Home Authors Posts by Jennifer Boles

Jennifer Boles


Growing older has me trading bar carts for tea sets—and I’m perfectly okay with that


Growing older

When I turned 40, it didn’t really dawn on me that I was officially transitioning into middle age. Inside, I still felt like my 30-year-old self; outside, I didn’t age much—or so I was told. But recently, it has become woefully clear to me that my days as an ingenue are behind me, and it wasn’t crow’s feet, a middle-age spread, or the drooping effects of gravity that prompted this reckoning. It was my changing style of living.

The first inkling I had that I was entering a new stage of life was when I began to transfer my attention from my bar cart to my tea set. Back in the day, when dinner parties and get-togethers meant imbibing and chit-chatting well into the night, I had a fully stocked bar cart with every spirit and liqueur you could think of. Anyone for Crème de Violette? But late nights and libations no longer agree with me, which has prompted a shift in the way I entertain, from late-night parties to socializing in the early evening or—don’t laugh—late afternoon, which might explain my newfound enthusiasm for afternoon tea. If visions of Miss Marple are popping into your head right now, you’re not alone.

I’m also more focused on creating the right ambience in my bedroom, but not for the reasons you may think. Since I’m no longer hosting those late-night soirees, I now spend more time in bed watching television (you should give those reruns of Columbo and Murder, She Wrote a try) or reading mysteries, which means I’ve become preoccupied with my comfort. Is my bedside lamp bright enough for reading small print? Do my pillows offer enough neck support? And which of my bed jackets is going to keep me toastiest? Comfort and coziness are growing priorities.

“One thing I’ve learned is that with age comes the wisdom to know that trends will come and go, but classic design will never go out of style.”

Even my taste in decorating now marks me as an old-timer, at least according to some millennials. I love Chinese porcelains, traditional French fabrics, wallpaper borders, and antique brown wood furniture, all of which once earned me the worst put-down a certain 20-something could muster: granny. I’ll accept that indictment when it comes to my choice in TV shows but not when it comes to my decorating. One thing I’ve learned is that with age comes the wisdom to know that trends will come and go, but classic design will never go out of style.

I’m not completely over the hill yet. I still prefer my Manolo heels to be high, and I haven’t yet abandoned my habit of wearing my hair pulled back in a ponytail. But as much as I dislike growing older, I also relish it. The upside to maturing is that it gives you the confidence to do, say, and live exactly as you please, even if that means sipping tea in your bed jacket among so-called granny surroundings.

Jennifer Boles is the author of the popular design blog, the Peak of Chic. Her latest book for Vendome is Inspired Design: The 100 Most Important Interior Designers of the Past 100 Years.

This article appears in our Fall 2019 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

Build an expressive art collection with decorator Stan Topol’s 7 tips

Stan Topol
Topol with lithographs by Larry Rivers (on floor) and Willem de Kooning

Photograph by Erica George Dines

From his days as an art student, when actress Joan Crawford presented him with a National Watercolor Show award, to his time spent working for New York design legend Billy Baldwin, who once entrusted his young protégé with hanging a client’s priceless Francisco Goya, Atlanta decorator Stan Topol has spent his life steeped in art.

His personal favorites include midcentury abstract expressionists like Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, and Theodoros Stamos. “Art makes me feel at peace with myself,” says Topol, who credits his artistic training with honing his skills as a decorator. It’s a duality that has earned him a well-heeled and loyal clientele, who seek his expertise in both the art of fine living and living with fine art. Here, the decorator shares his tips on building and displaying a collection.

Where to begin
If you’re a novice collector, start by doing your homework, advises Topol. “When you’re educated,” says the decorator, “your eye tells you things.” A former art history teacher, he recommends reading related magazines and books such as History of Art by H.W. Janson. He also suggests visiting galleries and museums. “You have to go see art in person,” he stresses. “Don’t just look at it on your phone.”

Think quality, not quantity
“Buy two or three good pieces, no matter what,” urges the decorator. Remember, these acquisitions can be smart investments.

Consider multiples
If your budget is restrictive, Topol suggests purchasing artists’ multiples, such as limited edition prints. Typically more affordable than one-offs, these tend to hold their value, too. “They’ll certainly be worth more than that sofa from Rooms to Go,” he adds.

Plan ahead
If you’re decorating a room where art will be displayed, provide for future purchases by sketching the room and determining where art will be hung. You can fill in the blanks as budget allows.

