Inside A Historic Atlanta Home’s Respectful Renovation

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An Atlanta couple faithfully preserves a home's illustrious architectural past while gently coaxing it into the present.

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The foyer feels decidedly English thanks to an antique sideboard, vintage crystal lamps, antique tea caddies and an antique clock, all of which originated in England. The tone-on-tone striped wallpaper is by Cowtan & Tout. A turquoise chinoiserie wallpaper by Miles Redd for Schumacher strikes a vibrant note in the adjacent dining room, where Chinese Chippendale-style chairs by Hickory Chair surround a dining table by Kittinger.

In keeping with the home's classical architecture, designer and homeowner Don Easterling chose a historic color for the living room walls: Benjamin Moore's Saybrook Sage. Although reproduction, a pair of hand-painted French chairs by EJ Victor gives the impression of being old, while an antiqued brass-and-mirror coffee table by Century Furniture nods to the current day. Nestled between drapery panels of striped Scalamandre silk is an English roll-arm sofa by Hickory Chair.

Previously an open side porch, the now-enclosed sun room retains its original floorboards, which have been freshly painted in a black-and-white checkerboard design. The chandelier is by John Rosselli for Visual Comfort. Two different Sister Parish Design fabrics were chosen for the skirted table and the vintage Baker Furniture bergere chairs. A piano allows the space to do double-duty as a music room.

The focal point of the study is a carved mantelpiece sourced from another Neel Reid home--long since demolished. A Hickory Chair coffee table and an EJ Victor sofa, accented by pillows covered in the same Jane Shelton fabric that was used for the room's curtains, create a refuge for reading. To the right of the fireplace, an Oly Studio mirror hangs above a vintage chest.

The upper porch, which was designed by C. Brandon Ingram and built by Pat Kurek, is large enough to accommodate both relaxation and dining. A sofa and chairs by Thomas O'Brien for Century Furniture provide perches close by the fireplace. Vaughan sconces and an antique French mirror hang above the pine mantel, which was culled from Easterling's vast collection of architectural salvage.

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On the dining portion of the upper porch, an antique French trestle table, purchased at Foxglove Antiques & Galleries, is paired with Thomas O'Brien for Century Furniture chairs. The two concrete consoles, which flank the French doors leading to the keeping room, are by Made Goods.

The vintage Pierre Deux guest bed is dressed in linens from Peacock Alley. Next to it, a Visual Comfort lamp sits atop a Chelsea Textiles bedside table. The curtain fabric is by Oscar de la Renta for Lee Jofa.

Nash and Easterling decided to give the guest bedroom a more modern feeling than the rest of the home by selecting Farrow & Ball's rich Stiffkey Blue for the walls. Black-and-white obelisks purchased at Ainsworth-Noah flank a 1940s English oil painting. The antique chinoiserie chair dates to the early 1880s.

A demilune console by Theodore Alexander creates contrast with the keeping room's pale walls and floral-patterned Jane Shelton curtain fabric. Easterling is particularly fond of the handmade, hand-glazed lamps by Charlie West Lamps, which he purchased at Mathews Furniture + Design. The rug dates back to the 1920s and was sourced from John Overton Oriental Rugs.

Easterling and designer Nina Nash chose a subtle patterned wallpaper by Sister Parish Design for the keeping room, part of a recent addition made to the home. The set of skirted armchairs is by Hickory Chair, as is the upholstered ottoman that doubles as a coffee table. The fireplace mantel is another piece rescued by Easterling--this one from an old house in Druid Hills.

An old-house enthusiast living in a city not especially known for preserving its historical architecture, designer Don Easterling seemed destined to become guardian of one of Atlanta’s scant surviving gems: a 1911 house designed by revered Georgia architect Neel Reid. An avid collector of antiques and architectural salvage, Easterling had spent years amassing hardware, woodwork and fireplace mantels retrieved from sites slated for demolition–many of them gracious Reid residences. So his, along with partner Michael Proctor’s, eventual purchase of this particular Ansley Park abode seemed almost providential.

