When Greg and Lee Alison Rable decided to blend classic and modern aesthetics for a new home in Marietta, Georgia, the past became their greatest resource. The couple and their two teenage sons had called a traditional-style residence home for 17 years and, in contrast to the open floor plans and luminous interiors they had grown to admire, it had begun to feel dated. Craving clean lines and sunlit rooms, they set out in search of a fresh sensibility.
After touring a historic James Means residence–modified by architect Linda MacArthur–the couple became smitten with the home’s U-shaped plan. “We loved the way it wrapped around the beautiful backyard and pool. We knew immediately that was what we wanted,” says Lee Alison, who hired MacArthur to construct a similar home near Marietta’s historic square. “This is where I grew up and my family still lives here, so it was only natural to settle here.” Keeping the principles of modernism and the enduring quality of English country houses in mind, MacArthur devised a stately residence that’s as nostalgic as it is current.
To give the home modern functionality, MacArthur employed an open-plan kitchen, breakfast area and family room, and positioned the interior bar adjacent to the formal living room, dining room and pool terrace. “You have to think about how the family will move through the house,” says the architect, who incorporated two staircases–one in each arm of the U-shaped plan. “They used to be near the entry, but it doesn’t make sense to come down the stairs and end up at the front door in your pajamas.”
MacArthur took an especially artful approach for the modernist main staircase, which almost “looks like it’s floating,” she says. Looking to renowned architect Sir Edwin Lutyens’ design for England’s Deanery Garden as inspiration, the architect used window walls to help enclose the stairs. In this case, she says, “the stair was not merely a way to get up to another floor but a way to bring light to both levels.” To enhance the references to English country vernacular, she framed the windows with cedar and expressed the stairwell on the exterior by punctuating its brick cladding with cedar and glass.
After general contractor Michael Ladisic was brought on to construct the home, the Rables tapped designer Brian Watford to furnish the interiors. “I’ve known Brian since elementary school, but we fell out of touch after high school,” Lee Alison recounts. “One day I was browsing Pinterest and saw work he had done for a local show house, and I knew instantly he was the right designer for us.” She requested to meet for coffee, and soon the reacquainted schoolmates were shopping for paint colors, furniture and fabrics.
Watford seamlessly connected his interior design to the architecture, suspending a chandelier with bubble-like glass spheres that cascade through the sunlit stairwell. “I played off the modern design of the staircase,” he says. In the interest of more ethereality, he painted the kitchen’s perimeter cabinetry a pale shade of blue, which complements the teal tone used for the island and pantry cabinetry. Says the designer of the similarly saturated high-gloss interior bar: “The lacquer adds a sense of depth you don’t see elsewhere in the house; it makes the space feel like a little jewel box.” This bold treatment tempers the more traditional style of the kitchen, spearheaded by Jane Hollman of Studio Entourage, the branch of MacArthur’s firm focusing on kitchens, bathrooms and other small-scale projects.
In keeping with the color palette Watford had already established, the formal dining room corrals peacock-colored Italian velvet armchairs around an ash wood table and mod metallic chandelier. Watford balanced the home’s blue-green hues by outfitting the breakfast area and living room with cream-colored textiles and warm accents like faux bois and brass. The coved corners of the latter space do well to soften sharp statements made by riveted grass-cloth walls, a kinetic cowhide carpet and sea urchin-shaped ceiling fixture.
“I knew I wanted to push more modern,” says Lee Alison, who expressed slight reservations along the transition from traditional. Despite her reticence, it was Watford’s guidance that urged her to get to the design she really desired. “It was a labor of love in the end and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more–getting back in touch with my old friend and creating such an amazing home for my family.”