Bernard McCoy and Elayne DeLeo met in a meet-up group on modern design. In 2007, the idea-driven duo created Modern Atlanta (MA), which has evolved into Design is Human Atlanta, an annual design event that includes architecture tours, speakers, classes, panel discussions and an international design expo. The growing event (May 29-June 7) has put Atlanta and the Southeast on the map as a bona fide design destination, commercially and culturally.
What is your background?
BM: Grew up in Decatur and served in the Air Force in Europe, where I was stationed and studied. In 1996, I returned to Atlanta and was hired as an environmental specialist (I have a background in metrology). While living in Atlanta, I bought lofts in Bottle Works and Mueller Lofts in Castleberry Hill, where I liked the openness and industrial elements of the spaces. In 2007, following the success of MA’s first architecture tour, I moved to the UK.
ED: Grew up Connecticut and studied fine arts and communications. I wanted to work in advertising as a creative director and spent a few years as a freelance designer. My first “real” job was in marketing and collateral design for a software company. I enjoyed the technology business and ended up working for a Fortune 500 company, where I designed and launched its first e-commerce website. In early 2000, I joined a tech startup company that led to other startup jobs across the country. After more than 10 years, I was burned out and wanted to return to my passion: art and design. In 2006, moved from Scottdsale, Arizona, to Atlanta. When not promoting MA, I am the chapter administrator for ASID Georgia and live in a mid-century ranch home in Brookhaven.
How did you get interested in modern design?
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BM: It was random. In the nineties, I lived in Italy, where you are surrounded by strong architecture and design. My interest in design grew organically just from being in that environment and hanging out with Italians who were architects, designers or worked in fashion. In addition, my brother-in-law, who is a French architect based in Paris and has worked closely with Philippe Starck on several highly publicized projects, had an early influence on me, too.
ED: My paternal grandparents, specifically my grandmother, was a modernist. Their home was very modern and decorated with Paul McCobb pieces, Eames chairs, etc. My grandfather worked for Chase Brass & Copper in Waterbury, Connecticut. He would bring home items designed by Russel Wright, Rockwell Kent and Walter Von Nesse. I was surrounded by great design. My parents were also very good about exposing my sister and I to museums and architecture. We would take the train into New York City and visit the Guggenheim often.
How is modern home design different in Atlanta than in other U.S. cities?
BM: Modern architecture in Atlanta is as diverse as the architects and interior designers who create them. Atlanta is experiencing early growth in this sector and, in time, will have even more of examples of bold architecture representative of Atlanta’s own style.
ED: There is more of a nod to tradition. We don’t have one “modern” neighborhood other than the mid-century ranches in Northcrest. We see a lot of architects being asked to create modern additions for existing traditional homes, which when done well is incredibly creative and inviting.
Favorite modern/smart Atlanta buildings?
ED: Architect John Portman’s brutalist designs, specifically Peachtree Center and Atlanta Decorative Arts Center (ADAC), where I work.
BM: The High Museum; Star Provisions, Armchair Media; Krog Street Market; Room & Board; Ligne Roset; Georgia International Plaza; Roche Bobois; Hinman Building at Georgia Tech; and Atlanta-Fulton’s Central Library, designed by Marcel Breuer.
Favorite design magazines, books, websites, films?
ED: Metropolis; Monocle; Elle Décor; dezeen.com; and Design-milk.com.
BM: FRAME; Disegno; domus; designboom; Yes Is More; nowness.com (in residence video series); and, of course, MA’s own magazine: Design Is Human.
ED: Taking MA to schools to get kids involved so they will consider design careers.
BM: MA will launch its Limited Edition Collection in June with Atlanta designers Megan Huntz, CORD Shoes and Charlotte Smith, and will include a variety of products designed exclusively for MA in the future. We’re also working with Germany-based Naber for its North American launch of Concept Kitchen by Kilian Schindler, and are in talks with HAXI, a new ridesharing app launched in Scandinavia and looking to enter the United States.
Design is Human Atlanta: Architecture tour
The 2015 MA Architecture Tour, part of the ninth annual Design is Human Atlanta event, features tours of 13 homes and one commercial space in the Atlanta area, and nine homes in other cities, including Asheville, N.C.; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; and Athens, Ga.
When: In Atlanta, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., June 6 and 7. At satellite locations: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., May 30 and 31. Note: Some homes are only open on Saturday or Sunday. See website for a detailed event calendar.
Cost: $35 per person (students with ID, $25), includes Design is Human Book and entry into MA International Design Expo Launch at ADAC on June 5; $10 for satellite tours
Tickets & information: MA-designishuman.com and some ticket locations around Atlanta, including Octane, Room & Board, Ligne Roset, and Roche Bobois. Also follow the Design is Human Atlanta story on:
- Instagram and Twitter@madesignishuman
- Facebook: ModernAtlantaDesignisHuman