Easterling soon discovered the house was brimming with history: Not only was the home “a Neel Reid,” to quote Atlanta parlance, but late Democratic Party stalwart Robert B. Troutman and his wife had lived in the residence from 1929 to 1980. Adding to the designer’s excitement was the news that, during the 1960 presidential campaign, when John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy stumped for votes in Georgia, the Troutmans entertained the presidential hopeful and his wife in their home. Learning that the house had been minimally altered over the years sealed the deal, and Easterling and Proctor jumped at the opportunity to own a piece of Atlanta’s architectural and social past.

Considering its age, the house was in superb shape. But more importantly, “It had good bones,” Easterling explains. “Reid was called the ‘master of scale,’ so the size and proportions of the rooms are seemingly perfect.” Only the home’s fourth owners, the two men have taken their stewardship seriously–so much so that they spent more than a decade getting a feel for the house before embarking on any kind of architectural alteration. The renovations began with the kitchen, where Easterling incorporated modern updates such as an antiqued pewter hood and Calacatta Gold marble countertops. It was important that new features appear “as if they’d always been there,” says Easterling, so he repurposed the original windows and hardware while selecting finishes, fixtures and materials with period-appropriate flourishes.

This same scrupulous attention to accuracy was present in the most recent update, accomplished under the guidance of residential designer C. Brandon Ingram and builder Pat Kurek. Their endeavors added a new keeping room and bi-level back porch, plus a pool and pavilion that play to the hallmarks of Reid’s portfolio. “It was fun to continuously ask myself the question, ‘What would Neel Reid do if Don were his client?’ ” Ingram says. “As homeowner, designer and architectural historian, I think Don would have been a dream client for Reid.”

Ingram’s approach to the lower porch includes granite-covered walls and columns–an idea taken from the granite used for the home’s foundation–while the railings of the porch above are heavily reminiscent of Reid’s work. “We wanted this space to look like a Charleston porch, so we chose a classic Charleston black-green paint color for the floors,” Easterling says, adding that, “We made sure the doors of the study and keeping room would open on to the porch for ease of entertaining. There is a very good flow to the house.” For the designer, it was imperative that the home’s additions look original, so he sourced historic hardware, hinges and mantels for each space, also ordering custom windows milled to match those found elsewhere in the house–with circa-1900 mouth-blown glass for a timeless “wavy” appearance.
The scope of renovations signaled an interior redo was imminent, and designer Nina Nash, Easterling’s design partner of nearly a decade, was delighted to contribute. “We consult each other on everything,” Nash notes of her longtime mentor, so it was only natural that she would lend her talents to Easterling’s personal home.

A native South Carolinian, Easterling is drawn to soft colors and classic floral fabrics as well as antiques–especially English clocks and tea caddies, blue-and-white Chinese export porcelain and anything chinoiserie in style. Due in large part to Easterling’s influence, Nash has grown to love antiques and traditional furnishings, but treats them less reverentially, preferring to mix in bold colors, lively wallcoverings and modern touches like Lucite. In Easterling’s home, Nash had the opportunity to champion both. Take, for example, the dining room where JFK and Jackie enjoyed meals so many years ago. A stately mahogany table and pair of demilune commodes appropriate for the room’s traditional purpose pops against a comparatively chromatic Chinese-inspired wallpaper in a spirited turquoise.

Although the living room touts a historic Charleston color and ample traditional appointments (framed intaglios, antique English andirons, chinoiserie nesting tables), it favors freshness over historical accuracy; evident by its comfortable upholstery and an acrylic drinks table–the latter no doubt due to Nash’s influence. “That’s about the only modern thing you’ll find in the house,” quips Easterling.Notes Ingram, “The classic nature of Neel Reid homes gives them an inherent and lasting sense of endearment.” And Easterling’s commitment to meticulous maintenance of his own, even in its augmentation, seems to guarantee its aesthetic longevity. Surely–that means this distinguished house is poised for another century of gracious living.