natural beauty of the site to unfold as one moves through the home,” says Williams.

Indeed, the anticipation builds as the compressed interior entry stairway leads to the second-floor great room, which features soaring ceilings and tall doors and windows overlooking the water. Holding its own against the view, a floor-to-ceiling walnut Mondrian-like configuration of differently shaped cubbies contains treasured objects George and Ginair have collected through the years.

“Rather than creating something that’s very regular and predictable, we wanted to create a more dynamic pattern,” says Williams. “What defines the river is that it’s constantly moving, so we didn’t want the architecture to be static.”

The handsome installation is a unique focal point for contemporary but comfortable seating Millner selected to complement its warmth. Overhead, a trio of metal chandeliers pays homage to the disco ball hanging over the built-in bar in between the two exterior doorways. “Ginair has such a fun spirit and loves to entertain,” says Millner.

The space is open to the kitchen, which was outfitted with sleek white Poggenpohl cabinetry and white marble countertops. Suspended from six steel stems, a heavy hanging cabinet with frosted glass doors and backing creates additional storage without obstructing the natural daylight. “We had to consider that when we framed the house, which was months before we hung the cabinets,” says McLaughlin. “It took a tremendous amount of brainpower and forethought.”

That attention to every last detail is one of the many reasons George and Ginair are so happy in their new house. In fact, several months after the couple moved in, they hosted the entire design-build crew for a catered dinner, expressing their gratitude with a beautiful speech.

“There were a whole lot of people who put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this place, and we wanted to thank them,” says McKerrow. “This has been a wonderful adventure, and we look forward to being here a long time.”

INTERIOR DESIGN Melanie Millner, The Design Atelier, (404) 365-8662; thedesignatelier.com ARCHITECT Jordan Williams, plexus r+d, (404) 519-7728; plexus-rd.com BUILDER Michael McLaughlin, CRAFT, (404) 275-1604; craftch.com