Say the words “top-to-bottom home renovation” and an additive approach often comes to mind: more and bigger rooms with of-the-moment finishes, fixtures and furnishings adorning every inch. But when designer Andrea Henzlik learned that a colonial cottage—located just down the street from her own Buckhead home—would soon be for sale, she had something different in mind: a reductive approach that would strip away many of the embellishments that had been added to the Georgia home since its construction in 1978, focusing instead on the structure’s pleasing symmetries and scale.
Something else Henzlik had in mind was potential buyers—a pair of longtime clients looking to move from the Atlanta home she had previously designed for them into a Buckhead residence that would place them in close proximity to family. Upon viewing the house, the couple was immediately taken with its comfortable size, gracefully arched doorways and walkout backyard shaded by old oaks. “When our two sons heard that we were buying the first house we looked at, they didn’t believe it,” the wife recalls. “But when we saw it, we said, ‘We think this is the one.’”
The couple was equally decisive about beginning a renovation that would encompass architecture, interiors and landscape design—to Henzlik’s delight. “It’s so important to have a good architect to get the bones right and to have the landscaping in place,” she says.
Architect Greg Busch agreed with Henzlik’s assessment that the cottage was beautiful but overdressed. “Almost every room had paneling, and a lot of it didn’t match,” he recalls. “So, the project started with making it feel bigger and cleaner and more tailored by just stripping everything out.” Bulky fireplaces were redesigned with simple, elegant surrounds. Subtly textured wall plaster took the place of heavy millwork. Archways were enlarged and aligned to create seamless sight lines through the house. And the narrow entry’s massive mahogany front door was replaced with a custom, modern iron-and-glass version that floods the space with light.
In the absence of embellishment, “you have nowhere to hide,” Busch says of the home’s new aesthetic—which owes much of its success to builder Lindsey Potts. “A builder who’s paying attention leaves no gaps that need covering with trim; because of his attention to detail, we were able to create a much more tailored interior.”
Outside, the design team streamlined the look by removing brackets and columns, choosing a tonal scheme of warm white paint colors for the brick walls and new shutters and incorporating a tall, modern bay window to frame views of the reimagined front yard.
Before landscape designer Carson McElheney’s intervention, the property had been dominated by a large circular driveway with a concrete parking court. Replacing that hardscaping with a broad fescue lawn and pea-gravel drive made the house appear more established and refined, McElheney says, while new groupings of sculpted boxwoods—along with pachysandra, autumn ferns and large specimen trees—“balance and respect the architecture and tie this property back to the land.” A classic palette of gardenias, hydrangeas, popcorn viburnum, styrax and Southern magnolias “offers wonderful layers of green and white,” he adds, “creating a succession of flowers from early spring through fall.”
A layered approach also drove the interior design: a masculine-meets-feminine mix of traditional furnishings, finishes and fabrics combined with transitional and modern accents. “I like to be intentional about a design not being predictable,” Henzlik says. “I don’t even mind if it takes people a minute to decide if they like it or not. I don’t want their eyes just to move right through and not be caught off guard by something.”
In the study, for example, bold modern art and a sapphire-blue sofa pop against subdued white-oak wall paneling. In the living room, vintage seats by modern design master Paul McCobb mingle with Swedish antique chairs. And in the dining room, a sculptural chandelier and custom furnishings provide a contemporary counterpoint to a traditional coffered ceiling.
The home’s original details shine in other rooms, including the kitchen, which retains its floor-to-ceiling cabinetry and coffered ceiling. Though Henzlik refreshed the space with new lighting, hardware and a marble-topped island, she was judicious with her additions. “I don’t like to clutter a project,” she says, “but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of layers. The clients appreciate attention to every single detail, down to the color of a screw going in a hinge”—and for this home’s new iteration, it’s those subtle touches that make the design.