In the December 2009 issue of Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles, 20 houses were selected as the most beautiful examples of timeless design in Atlanta. One of these houses was recently listed for sale, which presents a rare opportunity to get a glimpse into the private side of both the interiors and the landscape design of the home.
Here is the picture that appeared in Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles (photo credit: Erica George Dines). The casual observer might think that this is the front of the home, but it is not; it is the rear of the home. I have a great appreciation for a house that is as beautiful when viewing from the back as it is from the front.
As the house sits at the intersection of two charming streets, project architect Stan Dixon (Stan Dixon worked at Norman Askins Architects when he designed this house in 2000) and landscape architect John Howard sited the house at an angle to face the intersection of the streets. This enabled both a stately and commanding presence on Peachtree Battle, one of the most charming and prestigious streets in Atlanta, as well as a private motor court where the front of the house is located, with access from Woodward Way (the side street). A wing that parallels Woodward Way can be seen from this angle (as seen in the picture above, which I took last fall). To me, this is the ideal kind of a house: one that both reveals and conceals. In this case, the front of the house is only revealed to invited guests – and to readers of my blog!
I spoke briefly with Stan Dixon about the architecture of this house. He said that the historical references are Georgian, but with a uniquely American influence of 17th century Virginia architecture. Mount Airy, a mid-Georgian plantation house in Richmond County, Virginia, was a historical reference and inspiration for the design. Mount Airy was built from 1758-62, and was considered to be highly unique and distinctive at the time when it was built, with its combination of Georgian and Palladian influences. The central pavilion is made of rusticated limestone.
Here is a closer view of the street side of the house. Landscape architect John Howard was kind enough to provide me with some magnificent pictures for this post; John’s firm, Howard Design Studio, is one of the premiere landscape architecture firms in Atlanta. I have seen numerous landscape projects that John and his team have designed, and the word that comes to mind is ‘artist’ – John is truly an artist when it comes to landscape, and his designs always beautifully tie the houses to their environment, making the homes look as if they have been there for decades. He clearly has an artistic eye and skill at exterior photography as well; he took most of the exterior images that are used in this post.
John told me that “on the rear of the house, which faces Peachtree Battle, we built a limestone clad terrace off the main salon and left the outer edge as a planter for American Boxwood to create privacy. We anchored the corners of the terrace with English gas lanterns on cast iron posts matching those in the motor court, which framed the house from the street. Two mature matching Southern Magnolia trees were brought in from South Carolina and set with a crane to bracket the beautiful façade facing the street, giving the new house an instant feeling of permanence and dignity. The lawn sweeping from street to the house speaks for itself. Flanking the lawn on both streets, we created a woodland effect using Ginkgo trees and Yoshino Cherries mixed in a loose grove. The white Cherry blossoms are a striking contrast to the dark brick walls in the spring and the golden Ginkgo leaves a striking contrast in the fall. The trees were underplanted with Oakleaf Hydrangeas for a summer show. The landscape was treated with simple bold gestures to give the house the setting it deserved”.
Here is the front of the house – this is classic architecture at its best, with purity of form, perfect scale and proportion, built with classic and timeless materials. This is a house that would look right at home in the 17th century, looks incredibly elegant in the 21st century, and will still look as good 200 years from now. The bricks used for the exterior cladding of this home are old, imported from England, as the owners lived in the UK for many years and have a respect for the architecture and ancient materials used in historical houses in England.
The hardscape was carefully considered when planning this home. In landscape architect John Howard’s words, “the motor court was designed with two types of cobbles to form a subtle pattern, one stone being black Belgian cobbles and the other antique French sets. We placed a pair of English gas lanterns on cast iron posts as a portal into the court and to frame the approach to the house. The entire motor court and garden side of the house is walled in, providing intimacy, privacy and security”.
My favorite feature of the front of the home is the beautiful thick limestone door surround; it reminds me of my favorite Robert Adams designed door surrounds in Fitzroy Square in London . This house is elegant and simple, perfectly proportioned, and the door surround is the one point of ornamentation, yet with clean strong horizontal and vertical lines. The door surround culminates in a carved limestone pediment that echoes the shape of the central portion of the rear of the house.
