The residences featured on this year’s MA! Architecture Tour offer bold designs and crisp spaces, stretching from the BeltLine to traditional Atlanta neighborhoods and spanning more than 100 years.
New contemporary homes, renovated mid-century houses and the B. Mifflin Hood Brick Co. building, located on the BeltLine and recently added to the National Register of Historic Places, are among stops on the June 10-11 residential tour in Atlanta.
“Twenty years ago, I wasn’t running into anybody interested in modern design (in Atlanta),” said Steve Robinson, owner of Axios Architecture, who had a home featured on the first tour in 2007.
But now, with the tour in its 11th year, “people seem to be seeking that out,” he said. “It’s just becoming more prominent.”
The tour is part of the 2017 Atlanta Design Festival, which runs June 2-11 and attracted more than 4,000 people last year. The event, organized by MA! Design is Human, includes architecture tours in Atlanta, Athens, and Asheville, N.C., along with the 2017 Design Economy Expo at the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center (ADAC) in Buckhead.
Here are five elements to watch for among Atlanta’s modern homes.
1. Warming up to modern.
Modernism is not always minimal or sterile, said Robinson. Wood and tile choices, as well as stone, create a sense of warmth.
Clients seem to like the idea of using rough and rustic materials, said architect Jordache K. Avery. Stone and wood present a stark contrast to a clean-lined modern home, said Avery, owner of Xmetrical, an Atlanta-based firm.
Wood beams bridge the kitchen and dining spaces in the renovated mid-century modern home of country music DJ and TV host Bill Lowery in DeKalb County, while wood planks define part of the walls in a bathroom. In a Virginia-Highland home, architect Brian Ahern and Darby Construction used siding as a masonry “frame.”
“It’s still Southern; it’s still Georgia,” he said. “I don’t think the stark modern would sell so well here.”
2. Creating sophisticated ties between indoors and out.
In another Atlanta home, the paved limestone Robinson used for the front walkway transitions into the foyer. While different flooring is used for the living area, the paved limestone picks up on the rear deck, where it meets an infinity-edge pool.
“All of that is very calculated to make it so that there’s not this hard edge from outside to inside,” Robinson said.
Avery used reclaimed wood on the exterior of a new home in Atlanta’s Lake Claire neighborhood, and installed a wood inset in the kitchen ceiling. Another one of his homes on the tour combines natural stone, Ipe wood veneer and stucco. A reclaimed wood accent wall greets visitors in a foyer with 20-foot ceilings.
3. Layering the look.
Using cantilevers and angles are part of the challenge that Avery enjoys about modern design. Those design elements find a way to “imply the defiance of gravity,” he said. A 3,350-square-foot Atlanta home on this year’s tour is designed with cantilevers over each other.
“As the city becomes a little bit more receptive to (modern design), I think we can even push things a little bit further,” Avery said. “The appetite is growing a little bit more.”
4. Opening up to barn doors.
Sliding barn doors may conjure images of rustic design, but the feature can work in a modern residence to save space and provide privacy. Amir Nejad, owner of Royal Custom Cabinets, used reclaimed wood for a hidden pantry door in the kitchen of his DeKalb County home, which is on the tour.
Robinson used sliding millwork panels to give homeowners in Atlanta’s Piedmont Heights neighborhood the opportunity to close off spaces when needed. It’s one of the most unique details in the home, he admits.
“With both barn doors closed, you separate the dining and living area from the kitchen, or you can open up one door and leave the other,” he said. “Or you can do the day-to-day living where both doors are fully open.”
5. Embracing vistas.
In designing homes, especially intown residences with tight lots, Robinson considers ways to “borrow” the landscape. In the Piedmont Heights home, windows in the second story are positioned to look out onto the trees in an adjacent yard.
In another tour home in Atlanta’s Collier Hills neighborhood, the front deck is situated to offer views of the BeltLine, Bobby Jones Golf Course and skyscrapers along Peachtree Road, depending on the time of year.
“Unless you live in splendid isolation on multiple acreage, you have neighbors,” Robinson said. “If you’re careful how you frame vistas, you can borrow some of that tree canopy into your view.”