Waterfall, mid-century design highlights Druid Hills tour home

Dan and Mary Emma McConaughey step out on their terrace overlooking a waterfall that cascades 120 feet and flows into a creek below the deck. Mary Emma smiles as she remembers how she felt when she saw the Atlanta property in 1965.

“Tears started rolling down my eyes. I said, ‘I have got to live here,’” she said.

The historic Druid Hills home was designed to capture panoramic views of the 5-acre property, which includes Peavine Creek and formerly was the site of a grist mill. They wake up, eat, write, study French, entertain and go to sleep with wooded view and sounds of the water. “Every room faces the waterfall,” Dan said.

On April 22-24, the 2016 Druid Hills Tour of Homes & Gardens and Makers Market (druidhillstour.org) will feature six residences, including the four-bedroom home and waterfall property with trails.

“We just really never have taken it for granted,” Mary Emma said.


Residents: Dan and Mary Emma McConaughey. Dan is a retired lawyer; Mary Emma is a retired clinical psychologist

Location: Atlanta's Druid Hills neighborhood

Size: About 2,800 square feet, four bedrooms, three-and-a-half baths

Year built: Property purchased in 1965; built in 1967-1969

Architect: Herb Milkey

Architectural and interior design style: Rustic mid-century modern, inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright

Favorite architectural elements: Wood, stone and glass integrates the interior with the landscape. The 22-foot fireplace is made from stone from north Georgia. The floors are constructed of crab orchard stone from Tennessee. The McConaugheys found a giant preserved chestnut tree submerged in water in north Georgia and used the wormy wood for their interior walls. "This whole house is built out of one tree," Mary Emma said.

Renovations: Their son, Warner McConaughey, founder and president of Decatur-based HammerSmith, renovated the kitchen to update the appliances, including a recessed Sub-Zero refrigerator, and added stainless steel and honed granite countertops. When the retired couple decided several years ago that they didn't want to move as they aged, he added a full bath downstairs and a multipurpose room that could be a bedroom. Aging-in-place features include a ramp entryway, wider passageways, curb-less shower and grab bars.

Favorite interior design elements: Heirlooms, including a roll-top desk, breakfront and Steinway piano.

Favorite outdoor features: The couple has spent more than four decades removing invasive plants such as English ivy, and discovered more than 40 varieties of wildflowers and more than 50 types of trees. A conservation easement with the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust protects the property from development.