Let it breathe
A grouping that is hung en masse needs enough negative, or blank, space between pieces to be visually interesting. Topol recommends giving each work some breathing room, but not so much that elements appear isolated. Remember that a gallery wall is a composition in itself.

Simple is best
When it comes to framing modern or contemporary art, Topol believes less is more. Simple frames are always a safe choice, as are neutral or white mats, preferably cut with a bevel edge. And if the piece is small, don’t exaggerate the size of the mat unless the piece is important enough to warrant extra attention.

Don’t forget lighting
Like people, art needs proper lighting to look its best. Topol recommends a combination of recessed and picture lights, both of which focus their beams directly onto works of art. The decorator is particularly fond of using picture lights above art in powder rooms, where they cast a more flattering glow than overhead lighting, which can be harsh in small spaces.

This article originally appeared in our Summer 2017 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

Pioneering female architect Leila Ross Wilburn was one of Atlanta’s most prolific

Leila Ross Wilburn
Photograph courtesy of McCain Library

Visit one of Atlanta’s intown neighborhoods where early-20th-century houses and bungalows remain, and you’ll likely find the work of Leila Ross Wilburn, one of Georgia’s first female registered architects. Macon-born but Decatur-bred, Wilburn began her architectural career in 1906, joining only one other Georgia woman, Henrietta Dozier, in the male-dominated profession.

After graduating from Agnes Scott Institute (now Agnes Scott College) and studying architectural drafting with a private tutor, the 21-year-old traveled around the country to study the emerging Arts and Crafts movement—using her Kodak camera to capture some 5,000 photographs of residences that inspired her. Returning to Atlanta, she apprenticed with B.R. Padgett and Son, where her first commission was a three-story YMCA gym at Georgia Military Academy, now Woodward Academy. Just three years later, Wilburn established her own practice.

Leila Ross Wilburn
Wilburn’s plan books are the only ones known to have been published by a female architect.

Photograph courtesy of McCain Library

The pioneering architect took an egalitarian approach to her craft. Rather than cater exclusively to wealthy clients, she marketed her residential designs directly to the middle class through a series of plan books. Starting with Southern Homes and Bungalows in 1914, Wilburn’s plan books, the only ones known to have been published by a woman, were filled with renderings whose plans could be purchased by homeowners and builders. As Wilburn noted in Homes of Good Taste, “The idea of publishing house designs, so that the builder in the small town may have a home in as good taste as his city brother, has always appealed to me.”

Her books featured bungalows and moderately sized houses in a range of styles, from Craftsman (perhaps the style most associated with Wilburn) to Colonial Revival and, later, ranch-style houses. Her homes were built throughout Atlanta—including Inman Park, Ansley Park, and Midtown—and the rest of Georgia, making her the state’s most prolific residential architect, according to architectural historian Robert Craig. They also appeared in other states, including Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Michigan.

Leila Ross Wilburn
Decatur house “Plan Number 970” from Ideal Homes of Today

Photograph courtesy of McCain Library

Leila Ross Wilburn
An illustration of a home located on Kings Highway in Decatur as it stands today.

Illustration by Chris Turnham

Although Wilburn designed some commercial buildings, she is best known for her residential work, which included single-family houses and apartment buildings. Two of the latter that remain standing are Midtown’s Wilburn House condominiums, a Craftsman-style building formerly known as Piedmont Park Apartments, and the Rosslyn on Ponce de Leon Avenue, which now houses the Atlanta Transitional Center. Her legacy looms especially large in Decatur, which boasts dozens of Wilburn-designed houses and where the city gives an annual historic preservation award in her honor.

While Wilburn’s minority status in her profession presented challenges, she believed that her sex was an asset to residential work, something she expressed in her plan books: “Being a woman I feel that I may know the little things that should go in it to make living in the house a pleasure to the entire family.”

This article originally appeared in our Summer 2016 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

Four Atlanta-area artists who have crossed over into textiles


Although Georgia’s textile industry is no longer the economic powerhouse it used to be, the state remains a breeding ground for independent fabric designers, many of whom have attained national prominence. We are particularly intrigued with a few local artists who have crossed over into textiles. Atlanta-area painters Steve McKenzie, Brian Carter, and Susan Hable Smith have created textile collections, and Clay McLaurin segued into fabric from screen printing.

