Stylish Simplicity

Designer Amy Morris and architect Bradley Heppner team up to create a modern-inflected home that still pays homage to the architecture of its traditional surroundings.

Morningside dwellers Mia and David Hartley called upon architect Bradley Heppner to design the modern home of their dreams in their predominantly traditional Midtown neighborhood. Though its streets are dotted by the masterworks of Crook and Reed, the house they share with their two daughters stands out among the flock for its unique combination of architectural references.

While its façade maintains a traditional silhouette, the modern concrete structure is freshened by a coat of pure white plaster and steep gables, reminiscent of Dutch colonial buildings found in the West Indies and influenced by the modern agrarian architecture of Australia’s Glenn Murcutt. By connecting the traditional front portions of the residence with more modern, barrel-shaped elements on the posterior, Heppner was able to integrate light in a way that feels modern and clean while combining both aesthetics seamlessly.

For the interior design, Heppner brought Amy Morris on board early, the two having worked together on several previous projects. Even though this was one of Morris’ first contemporary assignments, the architect knew she would be the ideal fit. “Amy is great at blending a sense of tradition with a modern aesthetic,” he explains. “Even her traditional homes have a very modern feel to them. I knew she would fit well with what we were trying to do with this house.”

Mia—who prefers to dress in basic shades of black, white and taupe—wanted much the same color scheme for her home. Her request was to create a super-functional modern house in black and white, one with as little ornamentation as possible: simple lines, no rugs, no window treatments, if possible, and above all, no fluff. “I don’t like a lot of clutter, and I don’t like a lot of busy stuff,” she notes. “We appreciate a simplicity of design, for everything to have a practical, pragmatic use.”

This absence of excess presented a design challenge for the interiors, but not one that Morris wasn’t eager to surmount. To expand upon the neutral scheme yet keep the look simple, she used the homeowners’ favorite contemporary art by Martin Dawe as well as a vivid yellow canvas by Sidney Guberman. Adding to a foundation of the client’s contemporary furnishings, Morris incorporated many pieces with a feminine touch, such as gracefully sloping Donghia armchairs and an open-back Holly Hunt banquette. A few custom pieces from Amy D. Morris Interiors—including a bed, dining table and bedside tables—anchor the mix with strong, masculine shapes while the simplest of window treatments contributes softness.

To keep the rooms light, bright and minimalistic, nine-inch white oak planks were used on all the floors while similar nine-inch timbers appear on the home’s crowning element—a staircase that’s more a sculptural art piece than a utilitarian fixture. To frame it, Heppner installed a steel window just like the one on the opposite wall, an artful addition that also eliminated the need for an additional hand railing. Even more remarkably, he devised a “trap door” to the basement below; concealed unassumingly within the floor, it can be lifted via a pulley to reveal the stairway to the cellar below.

Mia also had clear directives for the dining area. “In our previous house, we had a formal dining room and a formal living room that were never used,” she explains. “I wanted a space that we used every day to be very inviting.” Because it triples as a breakfast area, dining room and family meeting place, a mix of seating styles was needed to keep the space from feeling too rigid. Happily, a custom table with a four-foot extension makes room for extended gatherings and more formal occasions.

This room is also unique for the manner in which its low ceilings and reclaimed wood beams impart a sense of intimacy. “Modern, to me, can get really cold,” Heppner says. “I tried to incorporate a lot of materials that were made by hand into the house. It still feels clean but it has warmth.”

Radius corners lend a similar, cocoon-like effect elsewhere in the home. Their soft curves, along with barrel-shaped elements throughout the house, bounce light around to such a degree that artificial lighting is not needed until sundown, Heppner explains. To that end, the home has no ceiling fixtures; instead, recessed lighting was used almost exclusively with the exception of the kitchen, where task lighting was needed. The natural hub of the house, this room was rendered highly functional thanks to roomy ebonized walnut cabinetry and a clerestory ceiling to let light in where it’s needed most.

The upstairs was devoted to the girls, who get their own sleeping quarters as well as communal spaces to hang out, study and work on school projects. Outdoors, Heppner worked with landscape architect John Howard to create a level playing field for the courtyard and modular pool elements. Located just off a pool terrace that extends visually from the flat-ceilinged dining room, it is accessible by several doors that open wide, essentially blurring the lines between indoors and out. Walls of windows also play to this theme by letting in lots of natural light. And because the family didn’t want a yard to tend to, the surrounding landscaping was designed to be self-sustaining.

