What Lies Beneath

Behind the classic facade of a traditional, southern-style estate, designer kay douglass fashions an extraordinary—and unexpected—design scheme.

From the street, you’d never guess that this Atlanta home’s traditional facade belies a minimalist, clutter-free interior designed for an active family of five. But the first hint that this refined Southern manor is anything but expected occurs the closer you approach the home, thanks to shutters and bricks painted in an identical, monochromatic white.

“A unified color across the shutters and the exterior upholds its feeling of Southern elegance,” explains designer and South of Market owner Kay Douglass, who was hired on to give this Southern belle a more modern facelift for a young family that had recently relocated from Florida.

That light-and-bright feel was precisely the aesthetic the homeowners wanted to infuse into the interiors, which at the time of purchase consisted of mainly dark, rich browns. The clients’ charge: “Out with the old energy, in with the new energy,” and whitewashing the floors and whitening the walls was Douglass’s first order of business.

Known for her clean-lined, less-is-more approach, Douglass, who is also a master editor, decided to adjust the home’s floor plan by moving the original dining room to the center of the house, which would not only create better movement throughout the main floor, but also allow the room to take on added importance.

Never one to shy away from scale—or experimentation, for that matter—Douglass opted to give the dining room the air of a restaurant or gathering space by specifying not one but two dining tables, in contrasting shapes (one is round, the other square). Mixed with soft, upholstered chairs, identical iron chandeliers and dramatic orange draperies, the result is a space that’s as spare as it is sophisticated—but also large enough to accommodate a dinner party or cozy enough for an intimate dinner.

There was one room, though, where the homeowners challenged Douglass to depart from the neutral palette, and that was in the study, where the designer fulfilled their dream of creating a striking, lacquered-gray retreat. As she did with the dining area, the designer juxtaposed pairs of overscaled pieces with brilliant white and orange accents. Beyond making a dazzling design statement, the room also serves as a functioning home office and quiet retreat. “It was important to the family that each and every space be used to maximum efficiency,” says Douglass of the dual-purpose room.

Equally paramount to the homeowners, who had worked in the furniture business in the past, was incorporating some of their favorite pieces, but with “a fresh, modern flair,” says Douglass. And the entry, she says, is the perfect example. “The foyer is the positive result of using our client’s favorite piece”—the chaise from their previous residence—”with something ‘found,’ a straw sculpture sourced from the south of France that adds the perfect burst of color.”

It’s precisely that kind of burst, that signature “spice” that Douglass is known for weaving into her projects, which not only unites the modern with the old, but also propels this interior from pretty and practical to punchy and powerful. But with this designer at the helm, that’s every bit expected.

INTERIOR DESIGN Kay Douglass, South of Market, 345 Peachtree Hills Ave. NE, Suite 100, Atlanta 30305. (404) 995-9399; southofmarket.biz