Steve McKenzie fabric
Photograph by Whitney Ott

Steve McKenzie
Along with his wife, Jill, McKenzie is an active member of the Atlanta design community. He opened his eponymous home furnishings shop in the Westside design district in 2012 after a long, successful corporate career. In addition to being a retailer, interior designer, and artist, McKenzie has ventured into textile and rug design, both of which are influenced by his paintings.

“I was inspired to design textiles in 2012, after it hit me that I had an archive of work whose brushstrokes could be printed into patterns that would resemble my paintings. When designing my fabrics, it is important to me that you can see my hand and brush work, which is why I would describe my fabrics as very painterly.

I have a fondness for the rich history of textile-making in the South. That, combined with a Southern appreciation for flowers, is manifested in my fabrics.”

Clay McLaurin
Photograph by Whitney Ott

Clay McLaurin
After earning both undergraduate and master’s degrees in fabric design (from the University of Georgia and the Rhode Island School of Design, respectively), the native Atlantan worked as a fabric designer for other labels before founding his own firm, Clay McLaurin Studio, in 2013. McLaurin produces both fabric and wallpaper.

“While I was in school at the University of Georgia, I took a screen printing class and fell in love with printing onto fabric using designs I created myself. I liked the idea that the fabric could be manipulated or stretched and pulled onto another surface, thus becoming sculptural. It serves a purpose or a physical function rather than hanging on a wall. I believe fabric design to be a true form of art.

Nature has a huge influence on my work as an artist and in the patterns I create. Growing up in the South, I was outside a lot. For as long as I can remember, I have collected pods, seedlings, leaves, and other organic objects, allowing their designs to inspire
my own.”

Brian Carter
Photograph by Whitney Ott

Brian Carter
A Savannah native, Atlanta-based artist Carter works in a number of mediums, including collage, watercolor, decorative surfaces (such as hand-painted walls and floors), and now fabrics. Collaborating with the venerable international company Jim Thompson Textiles, Carter recently debuted his inaugural Studio B collection of printed linen.

“I’ve always been fascinated with pattern, so working with fabric was a natural extension of what I do.

My fabrics are very graphic and composed of quite simple shapes. Some are loosely based on historical motifs, while others are things I’ve come up with. They all have a hand-worked quality, either by painting, stamping, or cutting shapes out of paper.

The colorations are an important part of the design. I like unusual color combinations and tend to put colors together that react with or against each other.

I would like to expand the number of patterns and colorways, and would definitely like to see some of the patterns translated into wallpaper.”

Susan Hable Smith
Photograph by Whitney Ott

Susan Hable Smith
A resident of Athens, Hable Smith and her sister founded their textile company, Hable Construction, in 1999. A versatile artist and author of A Colorful Home, she recently collaborated with Hickory Chair on a debut furniture collection.

“My sister and I both came from a fashion accessory background. When we started our company, it was clear that we would use my art to create whatever we could to sell. Fashion accessories quickly turned into home furnishings, and the rest is history.

Our fabric patterns are similar to the art that I paint in many ways. I love simplified shapes that are large. I also seem to always get pulled into my garden, which serves as inspiration for pattern and painting.

My long-range goal is to have a lovely collection of fabrics that bring joy to the people who use them. The whole point is to make beautiful things that people can use to make their space their own.”

Pro Resources
Steve McKenzie’s: stevemckenzies.com; Martin Nash, ADAC, martinnash.com. Hable Construction: Bungalow Classic, bungalowclassic.com; Hickory Chair, hickorychair.com. Brian Carter Studio B collection: Jim Thompson Showroom, ADAC, jimthompsonfabrics.com. Clay McLaurin: Ainsworth-Noah, ADAC, ainsworth-noah.com. (Nationally, McLaurin’s fabrics are also represented at Studio Four NYC, Nicky Rising, Evans & Sheldon, and Y&Co in Toronto.)

This article originally appeared in our Summer 2016 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

The architects of Modern Atlanta’s Design is Human event talk contemporary design


Founded in 2007, Modern Atlanta is an internationally respected organization dedicated to championing modern design and architecture. Through events such as home tours, seminars, and design expositions—which are now held across the Southeast and throughout the year—Modern Atlanta has helped energize our city’s contemporary design scene as well as bolster its reputation as a modern-minded metropolis.