The detail of the cobblestones in the motor court can be seen in this picture (taken by John Howard). Note the elegant Asiatic Jasmine that is planted next to the house, which suits the house perfectly. The ornamental bushes are American boxwood. It is also interesting to note that the motor court is designed so that visitors enter through the front door (Stan likes to design houses with this feature).
This image, from the real estate listing, shows the entry hall. The detail on the transom above the door can be seen. Stan noted that the interiors were not designed to be ‘period interiors’, but rather reflect a classic and timeless design suited to the needs of modern day life. I appreciated seeing the inside of the house, as I would have expected a typical Georgian layout with a center stair hall, living room and dining room on either side. I did not expect the front left window to be part of the entry, and love this unexpected surprise! I like the juxtaposition of the symmetry in the exterior of the house, and the more fluid arrangement inside. I am also a fan of stairs that are a little more tucked to the side, and this is a gracious and lovely example of a way to have a beautiful stair in the entry, but not have it dominate the space. (Image via listing)
A view from the entry to the back of the house, through a lovely vestibule defined by a series of arched doors. I love this floor – the running bond pattern is my favorite pattern for stone floors. There is a view to the back of the house, which is a feature that I like in a home. It appears as if this room is revealed when it is entered, and only a glimpse is seen when entering the home. (Image via listing)
Although I am fairly hopeless at figuring out floor plans, my best guess is that this elegant library is on the front of the house, to the right of the front door. As a bibliophile, I always appreciate a house that has a library – it speaks to a devotion to books and learning. As much as I like my kindle, I find that there it is truly no substitute for actually holding a book and being able to slip it into a spot in the bookshelf. (Image via listing)
This picture confirms my suspicion. I always appreciate when real estate photography helps the viewer discern the floor plan of a house; this is so important as most people start with the internet when looking for a home. (Image via listing)
The elegant room that can be seen from the front door. My guess is that this is the central window that can be seen at the rear of the house. I find the placement of the small paintings on either side of the fireplace to be charming. (Image via listing)
A pretty and well designed kitchen – given that this kitchen was designed 10 years ago, it is clearly a classic style as it looks fresh and current. (Image via listing)
The master bedroom is a beautiful retreat, decorated in one of my favorite shades of green-blue. (Image via listing)
Another special feature of this house is a intimately scaled formal walled garden, set to the left of the house on axis with the motor court. In John’s words, “the focal point of the axial approach is a koi pond built with stacked Cherokee stone with limestone detailing (the same materials used in the other walls on the property) . We inset an antique bronze fountain head obtained from a gallery in New York, and designed a custom pedestal which holds the plumbing mechanics for the pond, then placed a stone urn upon the top. We placed gas sconces on the garden wall to complete the backdrop. The terrace floor was laid with antique York stone purchased as salvage from England. This garden is laid out in four quadrants and is planted with dwarf boxwood and blue Macrophylla Hydrangeas. White Annabelle Hydrangeas were used behind the fountain, which drape heavily over the water in the peak of bloom. This garden can be viewed as a focal point from a loggia that is recessed into the side of the house. We placed English teak garden benches in the formal garden space and designed the Koi Pond surround at seating height”. (Image by John Howard)
A glorious view of the walled garden with the hydrangeas in full bloom; the columns of the loggia can be seen in this picture.
A close up of the beautiful fountain and koi pond.
I hope you enjoyed this tour, inside and out, of one of the most beautiful homes in Atlanta! This house is truly classic and timeless, which are hallmarks of architect Stan Dixon and landscape architect John Howard's style. It is on the market for $4,500,000.
Architects – Norman Askins Architects, Stan Dixon project architect
Landscape architect: John Howard, Howard Design Studio
Interior design -
Listing agent: Mary Ellen Jones of Harry Norman Realtors (click here to see listing, which has more photos of the interior)
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