Room for Two

Design power couple Phoebe and Jim Howard return to Plaza Towers to carve out a space that’s tailored to a T

Designers Phoebe and Jim Howard’s journey at Plaza Towers could best be described as “full circle,” says the pair who renovated their first apartment at the iconic Buckhead landmark over a decade ago. They eventually went on to sell it, a decision they both came to regret. “We really missed that little apartment,” remembers Phoebe. “It was small and manageable and had such beautiful light.” 

Location also gave the residence high marks. Because while the Howards call Jacksonville Beach, Florida, home, the apartment served as their work base, providing an easy commute between their interiors shops in Atlanta, Jacksonville and Charlotte, as well as to design projects across the Southeast and beyond.  

 So when the opportunity came to purchase another unit at Plaza Towers, the couple didn’t hesitate. The apartment had been virtually unchanged since the complex first welcomed residents in 1970, prompting the need for a down-to-the-studs renovation. The Howards approached the project just as they always do—divide and conquer—with Jim taking lead in space planning and the interior architecture and then handing off to Phoebe for decorating and final touches. 

In a stroke of serendipity, the unit boasted an identical floor plan to their previous one, but the couple had learned a few things since then. “With just the two of us here for work, we rarely found use for a dining room,” says Jim. In its place, he created an intimate family room where the couple now spends most evenings. 

To complement the apartment’s classically inspired architectural shell designed by Jim, Phoebe worked through several design concepts. “I had two conflicting ideas,” she shares. “The first was an all-ivory palette punctuated by only the dark colors of antiques and art. But on the other hand, I also wanted chintz. I couldn’t figure out how to marry those two ideas, until I came across a brown linen print that made me realize I could, in fact, have both.” 

Phoebe dressed the family room—from the wallpaper to slipper chair—in the English-inspired floral fabric with its palette of brown, gray and ivory offering the perfect foil to the rest of the apartment’s more neutral rooms. 

Tying each space together is a myriad of art and antiques collected through their travels abroad. “One of the reasons we find this apartment so peaceful is because we’re surrounded by things that bring back wonderful memories,” says Phoebe. These are among the items she dubs “grace notes.” 

“One of the things I talk about in my new book [The Principles of Pretty Rooms, Abrams] is how to create a sense of comfort. It’s about feeling good when you’re in a room but you don’t really know why,” explains Phoebe. “And I feel really good when I’m here. We finally got our apartment back and are so happy.”

INTERIOR DESIGN Phoebe Howard, Mrs. Howard and Max & Company (404) 816-3830;
RESIDENTIAL DESIGN Jim Howard, James Michael Howard, Inc., (904) 389-5100;