MA’s annual Design Is Human event, now in its ninth year and running from May 30 to June 7, includes a two-day tour of outstanding contemporary spaces throughout the city. It offers design enthusiasts an opportunity to see the latest in building technology and innovative materials, as well as a glimpse inside sleek and sometimes cutting-edge dwellings. We talked with a few of the tour’s featured architects to get their perspective on modern design and our evolving hometown. Ticket to all events, $35

Brian Bell
Tall glass panels flood the bathroom with daylight in the Bell-designed home.

Brian BellBrian Bell
Firm: Bldgs
Featured projects: 1417 Benning Place; 1545 Peachtree Street NE, Suite 280

Bell’s career as an architect took shape first in Boston and then in Atlanta, where he worked for the noted firm Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects. In 2006 Bell joined forces with fellow Harvard alum David Yocum to establish their own full-service architecture firm, Bldgs. Additionally, both Bell and Yocum are architecture professors at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

What’s your favorite building in Atlanta? Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam’s house at 64 Wakefield. It is joyful and experimental.
Which city do you consider to be a stronghold of modern architecture? In the U.S., Los Angeles is the strongest of strongholds.
Do you have a favorite new material? Yes, although none that were invented yesterday. We’ve been investigating several, such as Ductal (an ultra-high-performance concrete with steel fiber reinforcing) and translucent concrete.
Who or what inspired you to become an architect? A book in the Boise, Idaho, public library on the Bauhaus, which included a small plan and view of Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion.
Brutalism*: Yes or no? In the original sense of the word, absolutely yes.
Who is your favorite modernist design icon and why? Currently it’s Valerio Olgiati, because his work embodies the widest range of tensions. Absolutely rigorous, but distorting and atmospheric—you can’t quite believe what you’re seeing.
What was the biggest challenge of renovating 1417 Benning Place? Old houses are challenging to add on to in a way that lets them exist for what they are, and as a foil for something quite different.
What’s your favorite space in the house? The transition between the old and new houses, and the back deck between the addition and the new yard. That’s two favorite spaces.

*Brutalism—inspired by the French words for raw concrete, béton brut—is a controversial midcentury architectural style that favored unfinished molded concrete over glass and steel. Swiss architect Le Corbusier, along with Atlanta’s John Portman, were major proponents.

William Carpenter
The atrium is Carpenter’s favorite feature.

William CarpenterWilliam Carpenter
Firm: Lightroom
Featured home: 238 Olympic Place, Decatur

A native New Yorker who considers the legendary architect Norman Jaffe a mentor, Carpenter ventured south to pursue both his education and his career as an award-winning architect. In addition to running Lightroom, his Decatur-based architecture and design firm, Carpenter is a tenured professor at Southern Polytechnic State University’s School of Architecture (now part of Kennesaw State University).

Who is your favorite modernist design icon? Charles and Ray Eames, because of their work across disciplines and their interest in a simple, clear idea to unify a project. They were also both gifted photographers.
What’s your favorite piece of iconic modern furniture? Norman Bel Geddes’s lounge chair. It’s comfortable!
Who inspired you to become an architect? Robert Fisher, my sixth-grade teacher at Mattituck High School in Long Island, New York. Without him, I would not have known about architecture.
What’s your favorite building in Atlanta? The Decatur High School Library. I love it because it is a symbol of knowledge, and it reminds me of the Jetsons.
What’s your favorite building in the world? The Rosenbaum House in Florence, Alabama. It’s delicate simplicity.
On a scale of one to 10 (with 10 being the highest), where does Atlanta’s acceptance of modern architecture fall? 2000: one; 2015: seven.
Did your client have any specific requests? Design the best house you have ever done; design the best house in the U.S.

Scott West
Exterior trim includes boards from storm-felled local white oaks.

Scott WestScott West
Firm: West Architecture Studio
Featured Home: 282 Alaska Avenue

After his education at both Georgia Tech and the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, West worked at a number of Atlanta architecture firms before eventually founding his own practice, West Architecture Studio. In addition to residential work, West and his team are responsible for a number of high-profile Atlanta projects, including the Westside Shops at Howell Mill.

Who is your favorite modernist design icon? The honeybee. No distractions or concerns about trend.
Brutalism: Yes or no? Sure, why not? It beats Atlanta’s strip-shopping-center chic.
On a scale of one to 10, where does Atlanta’s acceptance of modern architecture fall? A few years ago, I would’ve said one or two, but today we could be approaching a four.
Which city do you consider to be a stronghold of modern architecture? Austin, Texas, is currently undergoing a sort of architectural golden age in terms of contemporary single-family-home architecture.
Who or what inspired you to become an architect? Alphabetically, it came after aerospace engineering in the college catalog. I’ve always had a fascination with flying things, but decent jobs in aerospace seemed to be on the wane.
What is your favorite space in this house? Either the light-filled second-floor den space that opens to the rooftop deck or the dining room.

