Infusing a contemporary aesthetic into a traditional home takes skill, vision and a substantial helping of resolve. Fortunately, one Atlanta couple was steadfast in their desire to create a family-friendly residence whose clean lines wouldn’t feel out of place alongside its stately Buckhead neighbors. It all started with the property. Expansive and private, their lot came with an intriguing bonus: sitting plans by residential designer William T. Baker, commissioned by the previous owner, to renovate the home on site.
While Baker was tweaking his original plans to better suit the couple and their three children, the wife called on designer Dana Lynch for additional insight. The two women clicked instantly, bonding over a mutual fondness for black—in clothing and decorative accents—as well as their shared passion for streamlined interiors. “She and her husband have exquisite taste,” says the designer. “What they envisioned was something a little quieter, a little more subdued.” With Lynch on board before framing commenced, the project was able to take an even more contemporary turn that integrated many of her firm’s stylistic hallmarks. “I really like things that are simple and speak for themselves,” the designer notes. “I’m all about materiality and texture.”
Once demolition began, the team—which included general contractor Shaba Derazi—recognized that what began as a straightforward renovation would ultimately become a down-to-the-foundation overhaul. The footprint and floor plan stayed true to Baker’s drawings—with a few additions to boost square footage—while incorporating his trademark varied ceiling heights, strong axial relationships and perfected room proportions. But the project’s evolution inspired him to interpret his clients’ preferences via echoes of the English Arts and Crafts movement. Baker captured those influences in the abode’s graceful arched entryways, mulled windows, flush gables and hard-coat stucco.
Indoors, the wife worked closely with Lynch to distill the residential designer’s vision further, opting for caseless openings and foregoing such details as beams, baseboards and moldings. “It’s a very unforgiving style because there’s no room for error,” Baker acknowledges. “But it’s something Shaba excels in, because he understands the precision required to do it.” Lynch agrees. “In a home this clean-lined, the agony is in getting the details right so that it looks simple,” she explains. “The craftsmanship required is incredible.”
Devising the dramatic staircase for the foyer was another challenge that relied on meticulous pre-construction planning and collaboration among Baker, Derazi and Lynch. Says the latter: “When the homeowners said we could go modern, our follow-up was, ‘Can we go all the way?’ ” Fully supported by the clients, the result is a minimalist marvel: a frameless glass balustrade illuminated at night by slender lengths of LED lights that virtually disappear from view.
Continuing the interiors’ contemporary mood, Lynch and the wife kept to a restrained material palette: plaster, concrete, wood, mixed metals and stone that they complemented with practical performance fabrics like mohair, bouclé and wool. Linking spaces in terms of color is a through line of Belgian-inspired tones: off-whites, warm grays and taupes—all accented by charcoal or black.
The latter has a major moment in the dining room, where dark-tinted plaster, suggested by the wife, spans both walls and ceiling. Describing black as her “happy color,” Lynch leaped at the chance to deliver a dark and moody dining space for her clients, but she was just as committed to their entertaining needs. “We chose two tables that push together,” she reveals. “You can seat 10 people at each if you separate them.”
As unconventional choices took flight indoors, the back of the property—shielded from the traditional façades of the street—provided another opportunity to play. Here, Baker’s design for a rectilinear pool house brilliantly answered the husband’s request for a modernist retreat. “It’s an excellent example of how exacting the construction had to be; everything is perfectly level, perfectly aligned,” Baker notes. Positioned on axis with the family room and anchoring one end of the raised pool terrace, it represents a rigorously geometric folly framed by the lot’s mature canopy. Furthermore, fresh plantings of rosemary, American boxwood, Little Lime hydrangea and more by landscape designer William McMullen help knit the building to its site.
So, too, does the minimalist structure reflect the design evolution of Baker, an industry veteran who made his name as a classicist. Ultimately, “A house should be a reflection of its owners,” he explains. “These clients are progressive and forward-thinking people, and this house is very much them.”