Call her sentimental—she won’t mind. Catherine Fleetwood wasn’t about to box up and hide her grandmother’s delicate porcelain bird
sculptures, hand-painted urns, and English antique furniture. The
dyed-in-the-wool Southerner admits the treasures might seem old-fashioned to
some (even many of her own family members have said, “No thanks”), but she
“I know they look like old-lady things to some people, but I’ve grown up with and love them,” says Catherine, who, with husband Thomas, tapped architect Norman Askins and interior designers Heather Dewberry and Will Huff to weave family treasures and character into their home in the Buckhead district of Atlanta.
When the Fleetwoods bought the 1930s, early-Federal-style home, it was sorely in need of updating (the kitchen was original to the
house), but tearing it down was not an option. “We wanted to save the integrity
of the old house,” Catherine says.
Built on a flat plot of land (a rarity in Atlanta) on top
of a hill, the house “had a lot going for it,” the architect agreed. “It had an
unusually nice entrance hall and good-sized living and dining rooms. The rooms
were not big but well-proportioned, with nice windows,” Askins says.
“Catherine’s mantra was keep the charm. She wanted charming and old-fashioned,
but not old lady.”
Askins punched up the house’s street appeal, adding a
columned portico on the front and three arched dormers on the slate roof.
Inside, the house was torn down to the studs so wiring, heating and cooling, plumbing, and other mechanicals could be updated. Rooms
basically stayed in the same configuration, but some doorways were shifted or
eliminated to create better flow, and Askins beefed up the trim, adding deep
baseboards, crown moldings, and other details in keeping with the original
architecture. New walnut plank floors were installed on the main level and
second-level oak floors were refinished.
A two-story brick addition on the back of the house gave
the Fleetwoods a new kitchen, family room, office, laundry room, powder room,
and improved back entry. A new master suite with separate his-and-her baths was
installed above the family room-kitchen.
Rooms in the original second story were reconfigured to
add new bathrooms. (Old ones were turned into walk-in closets.) “We were able
to make the house flow a bit better and be more spacious. Nothing in the house
is huge. It just feels generous,” Askins says.
Meanwhile, Dewberry and Huff took the charm mantra and ran with it. Catherine and the designers selected fabrics and wallcoverings in
classic patterns—toiles, checks, florals, and trellises—but in fresh and lively
color combos. A blue-and-celadon toile “gave an extra kick” to the master
suite, Dewberry says, especially when mixed with two sizes of blue-checked
fabric on chairs and the bed’s upholstered headboard. “We thought about solid
fabrics for chairs but then said, let’s go for it,” Dewberry recalls. “I think
the room is more welcoming and charming with the patterns.”
At Catherine’s behest, Dewberry drew on her experience with legendary Atlanta decorator Dan Carithers. “I told Heather that she’d
have to replicate Dan’s best work in my house,” says Catherine, who has long
admired the now-retired designer. Dewberry, who worked for Carithers early in
her career, relished the opportunity. “I pulled out all my best Dan tricks,”
she laughs, including lush draperies with goblet- and inverted
Empire-pleated valances. “Dan was wonderful with window treatments, and we
loved that we were able to do so many in this house.”
Dewberry also credits Carithers for the subtle
tone-on-tone yellow-striped wallcovering in the living room. “In a room with a
lot of openings, the wallcovering grounds the space and ties things together,”
she explains. “I saw Dan do this all the time.”
In the living room, two modern sofas covered in a soft chenille keep the room from feeling overly formal or serious—especially with
the addition of pillows in a big yellow check. “We thought the room could use a
little kick,” says Dewberry.
A custom-designed coffee table was topped with quartz
surfacing rather than a stone slab. “They really use this living room for
entertaining and family, and we didn’t want them to have to worry about coffee
or wine stains on a stone table,” the designer explains.
Noting that curating is the key to keeping a collection from becoming clutter, the designers selected only a handful of the porcelains.
Platters and plates are hung on walls throughout the house, including those of
bedrooms and hallways, and the sculptures are showcased on simple painted
brackets mounted at eye level (better for appreciating the intricate details).
Two of the Doughty birds are set off by the delicate
floral-and-vine wallcovering in the dining room. Brackets were painted ivory
and not gilded, Dewberry says, to make them seem less formal.
“Catherine and Thomas didn’t want the house to feel
hands-off. They wanted it to be very warm and welcoming,” she says. “Most of
the floor coverings are simple with not a lot of pattern, and that helps to
keep things relaxed.” The designers purposely brought in robust-scaled Italian
and French furnishings in a variety of painted and stained finishes to “loosen
up” the dainty and more formal English antiques.
Making friends and family comfortable was always part of the plan. “The Fleetwoods are effortless entertainers. They don’t sweat the
small stuff,” Dewberry says. Multiple French doors open to the bluestone patio
and courtyard gardens, and when they entertain, doors stand open and people
spill outside. “This is such a relaxed and comfortable home,” she says. “No one
ever wants to leave.”
The living and dining rooms’ gentle blue, yellow, and green color palette came directly from Catherine’s antique porcelain pieces, many of them birds designed by Dorothy Doughty and produced by Royal Worcester in the mid-1900s.
“We loved that she wanted to use these family pieces,” says Dewberry, who admits to her own fondness for antique porcelain. “The colors are so beautiful and vivid.”
The new garage has an upstairs guest suite with a masculine attitude. Built-in shelves create a bed niche with an acrylic-backed Kravet fabric wallcovering. Noir’s “Bourbon” bench is upholstered in a robust Vervain fabric.