Few residential buildings in Atlanta have the mystique of Park Place, the city’s first luxury high-rise. Boasting a prime Buckhead location on Peachtree Road, the 40-story skyscraper is famously home to superstar Elton John and has also housed Coretta Scott King and Janet Jackson. For designer Bill Musso and his husband, Bryan Cooke, a move to the iconic building meant a massive shift in their lives: giving up the lush gardens at their former Druid Hills villa. “We wanted to try condo life,” Musso says. “So, we lived on the 25th floor for a while and had an amazing view of Downtown. But Bryan missed his gardening—it’s his therapy—and the balcony wasn’t cutting it.”
As chance would have it, a client of Musso’s wanted to buy the couple’s upper-floor home, and a bottom-floor residence with an expansive terrace was sitting empty. Luckily, Musso and Bryan were able to talk the downstairs owner into selling. Musso’s vision for a new floor plan, initially developed in concert with residential designer Robert Norris, effectively transposed a dated layout, placing the home’s public spaces in lock-step with stunning city views while capping each end with a well-appointed bedroom.
Since the rest of Musso’s ideas were even loftier, he called on general contractor Jeff Fagan to bring them to fruition. To problem-solve the project’s many challenges, Fagan leaned on his robust background in residential design, also tapping an expert crew of craftspeople and structural engineers to relocate the residence’s utilitarian components—such as fire sprinklers and air-conditioning units—behind beautifying architectural features.
In a dramatic move, the duo raised the ceilings to nearly double their original height: the result of Bill investigating—and later excavating—the unit’s 1980s-era dropped ceilings. Augmenting the floor-to-ceiling glass on the unit’s southern exposure further enhanced continuity with the building’s soaring, 17-foot-tall lobby. And all the better to showcase a feature practically unheard-of for high-rise living: a nearly 4,000-square-foot courtyard. While Musso and Bryan had acquired only a concrete slab, it was a blank slate that allowed landscape designer Alex Smith to get creative.
“We designed raised planters throughout to give the illusion that we were actually planting in existing soil,” explains Smith, who planted clipped Korean boxwoods and unusual black mondo grass in containers as visual treats. Chinese Fringe trees flank the focal point for the entire garden: a modern prefab pergola nodding to sleek Miami style.
Indoors, Musso drew inspiration from other cities close to his heart—notably New York, where he spent his childhood. “My grandmother would take us to Radio City Music Hall, which, like Rockefeller Center, she loved for its Art Deco details. Later, while in art school, I’d bring my sketch pad to draw the friezes on the building or the mosaics,” the designer recounts. “Art Deco is my favorite period of architecture,” he continues. “But it can be a bit stuffy, so I wanted to capture a modern version of that.” Colors reminiscent of the Roaring ’20s —such as antique gold and rose—team with streamlined 1930s elements, but other decades also get their dues. “I like 1970s glam; there was a lot of goodness then,” Musso expresses. “The ’70s can get a bad rap, but it was a great decade for color.”
Complementing the home’s grand gestures—such as a black custom kitchen with glimmering brass backsplash—are Musso and Bryan’s sentimental additions: a beaded dog figurine recalling a memorable trip to San Miguel de Allende, petite crystal butterflies procured from a favorite Parisian luxury store, artwork by Belgian photographer Isabelle Menin and more. Theirs is a residence that successfully melds vacations with passions and practicality with everyday interests, offering the consummate snapshot of the couple’s life together up until now. Though with nearly a dozen shared residences behind them, Musso concedes, this is likely not his and Bryan’s last labor of love. “Maybe we have an addiction,” he laughs. “But I like to think of it as leveraging our talents.”