An interior decorator balanced this Buckhead cottage with a wide array of modern and sentimental favorites

Converting a space here, adding color there—this 1932 has a lot of character anyone can appreciate

Whitney Durham
Interior decorator Whitney Durham was attracted to the cottage-style architecture of this Buckhead house. “I like setting the scene with our blue front door,” she says. “Blue was my favorite color already, and, living in a house full of boys, blue is also a natural color throughout our home.”

Photograph by Laura Negri Childers

Whitney Durham loves architecture with a history, but she also has a soft spot for contemporary art and ’60s-era Lucite. As part of her design philosophy, she’s not inclined to buy furnishings from a large retail chain; instead, she gravitates to anything inherited, repurposed, or custom. “I like each room to have at least one thing that’s vintage or antique,” says the interior decorator, who grew up in Marietta. “I love anything that has a sentimental story.”

The circa-1932 cottage Whitney and her husband, Nathan, found in Buckhead had the sort of character she appreciates: stone on the front facade, with a Gothic-shaped front door painted a cheery blue. She added six beveled-glass windows to the front door to lighten up the look, just the sort of small-but-significant changes that continued on the inside.

Whitney Durham
“We never used our formal dining room, so I decided to convert it into a game room and sitting room,” Whitney says. She painted this abstract herself.

Photograph by Laura Negri Childers

Whitney Durham
“Art and color obviously play an important role in our home,” says the decorator. Navy, aquamarine, and light blue fill the living room, which also reflects her preference for layered rugs.

Photograph by Laura Negri Childers

Whitney Durham
Whitney lightened the kitchen by painting existing cabinets and ceiling beams with Benjamin Moore “White Dove.” She also updated with brass hardware and sink faucet. The decorator considered redoing the island but says: “When I found the vintage Lucite and brass barstools on Craigslist, I loved them so much that I kept the bar height in the kitchen so I could use those barstools.”

Photograph by Laura Negri Childers

“I am naturally drawn to an Art Deco style, so a 1930s home was perfect to mix that style throughout our home in an updated way,” Whitney says. A prime example: A vintage light fixture with an Art Deco vibe she found at the Antique Factory now lights up the original dining room. Whitney converted the space into a sitting room where the Durhams (Whitney, Nathan, and their two boys, Benson and Graham) hold family game night, getting into competitive rounds of Pictionary, Monopoly, and Uno. The room is a mix of glam and family-friendly: glossy “Wolf Grey” by Benjamin Moore adds sheen to wainscoting with colorful art on all the walls. Four casual swivel chairs, custom designed with Ellenburg Chair Company, fit the small profile of the room.

Whitney Durham
Benson, 8, and Graham, 6, happily share a bedroom, leaving an extra room upstairs as a playroom. “My boys love being in the same room, and they are truly best friends,” Whitney says. Upholstered beds are covered in Ikat fabric she found at Forsyth Fabrics.

Photograph by Laura Negri Childers

Whitney Durham
The sofa in the master bedroom once belonged to Whitney’s grandmother, and the canopy bed was her mother’s as a child. “My mom, grandmother, great-grandmother, and I all share a love of beautiful antiques,” says Whitney. “My grandmother worked in a quaint antique shop off Marietta Square, and I remember visiting her often.”

Photograph by Laura Negri Childers

Whitney Durham

Photograph by Laura Negri Childers

All rooms were freshened up, maintaining the original charm. In the foyer, Whitney added grasscloth to the entry ceiling along with a spiky flush-mount light, and an original phone niche holds an old rotary phone. In the breakfast room hangs an oversized light fixture with an antique zinc finish, another play on the past. Throughout the house, Whitney incorporated crisp fabrics and lighter walls to keep the look bright and happy. Glass and Lucite accessories reinforce that vintage glam she likes, and their transparent look helps make small spaces seem bigger.

Whitney Durham
The bluestone patio is a much-used part of the Durham house, with its flow off the master bedroom wing (which was added by a previous owner), as well as the kitchen and family room.

Photograph by Laura Negri Childers

Whitney wisely knew that a cottage of Persian rugs and glass coffee tables might not withstand two active boys and a chocolate lab, so she and Nathan transformed their rambling yard, too. “We maximized the outdoor space with the firepit and swings and room to run around,” Whitney says. “The original lot only had a 10-by-10 square foot patch of grass with the rest covered in ivy and brush—most basically unusable—but after landscaping, we spend a lot of time sitting outside, watching the boys play in the backyard.” Whitney chose cottage-type plants, such as hydrangeas and roses, to create an inviting garden that also seems to fit the home’s era. Inside and out, this house pays homage to the past but features more than a dash of modern livability.

Whitney Durham
A Serena & Lily console and painting by Georgia artist Elaine Burge anchor a corner of the living room.

Photograph by Laura Negri Childers

Resources
Interiors Whitney Durham, whitneydurhaminteriors.com
Landscape design Cartwright Landscapes, Inc., 678-873-2052
Contractor Artesian Builders, 770-560-4407
Foyer Lighting: Circa Lighting, circalighting.com
Breakfast room Lighting: Circa
Kitchen Painting: Elaine Burge, elaineburge.com
Living room Painting: Elaine Burge. Sofas: Ellenburg Chair Company, ellenburgchair.com. Mirror: Bunny Williams, JDouglas, jdouglas.com
Boys bedroom Fabric: Forsyth Fabrics, forsythfabrics.com.

This article appears in our Summer 2018 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

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