Jordan Williams
The owners of the home above wanted a dramatic entertaining environment focused around the pool courtyard.

Jordan WilliamsJordan Williams
Firm: Plexus R+D
Featured Home: 229 Little John Trail

A principal of Plexus R+D , Williams has more than 20 years of experience in architecture, interiors, and master planning projects of varying types and sizes. Past projects include commercial, educational, institutional, retail, entertainment, and residential facilities. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Florida and received his Master of Architecture degree from Princeton University. Williams has taught design studios at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Boston Architectural Center, and Southern Polytechnic State University, and also received a Visiting Artists Fellowship to the American Academy in Rome.

Who is your favorite modernist design icon? I have great respect for classic modern designers like Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn, based on their roles in transforming the nature of the discipline of architecture.
What is your favorite building in Atlanta? Though the interior certainly seems a bit dated, I feel the Atlanta Central Library, designed by Marcel Breuer, is a beautifully sited and composed building.
Brutalism: Yes or no? Of course! Brutalism is the punk rock or metalcore of architecture. It is bold, technically impeccable, and incredibly honest about itself and its construction.
On a scale of one to 10, where does Atlanta’s acceptance of modern architecture fall? Architecturally speaking, I feel Atlanta is in the process of a cultural awakening. A five seems to be a fair ranking, with the understanding that the score has been consistently improving over the past decade.
What is your favorite piece of iconic modern furniture? The molded fiberglass rocker by Charles and Ray Eames. It still feels as fresh as the day it was created.

Lori Bork Newcomer
An entry bridge allows front door access over a sunken garden that provides daylight to the basement.

Lori Bork NewcomerLori Bork Newcomer
Firm: Bork Design
Featured Homes: 115 Autumnwood Avenue, Athens; 582 Pulaski Street, Athens; 175 Pulaski Heights, Athens

Having once worked for famed architect Cesar Pelli, Newcomer is the founder of Bork Design, a full-service architecture firm located in Athens. An advocate for sustainable design, Newcomer is a founding member of the Athens chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. The architect has three featured projects on this year’s tour.

What is your favorite building in Atlanta? I don’t know that I can say I have a favorite, but I appreciate the High Museum and the Fox Theatre.
On a scale of one to 10, where does Atlanta’s acceptance of modern architecture fall? Perhaps a five.
What is your favorite piece of iconic modern furniture? There are many I love, but if I had to pick one, it would probably be the Eames Molded Plywood Chair for Herman Miller. I love the way the design of the chair turns an everyday material like plywood into something elegant and sophisticated.
Who or what inspired you to become an architect? I combined my love of art and geometry and came up with the idea of studying architecture. It was the perfect match for me, and I haven’t regretted it.
What is your favorite space in the 582 Pulaski Street house (shown above)? I’m pleased with the sunken front courtyard space, which brings natural light into the walk-out basement and feels like an intimate patio space—even though it is right along the street in the front yard.

Bryan Russell
Russell likes the indoor-outdoor quality of this house.

Bryan RussellBryan Russell
Firm: Dencity
Featured Home: 1148 North Highland Avenue

A graduate of Mississippi State University, Russell began his career in California before eventually settling in Atlanta, where he teamed up with fellow architect Staffan Svenson to form the architecture practice Dencity in 2000. The firm’s projects range from commercial to residential.

What is your favorite building in Atlanta? The Atlanta Federal Center by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates. The mixture of complex forms with minimal materials is quite stunning. It will still be relevant 50 years from now.
What is your favorite building in the world? The Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe. Because of the rigor and restraint of the design in this project and the honesty of structure and form, I can’t imagine I would ever get tired of looking at this house or visiting it.
Brutalism: Yes or no? Overall, I would say no. I believe architecture should be created for people and not just abstract art. Brutalism for me tends to forget the human’s need for interaction with a space and a form.
Which city do you consider to be a stronghold of modern architecture? I find Vienna, Austria, fascinating. The constant juxtaposition of old and new architecture is breathtaking.
Did your client have any specific requests? They wanted a modern interpretation of a Frank Lloyd Wright prairie-style house.
What was the biggest challenge of this project? The site is very narrow and tight. Trying to fit all the programmatic needs and still let this house breathe was difficult and a fun challenge.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

