Situated in the Red Hills region of South Georgia, the main house at Brannville Plantation is as impressive as the pristine parcel of hunting land it anchors. On approach, the stately home quietly begins to reveal itself as a thoughtfully cultivated heirloom that celebrates Southern grace and gentility.
The home’s story begins in 2012, when the estate’s owners, Joe and Fran Brannen, approached Atlanta architect Brandon Ingram. At the time, the Brannens were staying in the property’s hunting lodge (designed by renowned Southern architect W. Frank McCall Jr.) but were seeking to build a larger home that could serve as a backdrop for entertaining and ultimately be passed down through generations.
“From our very first meeting, it became apparent that they wanted to do something very fine, not a typical run-of-the-mill house,” recalls Ingram. Always favoring a team approach to design, he introduced the Brannens to landscape architect Carson McElheney and interior designer Mallory Mathison Glenn in the project’s initial stages. “They wanted a young team in place that could give them a classically rooted house that still felt very fresh,” says Ingram.
“All three of us were under 35 at the time, and the Brannens really allowed us to prove ourselves by giving us full creative rein,” adds Glenn. “In an age where everyone is looking on Pinterest or Houzz and coming back with all these ideas, the Brannens said, ‘Show us your vision’ and trusted us to drive the whole process.”
The team did not disappoint. McElheney began by extensively surveying the land and siting the home among a grove of century-old oak trees. “I spent hours with Mr. Brannen and his son walking the quail woods to find that perfect placement. We came upon these majestic live oaks that now frame the house,” he says.
Despite its grand proportions (24-foot columns greet visitors on the front portico), the house never reads as overly imposing, a credit to Ingram’s skillful approach to the architecture. In a nod to the regional vernacular, he melded elements from a range of styles such as Federal, Greek Revival and Georgian, thus giving the home a quiet familiarity. “When you’re working on a home this large, every little detail matters,” he notes. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the home’s core, where he connected an open suite of spaces—living room, dining room and kitchen—through architectural delineations such as a graceful elliptical arch and column screen that also provide each room with a purposeful intimacy.
This fine attention to detail was also paramount in Glenn’s design scheme. At the request of Fran—and inspired by Pebble Hill Plantation in nearby Thomasville, Georgia—each bedroom of the home was to be named and take on a personality of its own. Rising to the challenge, and simultaneously paying tribute to the Brannens’ passion for travel and nature, Glenn brought varying themes to life in spaces such as the Africa Room and the Bird & Thistle Room. The latter, featuring a luxe Brunschwig & Fils chinoiserie wallpaper, showcases the designer’s bold use of saturated color and pattern, a common thread she used throughout the home to give its historically inspired bones a fresh and youthful perspective.
All the while, McElheney continued to shape the verdant landscape. “It’s crucial to respect a site’s architecture and natural features. I would constantly arrive well before sunrise to study the light patterns that would dance across the gardens and the house,” he explains. The end result is a clean and classic landscape that complements the home’s timeless character.
Four and a half years after Ingram’s first meeting with the Brannens, the main house was ready to host family and friends. “It would have been a disservice to rush this project,” says Glenn. “The clients were incredible about gifting everyone on the team the time to create something spectacular.” It was indeed well worth the wait.