Updated: Jan 25
Hi friends, While every project I work on is special to me, this project is particularly close to my heart. In part, that’s because it’s the second home I’ve worked on for these clients and I adore them. But it’s also because I love that they share their home with a very special group of people in a very unique way. A few years ago, I worked with Adrian and Nicole to design their Brooklyn, NY apartment. At the start of the pandemic, they decided to move back to their home state of Georgia and purchased a home there sight unseen. Dubbed “The Maroon House,” the couple needed the new-to-them home to work as both a residence for them and their son, Garvey, and as a marketplace and retreat house focused on providing radical rest for Black creatives. When they asked for my help, what could I say, “Yes, please!” Be still my design challenge-loving heart! The house certainly had amazing potential, it just needed some TLC. Needless to say, the home’s dual purpose meant we would need the new design to accommodate some unconventional needs and considerations. Since creative design solutions are right up my alley and I’m well-versed in running design projects remotely, I was confident we would be able to work together to transform the home to reflect my clients’ artistic, encouraging spirits and to make it a personal, comfortable home for their little family.
Because I’d worked with them before, I already knew that while Adrian and Nicole love aesthetically pleasing spaces, functionality is equally important to them so everything in the home needed to be ultra-functional. With that in mind, I kept organization and efficiency at the forefront of the design, making very intentional choices for every aspect of the home.
At the beginning of the project, we had lots of facetime calls and walkthroughs. As I do with all my remote clients, I had identical materials samples and paint color options sent to both myself and Adrian and Nicole so we could look at everything together and so they could see everything in the actual spaces. I also created 3d renderings for custom elements to help them visualize my ideas. It’s a process I’ve optimized over the years and it works like a charm!
The family’s spaces
Although retreat visitors are relegated to the lower level when in Athens, the clients use the entire home.
In the foyer, the family wanted to make sure everyone who enters would know immediately that this is a Black home. They wanted the intentionality with which they live their lives and the haven they seek to be for Black creatives to be readily apparent as soon as you walk in the door.
It was extremely important to Nicole and Adrian that we use items by Black designers and/or sourced from Black-owned companies for their home’s design. In the foyer, I used a brass ceiling fixture and a bench by two different Black designers. As an artist himself, we also displayed Adrian’s works throughout the foyer.
As an added layer of personalization, We displayed books by Black authors on the foyer’s console table.
In the family room, I rounded up the perfect rug and coffee table, both of which are from a line created for CB2 by an amazing Black designer.
As is often the case with older homes, this house required some creative solutions for disguising a few less-than-beautiful features. One example is the boiler and water system featured prominently on either side of the fireplace in the lower level’s family room. I worked with Gus Darnell, the owner of a woodworking company in Athens, GA, to design and build custom doors to disguise them while still leaving them accessible for maintenance.
The doors actually ended up making an impactful style statement in the space–so much so that they were featured here in Domino Magazine!
In Garvey’s bedroom, we repurposed several items from his nursery in the Brooklyn apartment, including the rug, the light fixture, the artwork, and the nursing chair (now a reading chair). We added a new big boy bed and added cubbies to his closet to create a mini-library. I worked with Gus to custom-design bi-fold doors for all the bedroom closets in the home and because Garvey is a budding artist, I added chalkboard insets to his doors. That way, he can create there every day and his parents can leave him inspirational notes (you can read more about the chalkboard doors and Garvey’s room’s design here).
The lower level bath’s design was done 100% virtually. We added classic white subway tiles in the shower and beautiful mint green penny tile on the floor. We wanted something fun in this bath so I designed a custom yellow floating vanity and had Gus bring that vision to life. It’s a ‘wild card’ piece with an interesting shape and lots of texture that completely makes the space.
You can find the project reveal post for this space here.
Two of the mid-century modern home’s original features we loved were the stairwell and the upstairs fireplace. We decided to play up the fireplace wall by highlighting it with a collection of beautiful plants. In the open-concept living room and dining room space, we repurposed a sofa and console from the Brooklyn apartment and added a dining table with removable leaves. This gives Nicole and Adrian, who entertain often, the flexibility of adding more spots for guests without crowding the space at all times with a larger table than what they need on a daily basis.
In the primary suite, we reused the light fixture, rug, dresser, and nightstands from their Brooklyn apartment. We painted the custom bifold closet doors a beautiful, soothing blue (inspired by a hue in the rug) and added custom wooden door pulls. The sleeping area is separated from the reading nook/sitting area in the bedroom with a floor-to-ceiling bookcase. We added comfy chairs and a coffee table and filled the bookcase with Nicole’s collection of books by Black authors, including the cookbooks Nicole has authored herself. It’s an ideal spot where the couple can wake up or wind down as they read, journal, or just enjoy a cup of tea before heading off to work or sleep.
The retreat spaces
Adrian and Nicole were committed to creating an all-inclusive, home-away-from-home experience in the spaces used by retreat guests. With the home’s kitchen on the upper level, I needed to find a way to make the lower level completely self-contained while still giving retreat guests the comforts of home. I worked with Gus to add a custom bar in the family room, which I outfitted with hotel suite-style amenities including a small refrigerator and an espresso machine.
Because Nicole and Adrian have a large extended family and lots of friends whom they frequently host, we focused the guest bedroom on the comfort of guests of all types–not just retreating creatives. We, of course, brought in comfy bedding, and we also added a cozy reading chair to the space, as well as a selection of books on the nightstand. The consummate host and hostess, Nicole and Adrian make sure the lower level bath is always guest-ready with slippers, a robe, and even a shower cap to ensure artists seeking a restful stay and loved ones alike have everything they need!
One of my favorite spaces we created for this home is the lower level’s zen room. It’s a truly special space for enjoying the quiet and finding solace. We equipped the room with everything needed to center yourself: a meditation pillow, a low table topped with incense and stones, and a singing bowl. The pièce de résistance is a live plant wall, inspired by the principles of biophilic design, which touts the merits of connecting with nature indoors by incorporating living and organic elements into our interiors as a way of improving our overall well-being. I initially designed the plant wall remotely and tasked Nicole with finding the plants. Once I was able to travel to Georgia to style the home in preparation for a photo shoot, Adrian and I worked together to install the plant wall in the space. It turned out beautifully! The gallery wall of artwork in the zen room is a combination of pieces Nicole and Adrian have collected over time and others they’ve created themselves. Because we were in the midst of the pandemic, the zen room doubled as the couple’s work-from-home space. Equipped with bookshelves for office storage, and a table that served as a desk, it was just the quiet, comfortable space they needed at the time. With an ottoman that folds out into a single bed and room-darkening drapes, the space can even serve as a guest room in a pinch.
Recently, we tackled the home’s deck, transforming it into an inviting outdoor living space. I created a furniture plan that divided the space into separate zones for entertainment/dining and lounging. It’s a great spot for Garvey and his friends to play and when weather permits, Nicole and Adrian can grab their laptops and bask in the Georgia sunshine while they work. It’s so satisfying to be a part of creating homes that look, feels, and function exactly the way my clients need them to, even (or maybe especially!) when those needs are somewhat unconventional. I enjoyed getting to work with these clients a second time. Who knows? Maybe they’ll cook up yet another amazing idea someday and we’ll get to do it all over again!
Send us a note here and we’ll be in touch very soon!
anpil lanmou (lots of love),