From generation to generation: The visionaries who inspire Atlanta designers

Photographs by Ben Rollins

A few years ago, “House Beautiful” published a family tree tracing the roots of American design. Atlantans dominated its Southern branch—notably, Dan Carithers, John Oetgen, Nancy Braithwaite, Stan Topol, Bobby McAlpine, Suzanne Kasler, and Phoebe and Jim Howard. As the illustration shows, the tradition of young apprentices attaching themselves to respected design professionals seems especially strong here. Take, for example, local designer and antiques dealer Carol Klotz and her mentor, the late Edith Hills. Once the grande dame of Atlanta decorating, Hills worked alongside renowned architects from Philip Trammell Shutze to Henri Jova. When a young Klotz hired Hills to decorate her Shutze-designed home in the late 1960s, she found the experience so compelling that she asked the designer to teach her everything she knew about the design business.

“I was like a sieve when Edith imparted information,” says Klotz, who applied what she learned about furniture history to her own Buckhead gallery, Regalo Antiques. A fabric that Brunschwig & Fils named after Hills still hangs in Klotz’s foyer. And Klotz also remembers her mentor’s instruction on originality and taste: “Taste is born into you. You can educate and refine it, but it has to be innate.” Says Klotz, “Edith and my husband have been the two biggest influences in my life.”

Klotz’s reverence for Hills is characteristic of the deep respect that most protégés feel toward their mentors. When we asked a few local designers and architects to discuss the roles mentors played in shaping their careers, we noted an abundance of gratitude in their responses. Yet these feelings of admiration do not seem to be one-sided. When we turned to the mentors themselves, seeking a few sage words about design, we were struck by the great sense of pride they feel in their students’ success.

1. Mentor Norman Askins and protégé Yong Pak

Photograph by Ben Rollins

Photograph by Emily Followill

Considered one of the country’s foremost classical architects, Norman Askins is coming off an exhilarating year that saw the publication of his much-anticipated monograph, “Inspired by Tradition: The Architecture of Norman Davenport Askins.” A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Askins founded his practice close to four decades ago in Atlanta, a city that has benefited from his elegant, classically minded houses. Over the years, Askins’s firm has employed a veritable who’s who of Atlanta architecture, spinning off 18 other firms with principals like Stan Dixon, Ross Piper, Jack Davis, and Yong Pak. After 10 years of working for Askins, Pak struck out on his own, eventually joining fellow Askins alum Charles Heydt to form Pak Heydt & Associates.

Yong Pak
“I started working for Norman in 1987, right after I graduated from college. I was his third employee, and at that time, our office was in the basement of Norman’s house. As soon as I was hired, I started working on custom homes. It was trial by fire. Norman trusted me to help him produce a lot of great architecture. He gave me a lot of rope with which to hang myself, and that was very empowering. For the first time, I felt a mentorship, which I never had when I was at school.


Photograph courtesy of Pak

Norman was both a mentor and a teacher to me. He taught me how to look at classical architecture critically and how to reinterpret it in a contemporary context. From him, I also learned that an important part of classicism involves understanding its history. For example, in certain historic periods, the size of windowpanes was more consistent than today because of limitations on glass manufacturing.

I based my practice on the way Norman ran his. When it comes to clients, I can still hear Norman saying, ‘Try never to say no.’ You always put your clients first. As architects, it is up to us to interpret what clients want. He trusted me to have that authority. He also instilled in me that it’s my job to do the clients’ homework for them.

2. Mentor Charles Gandy and protégés Barbara Westbrook and Amy Morris

Photograph by Ben Rollins

Photograph by Christopher Little

Back in the ’80s and ’90s, few Atlanta design firms were as influential or as respected as Gandy/Peace Inc. Founded by Charles Gandy in 1979 (designer Bill Peace was made partner in 1985), Gandy/Peace made a name for itself with contemporary work—no small feat in a city where traditional decor had long dominated. Although he’s now retired, Gandy’s influence still looms large over the Atlanta design community, especially among those designers whose careers he helped foster. They include Barbara Westbrook, who established Westbrook Interiors after training under Gandy and later Nancy Braithwaite, and Amy Morris, whose early career included stints at both Gandy/Peace and Westbrook Interiors.