Perhaps the best indication of the home’s success is how well it lives. “When you walk through the house, it feels so right. The scale is so right. Every room has a purpose,” Morris says.

“Everything in the house works just perfectly for us. I tell Brad all the time that I’m amazed every day by how well it suits us,” echoes Mia. “I love looking at it and I love living in it. There’s nothing I wish I had done differently or would want to change.”­

It is that sort of reception, as every design team knows, that is the ultimate mark of success.

Two years
Books featuring warm modern homes, as well as the strict preferences of the homeowners themselves
Simplicity of design, sustainability, durability, practicality and a reverence for the traditional architecture of the neighborhood while maintaining a minimalist, modern aesthetic
Quartz countertops, ceramic and porcelain tiles, steel and wood-clad windows, white oak floors, walnut cabinetry, natural linens, reclaimed wood beams, concrete, plaster and lots of glass
The multipurpose living space, especially since it contains an innovative and sculptural steel staircase

ARCHITECT Bradley E. Heppner, Bradley E. Heppner Architecture, LLC, 574 Hascall Rd., Atlanta 30309. (404) 745-9339; INTERIOR DESIGN Amy D. Morris, Amy D. Morris Interiors, 1401 Dresden Dr., Suite 200, Atlanta 30319. (404) 389-0628; CONTRACTOR Joe Noah, Noah & Associates, 1750 Peachtree St., Suite 250 D, Atlanta 30309. (404) 347-3550; LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE John Howard, Howard Design Studio, 1201 Peachtree St. NE, 400 Colony Square, Suite 1505, Atlanta 30361. (404) 876-7051; LANDSCAPE INSTALL Pengelly’s Landscape & Garden Inc., 250 Arizona Ave., Atlanta 30307. (404) 786-4697; POOL CONSTRUCTION Superior Pools Inc., 5339 New Peachtree Rd., Chamblee 30341. (770) 458-6499; SOFA Client’s own, slipcovered in “Back to Basics” fabric by Glant LEATHER CHAIRS Client’s own COFFEE TABLE Client’s own FLOOR LAMP Mega Floor Lamp by Tolomeo MILO CHAIR Donghia, covered in “Truffle” fabric by Pindler & Pindler METAL X-BASE STOOLS Belvedere PAINTING Sidney Guberman through Mason Murer Fine Art PILLOWS Covered in China Seas, J. Robert Scott and Pollack fabrics DINING TABLE Custom designed by Amy D. Morris Interiors, fabricated by Honobach Furniture Artisans CHAIRS Anziano by Donghia BENCH Velin Bench by Holly Hunt, covered in “Akaroa” fabric by Castell KITCHEN CABINETRY 4346 Southside Dr., Acworth 30101. (770) 975-9244; COUNTER STOOLS Emeco by Philippe Starck PENDANT LIGHT Amax by Illuminations STAINLESS STEEL APRON-FRONT SINK Franke FAUCET Dornbracht’s Tara Classic Faucet REFRIGERATOR/FREEZER Sub-Zero DISHWASHER Miele RANGE CornuFe dual-fuel range COUNTERTOPS Caeserstone BACKSPLASH TILE Mosaic House through Renaissance Tile & Bath CRANE CHAIRS & OTTOMAN Donghia covered in “Versaille” by Kravet FLOOR LAMPS FLANKING WINDOW Arteriors Home SCRIM WINDOW TREATMENTS FABRIC Stratum Textiles WINDOW TREATMENT HARDWARE Fabricated by Iron Studio BED AND END TABLES Designed by Amy D. Morris Interiors and fabricated by Honobach Furniture Artisans CHEST Memo chest by Poliform CHAIRS Verellen STOOLS PierceMartin END TABLE Oly Studio through Bungalow Classic LAMP Belvedere WINDOW TREATMENT HARDWARE Iron Studio PORCELAIN TILES tk and tk by Ann Sacks CONCRETE VESSEL SINK Dex Studios WALL-MOUNT FAUCET Toto ROUND MIRROR Ikea