Robert Brown’s client was 25 years old and at the top of his game when the designer met him, but not when it came to decorating. “He wasn’t sure what he wanted,” reveals Brown, who was previously tapped for the build-out and design of his client’s former Buckhead penthouse. “I saw that he was headed in a very elegant direction, and he trusted us to help him develop a style.”
After the homeowner married his college sweetheart and the pair made plans to start a family, conversations naturally gravitated toward the need for something more grown-up to accommodate their lifestyle and appropriate for the little ones they hoped would soon be toddling around. So, they turned, once more, to Brown–who gladly signed on for the interior design but also introduced the couple to the very house and lot they ultimately purchased. “The road it’s on is one of the cut throughs to my own neighborhood,” the designer recounts. “When I drove by the site, I immediately knew it would suit their needs.”
Architect Linda MacArthur authored the original plans for the French Normandy-inspired residence, and general contractor Stan Benecki tackled the construction. Yet the classic European approach to the house, it turns out, is somewhat of a ruse. Just beyond the threshold, visitors encounter starkly different interiors. “Inside, all of the moldings and trim were minimized for a clean, contemporary look,” says MacArthur.
Brown, who came on board during the framing stage, developed the handsome gray wash for the wood floors and vouched for the tones of Venetian plaster that lend an elegant backdrop to his warm-modern selections of fabrics, furnishings and art. “They like to live casually,” Brown says of the homeowners. “So, we added industrial touches, sea grass carpets and stones that were honed, rather than polished, to tone down any sense of formality. It’s sophisticated yet simple.”
The interior scheme is unified by an understated neutral palette with lots of high-contrast black and white: a monochrome most evident in art that brings graphic, gestural tension to simple furniture silhouettes. Namely, in the dining room, a dark cypress ceiling, custom flat-weave rug and oversize painting intentionally “take your attention away from the leggy buffet and chairs, which could otherwise read very busy in the middle of the room,” Brown explains.
Owing to his former life as a menswear designer, Brown tends to approach projects like a tailor, combining streamlined custom furnishings with polished and masculine details. While this was ideal for the couple’s former penthouse bedroom, the wife requested a softer aesthetic for their new master suite. “We changed the color scheme to a dusty blue with an almost nude-colored fabric to make it more feminine,” the designer notes. Watercolors on paper from the Paris Flea Market drive this point home, while a metallic wallcovering in the wife’s closet and a glittery black wallpaper in a powder room enhance the femininity in a way that’s refreshing, not overt.
Bearing in mind the durability required for a growing brood (the couple has since welcomed twins), Brown benched precious silks and fussy patterns in favor of relaxed, tactile textiles like elegantly rumpled indoor-outdoor linens, supple leathers, tightly woven chenille and cotton sateen.
Outside, dense surroundings by landscape architect Alec Michaelides shroud the house from the street, ensuring its owners never feel overexposed. “To reduce the visual impact of the first-floor height, we designed a raised planting area and a mid-level arrival terrace to the front door,” explains Michaelides. “It’s a more graceful approach to the house that doesn’t require scaling an entire flight of steps to reach it.” The plan also allowed room to accommodate a pair of mature crepe myrtles that forms a canopy over the property’s front walkway, visible from Benecki’s expansive windows and doors.
This was intended to be “a very sophisticated, private house,” Benecki affirms. What resulted was well beyond the bounds of the initial plans but feels like the intended destination in the end.