Sometimes a wrong turn leads to the right place. This was certainly the case for a Georgia family of four, who realized a dream thanks to such a detour. Having grown up on a farm in Tennessee, the wife always aspired for vast acreage where her children could roam freely. Upon learning about a sprawling plot of land for sale on Atlanta’s northern outskirts, she decided to assess its potential in person. A fateful miscalculation, however, led her down a different road, terminating at the peak of a breathtaking ridge with extraordinary views. “I drove up this long driveway that would probably scare most people, but then I came upon this beautiful setting at the top of the hill and simply fell in love with it,” she recounts.
Bordered by dense stands of mature trees, the more than 7-acre property promised an idyllic backdrop for the family’s future abode. The home’s architect, Brad Heppner, was quick to recommend Amy Morris, a designer he’s collaborated with frequently—and with whom the clients had also worked previously. That warm sense of familiarity was a windfall for a project of such magnitude. Of his and Morris’ easy rapport, the architect reveals: “We’ve developed a respect and a professional trust; once you have that, everything else goes smoothly.”
Good thing, too, since construction presented several logistical challenges. The lot’s steep elevation made getting materials from the street to the site difficult, while the hilltop location required regrading to ensure the new house would be situated on flat land. Thankfully, these obstacles were addressed by general contractor Ken Dooley without trepidation. The lengthy permitting process presented yet another hurdle. “But Ken worked miracles to keep the project alive and moving,” Heppner adds.
To complement the woodland setting, the couple requested an exterior that would relay romance and permanence—the kind of baronial manor a heroine might happen upon in a children’s book. Heppner answered with a plaster-washed, brick-and-stone manse featuring multiple gables and loose references to English Arts and Crafts style. “Rather than a literal interpretation of a fairy-tale house, we incorporated elements that would subtly evoke that feeling,” he notes.
Those components include custom millwork that playfully riffs on classic architectural motifs. Intricate tracery adorns the entry hall ceiling as a trio of limestone arches, supported by Doric columns, frames the great room’s steel casement doors. And since most of the rooms on the main level tout ceilings more than 12 feet tall, finding ways to make the height feel less imposing became a priority. Along with leaded-glass panels, coffered details bring the entryways down to scale while filtering in more natural light, which flows through the graceful transom windows Heppner incorporated throughout the house.
Morris, meanwhile, conjured an approachable old-world feel through a mix of antiques, transitional silhouettes and neutral palettes with bursts of blush—a favorite color of the wife and daughters—as well as peacock blue. And although the home is packed with monumental rooms designed for entertaining, there are casual nooks for the family, too. The kitchen, for instance—a glorious crescendo of Calacatta Viola Extra marble and brass pinstriping—was conceived to be a thoroughbred cook space, while the adjacent scullery is the unsung workhorse where flowers are arranged and coffee is made. “The wife loves brass, which is reflected throughout the house,” Morris notes. “When it came to stone, it was a matter of fully showcasing the finishes she appreciates most.” Similarly, while the great room shines with opulent appointments, the petrol-hued family room contrasts as a cocooning family hangout.
Because the whole of the project took nearly seven years to complete, the design team was able to watch their clients’ daughters grow up along the way. To ensure the children experienced an ongoing sense of wonder in the home, Morris and Heppner incorporated many enchanting features. Two examples? A linen closet was converted into a tiny library, and a secret spiral staircase connects the girls’ bedrooms to their parents’ suite.
As the project reached its final chapter, Morris also devised a special surprise for the owners: Her team completed the entire install in a single week. “I am not a visual person, so to see it all come together was magical,” the wife shares. “To take it all the way from paper to real life, and to be able to say, ‘I’m home now,’ is the most fantastic feeling.”