A family trades in its brisk city life for the slower pace of a bucolic country estate

by DANA W. TODD / photography by EMILY FOLLOWILL

While the hurry and hustle of the city were part of this Atlanta family’s daily life, it wasn’t the lifestyle they really wanted. The heart wants what it wants, and they were pining for the chance to move their family, which included teenagers at the time, to the countryside. As a business owner, the husband needed to be close enough to his Downtown Atlanta office so the daily commute would be manageable. The wife, who has a love affair with horses and horseback riding, wanted a sanctuary for her entire family, which included people and pets. She envisioned a farm big enough for her beloved horses and a menagerie of pets and farm animals with enough acreage to ride, hunt and plant a garden.

“They searched for two years for the right property, for something that was quieter than their city life,” says local designer Lauren Davenport Imber of Davenport Designs LTD. The family finally found an ideal spot in Whitesburg, less than an hour outside of Atlanta, where they could easily drive back and forth while having the space to spread out and create the pastoral life they craved. They bought a 100-acre tract with an existing home on it that was built in the 1980s.

Knowing she needed design assistance, the homeowner picked up an interior designer’s business card in a nearby floral shop. The shop’s owner was Davenport’s sister, and the happenstance business card pickup was serendipitous. The homeowner connected with Davenport and architect Steve Dray of Winston-Dray Designs to turn the old house into the grand country manor full of bustling life that she envisioned.

There was a lot of work to do; the redesign process was considered a major renovation of the three-level, 10,000-square-foot residence. “The homeowner wanted durable finishes that could handle dirt, dogs and kids with spaces that were functional for a family,” says Davenport. “She also has a deep appreciation for antiques and has inherited many family heirlooms, which she wanted to work into the design. She didn’t want anything to look brand-new but instead desired a curated, collected-over-time look.”

Davenport designed the interiors with a nod to the countryside without the home feeling overwhelmingly rustic, instead playing up the feel of a rural estate. Rough-hewn masonry stones, leather and hide upholstery, aged copper and brass hardware, distressed ceiling beams, dentil molding, and reclaimed, cerused oak paneling and cabinetry bring in the rustic, been-here-for-centuries look. A mix of crystal chandeliers, velvet-upholstered furnishings, mahogany furniture, contemporary artwork, Lucite elements, gilded mirrors, custom millwork and touches of marble add the modern edge needed to keep the design elegant and refined.

Davenport brought nature into the décor (and a bit of durability) through robust indoor-outdoor finishes, such as concrete Peacock Pavers on the kitchen and breakfast room floors and reclaimed hardwoods throughout the remainder of the home. The concrete flooring looks like natural stone and expresses old-world elegance yet is perfectly suited to muddy boots and paw prints.

The family reconfigured some rooms to best serve their needs, including a downstairs bedroom and bathroom that they transformed into a built-in bar and lounge. Davenport designed the new lounge as a light, modern space that at once contrasts and complements the more casual rooms of the home. White velvet-upholstered club chairs grounded on a white rug with whitewashed walls, Lucite furniture details and fuzzy textures beckon in the upscale sanctum. The nearby bar contrasts with richly stained woods on the cabinetry, ceilings and backsplash.

The family also took the opportunity to expand the primary bathroom and closet on the main level by borrowing unused space in nearby rooms. They focused on making it suit their particular wants and needs since they planned on this becoming a legacy home that would serve as the place future generations could enjoy.

The top two levels of the home are filled with daylight despite the extensive use of reclaimed wood trim, flooring and paneling on select ceilings and walls. Davenport played on the nature theme through her use of a neutral color palette. “I incorporated earth tones such as browns and creams that are appropriate to the setting and the architecture. I evoked nature through touches of blue and green,” she says. “Warm, neutral tones mixed with natural sunlight ensure the rooms do not feel heavy or staid.”

The only rooms that are dark are intentionally designed to feel cocoon-like and cozy on the basement level, which naturally receives less light. Here, Davenport designed four built-in wooden beds in the bunkroom with a rustic vibe and down-home plaid bedding that is snuggly and comforting. The large living room on the same level features an inviting window seat in a room that is set up for gathering and envelops its occupants like a grandmother’s hug.

As the homeowners walk through each room, they can point to antique family heirlooms that Davenport skillfully integrated into the overall design and tell the stories of who gave them which piece of furniture or art. The repurposed furniture and accessories add a sense of warmth and memories. “It was fun to mix the old and new throughout this home,” Davenport says. “I loved the challenge of incorporating the family’s existing sentimental antiques with a few modern choices. If we needed a particular piece of furniture, we often could shop the homeowner’s storage for something given to them by their parents and grandparents.”

The homeowner’s grandmother handed down the dining room table, for instance, and her oil paintings find new life on this home’s walls. The bed and sofa in the primary suite are heirloom hand-me-downs. “It really is an eclectic mix that has classic and timeless appeal,” Davenport says. “All of the antiques and sentimental heirlooms will stand the test of time.”

In addition to vintage furniture, the family used some heirloom lighting and accessories, such as Wedgwood dinnerware, which is stocked along with other serveware passed down through the generations in the kitchen’s built-in glass and cerused oak cabinetry.

Some rooms contain all-new furnishings, such as the powder room, which features an eye-catching wallpaper mural sourced from Anthropologie. “I bet I fielded 15 phone calls from others about where I bought that wallpaper,” Davenport says. “Unfortunately for them, it is discontinued. For this room, it brings in nature’s elements quite unexpectedly and is as playful as the fun vessel sink.”

Davenport assessed each room for the missing architectural elements needed to complete the country manor’s design style. Some rooms that lacked texture received wood-paneled archway entrances or wood veneer wallcoverings. Other rooms, such as the dining room, received a dose of formality, where Davenport recommended built-in bookcases and custom millwork on the walls and ceiling. In most rooms, she worked in an abundance of homeowner-mandated antique pieces, dovetailing them with modern and transitional elements to create the final curated design.

“I loved working with Davenport Designs and could not be happier with how my house looks,” says the homeowner. “Lauren happily used my family heirlooms and favorite pieces that I wanted to incorporate in creative and fresh ways. She created a home that reflects our family and personality. She even helped me create spaces that could hold up to active teenagers and a multitude of four-legged friends! Thanks to her, we have a beautiful home that is warm, cozy and comfortable.”

As the current president of the Georgia Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), Davenport represents the 660 practitioner members in the state. As the founder and principal designer of Davenport Designs LTD, she is known for a strong focus on people, not just home projects. “The space is only successful if it functions and represents those living in it. Home is a safe and loving place filled with not only beautiful surroundings but functions for those who live in it. All of my designs share this at their core, and my dual passions for livable environments and chic interiors drive my business vision,” she says.

While this homeowner is ecstatic about her interiors, she equally loves the accompanying acreage that allows her to run a hobby farm stocked with dogs, horses, ducks, chickens, sheep, pigs and vegetable gardens. With her new sprawling manor and farmland, she has stepped into what was once only her dream.

Davenport is pleased with the end result of the six-bedroom home. “I love how the whole house turned out,” she says. “Each room has its own history as told by the heirloom furnishings in each space. The entire home has a great story to tell through its repurposed antiques.” *

More Information

Davenport Designs Ltd

4062 Peachtree Rd, Suite A578

Atlanta, GA 30319