Decorating for someone I have developed a friendship with makes the entire process, on both sides, so rewarding,” notes Atlanta interior designer Danielle Rollins, who has a track record of creating welcoming, hospitable environments. But entering a design project with friendship as the foundation only makes the results that much more personal and comfortable.
Such was the case for the transformation of a 1925 Tuscan villa in Buckhead, Georgia, Rollins having already bonded with its owner over a mutual love of art. It was only after being welcomed into Rollins’ own Tuxedo Park abode one afternoon for a glass of Champagne that their friendship blossomed into a full-fledged designer-client relationship. “He stood in my entrance hall with his jaw on the floor,” Rollins recalls of that fateful first visit. “In my home, there are layers and layers of texture and color, and every room tells a story of what the next room is going to be.” While the designer admits her talent for a fluid procession of colors and patterns, she thinks it was the conversation-sparking arrangements of art and furniture that won over her client’s confidence in the end. “He felt at home here, and he knew I could replicate that feeling for him,” she explains.
Having not been renovated since the 1990s, the homeowner’s own stucco- and clay tile-clad residence was in dire need of an update. To tone down its dated, ornate interiors, Rollins ousted the heavy textiles and faux-finished walls in favor of a soft, neutral scheme. The result is a lighter, airier take on Italianate that Rollins says “channels David Adler, Frances Elkins and old-school Montecito”—but still feels right at home in the heart of Buckhead.
Recently retired from his law practice and a newly single father, the client naturally gravitated toward strong, masculine furniture silhouettes. At the same time, though, top of mind was ensuring his two teenage daughters would feel equally at home. So, Rollins split the difference between the two styles, balancing masculine forms with feminine touches.
In the master bedroom, where the homeowner originally wanted a sleigh bed, Rollins instead placed a four-poster. “It would have blocked the views,” she says, noting how its clean lines are tempered by softly skirted tables at the bedside. “A lot of guys are afraid of skirted furniture because they think it is going to look too feminine, but I’m a big believer that furniture should be a mix of skirts and legs; plus they’re done in a way that he can lift them up for extra storage.” To add a handsome touch to the home, Rollins brought in supple, saddle-colored leathers, but she was sure to contrast them with florid textiles—animal prints, ikats, florals. In his daughters’ rooms, especially, “it was about letting them have a style and a voice of their own in their personal spaces,” Rollins explains. “One picked a Sister Parish print, which just thrilled me.”
Rollins was also keen to give her client the color flow that had so captured his attention in her home. Since the newly pale, neutral walls happened to provide the perfect gallery-like setting for his extensive collection of art, Rollins started there: with a mixed-media work by Cuban artist Alejandro Aguilera at the entryway. Its vibrant azure is reiterated numerous times throughout the house, helping the eye to travel. Similarly, in the dining room, a commanding abstract by Radcliffe Bailey inserts strokes of scarlet that appear throughout the home on everything from garden stools to sculpture, while in the breakfast area an entrancing photograph by Abelardo Morell ties the interior to the outside world. “It’s a scene of a garden done in camera obscura,” Rollins explains. “I love the way windows wrap all around this space, then you have this incredible art piece that’s like looking out a window. It really is so unbelievably beautiful.”
To enhance the already established gardens—lush with English ivy, clipped Korean boxwood hedges, needle palms and climbing vines—Rollins teamed up with landscape designer Marc Galbraith to tame the European-esque courtyards, terraces and pool area with new plantings of Southern-staple flowering shrubs: hydrangea, azalea, gardenia, tea olive and Knock Out white roses, among them. To frame a momentous view of the pool, she placed a pair of Boston ferns in terra-cotta pots.
And with such an entrancing environment right out the back door, there were telltale details no self-professed Southern hostess would overlook: opportunities for outdoor living and entertaining. Rollins’ thoughtful furniture placements and color play create a comfortable flow from the living room to the terrace, the kitchen and, ultimately, the sunroom-cum-library—where the client reads the newspaper over coffee every morning.
For the avid oenophile, this room is an excellent place to enjoy wine in the evenings, as well as cocktails—especially since Rollins provided the perfect rattan bar cart for concocting them. Adds the designer of the ongoing visits with her friend, “We typically have Negronis—he makes the best.