Urban Legend

Longtime Atlanta homebuilder JOHN WIELAND constructs his legacy project at One Museum Place—and decides he’ll call it home

“From the beginning, we were intentional to avoid the word ‘unit,’” says visionary homebuilder John Wieland when explaining how One Museum Place (OMP)—a luxury collection of just 44 condominiums in Midtown Atlanta—got its start. “The post office wants to know what unit you live in; if you visit a friend in a high-rise, they give you their unit number. But at OMP, we all live in homes.”

It’s a simple sentiment, but one that captures the essence of the unique Peachtree Street development that Wieland first imagined more than 15 years ago. At the time, he was chairing the High Museum of Art’s Building Committee, which was presiding over the museum’s expanded campus designed by noted Italian architect Renzo Piano; Wieland took notice of three old buildings directly across the street. 

“The phrase ‘prime location’ would have been an understatement,” says Wieland, when describing his fascination with the trio of spaces owned by The Woodruff Arts Center. Once the museum’s sizable expansion was complete, Woodruff decided to sell off the property and Wieland was eager to scoop it up. “I just knew this would be my dream project, one of those career-defining opportunities,” he says.

Wieland secured the sale, but the project was halted when the recession hit. When the economy began to recover, Wieland and project developer Randy Shields got to work demolishing the existing buildings and enlisting architect Merrill Elam to design a sophisticated condominium concept that was respectful of its location. “I think 15th and 16th on Peachtree is the best architectural block in Atlanta,” says Wieland, “so constructing a soaring glass tower wouldn’t have made sense.”

The result of his unique vision is a modern, two-building development rising just five stories and boasting not only plenty of green space, but also a generous array of windows and glazed exterior doors that are more reminiscent of custom homes than city condominiums. The development has attracted international buyers as well as Atlantans who are trading in their homes for something smaller and closer to the action. 

Wieland and his wife Sue fall into the latter category. “We were the quintessential ‘been there, done that’ suburban couple,” says Wieland. “We had a wonderful home on 2.6 acres where we lived for 40 years, but we began to ask ourselves, ‘How are we going to finish up life good?” 

And so they packed up and moved into OMP, where they’re able to enjoy an evening at the Atlanta Symphony without the stress of traffic. Wieland and his wife also viewed their move as an opportunity to explore more contemporary interiors, which they entrusted to interior designer Julie Witzel, who had just finished designing OMP’s common areas. Admiring her aesthetic sensibilities and collaborative nature, they hired the designer to craft a warm, welcoming and forward-thinking home.

To ensure the condo’s grand proportions (this one is more than 3,500 square feet) didn’t register as overwhelming, Witzel worked with the couple to establish specific functions and personalities for each space. “In every one of our meetings, we had extensive discussions on how they saw themselves living throughout the home to ensure we were being mindful of balancing beauty with function,” she says. 

For example, the cozy den, with a custom walnut fireplace as its centerpiece, is perfectly appointed for enjoying a fireside nightcap, while the media room’s Flexform sectional and durable leather-top bar are ready for more boisterous evenings, such as Super Bowl Sunday. The dining room also offers flexible seating options: the table, custom designed with Skylar Morgan Furniture, can be broken down into three smaller pieces to accommodate an intimate crowd.  

Luxe materials—from the bespoke rugs underfoot to a custom wall-to-wall headboard created from leather tiles—play a role in grounding the rooms. “The warmth of the wood furnishings and softness of the velvets and mohairs are key; these touches make the home feel approachable even though it is expansive and modern,” says Witzel. 

The minimalist aesthetic also allows the Wieland’s impressive art collection take center stage. Art is a shared passion for the couple, whose acquisitions center around the idea of home, a reflection of Wieland’s illustrious homebuilding career. While much of their 400-piece collection hangs in their Midtown gallery, wareHOUSE (a 20,000 square-foot, not-for-profit endeavor soon to be opened to the public), Witzel worked with the couple’s personal curator, Rebecca Dimling Cochran, to select works for this home.

Most notably, Roy Lichtenstein’s House III maquette sits atop a custom acrylic pedestal in the living room. In the winter, when the leaves have fallen off the ginkgo tree that fronts the High’s lawn, the American pop artist’s full-scale House III sculpture (donated by Wieland) can be seen from that exact spot, a nod to the couple’s love of the arts. Art from their collection also lives in OMP’s common areas on a rotating basis. “There was a lot of thought that went into making OMP special,” says Wieland. “Twenty years from now, I think people will still be marveling at its character.”

INTERIOR DESIGN Julie Witzel, J Witzel Interior Design. (770) 639-5791; jwitzeldesign.com
ARCHITECTURE Merrill Elam, Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects. (404) 525-6869; msmearch.com