Photograph courtesy of Westbrook

Barbara Westbrook
“Charles is such a natural teacher, and he was always gracious with knowledge and praise. He has this personality where he gives lots of credit.

It was great schooling for me to see Charles run his business like a professional. I appreciated the fact that Charles was at the office every morning at eight. There were no special privileges for him. He was super professional but always pleasant. He also didn’t expect one’s life to revolve around his business, and he taught me the importance of life outside of work.

He taught me so much about design. I learned how to take a big project and address all of the decisions in their proper order, down to the doorstops.

There needs to be something clean and simple in a room, and I learned that from Charles. It gives a relief to your eyes. I see a heavy influence of Gandy/Peace in my work. I have a need for simplicity mixed with one or two dramatic moments in order to make it more interesting. Charles was always so good at those dramatic moments in a room.


Photograph by Erica Dines

Amy Morris
“Growing up in Atlanta at a time when most decor was traditional, I didn’t think that I would develop an appreciation for contemporary design. Until interning for Charles, I had never been around such contemporary, clean spaces before, and I quickly realized that I loved them. It was easy for me to see that Gandy/Peace’s work was the best of the best.

I was taught the basic design principles in school, but it was Charles who taught me how to apply them. He was always so right on in the way he approached scale, balance, and proportion, and he applied the same design principles to both contemporary and traditional rooms. I layer my rooms way more than Charles did, but, like Charles, I know that even if I’m working on a traditional space, I have to start by giving the room ‘clean bones.’

One lesson that I learned from Charles is that you have to continue to educate yourself, which was something that he was always doing. He also showed me the importance of being funny and nice. He always approached a situation with humor. After all, it’s decorating, not heart surgery.

3. Mentor Margaret Bosbyshell and protégé Clary Bosbyshell Froeba

Photograph by Ben Rollins
Bosbyshell and Froeba
Bosbyshell and Froeba

Photograph by John Vick

For Margaret Bosbyshell and daughter Clary Bosbyshell Froeba, a passion for design runs in the family. As a teenager, Bosbyshell worked part time at her father’s furniture showroom at the Atlanta Merchandise Mart. After taking a post-college detour into computer equipment sales, she returned to her design roots, working first at ADAC and later opening her own interiors firm, Margaux Interiors Limited, in 1982. Like her mother, Froeba spent her formative years being schooled in fabrics and fine furnishings, an experience that led Froeba to join her mother’s design business in 2009.

Clary Bosbyshell Froeba
“My mother and I both knew that I would eventually do something fashion- or design-oriented. When I was a child, my mother took me to ADAC, antiques shops, and even job sites, so I learned about the design business at a young age. Because I grew up around textiles, furniture, and beautiful objects, I have always noticed these things more than the average person. At high school and college parties, I was usually most interested in the decor of the host’s house.

Bosbyshell and Froeba
Bosbyshell and Froeba

Photograph by John Vick

Because my mother can be adventuresome with her decorating, I have been exposed to a range of different styles. Eventually, I want to be known for my own unique look. If I were to describe my style today, I would say that it’s layered and organic—with texture, lots of solids, a pop or two of color, and great art mixed in.

My mom has taught me a lot about quality. As she always says, “Quality over quantity.” One of the most valuable lessons I have learned from her, though, is the importance of decorating with antiques. Thanks to her, I know a lot about antiques, and we try to incorporate them in most of our projects. She has learned from me, too. I have helped her adapt to new technology and become more technologically savvy.

I think that we are able to be more honest with each other than most people working together, and that benefits us and makes our projects more successful. We often see things differently, which makes our working relationship a true collaboration. I might need to go off on my own someday in order to be all that I can be, but my mother will always be my mentor.

4. Mentor Dan Carithers and protégés Heather Dewberry and Will Huff

Photograph by Ben Rollins

Photograph by Traditional Home/Emily Followill

Despite having closed his interior design practice in 2010, legendary decorator Dan Carithers is still considered to be an elder statesman of American design. Once the design director of home furnishings at Rich’s department store, Carithers went on to open his own highly successful firm, where a long list of now-notable designers got their starts. Two such designers are Heather Dewberry and Will Huff, who met while working for Carithers during the 1990s and founded their own firm, Huff-Dewberry, in 2001. Coincidentally, the two designers now work out of the very same office that once housed Carithers’s firm.

Heather Dewberry
“Back in the mid-1990s, the design business in Atlanta was much smaller, and there were fewer nationally known decorators here. When I landed a job with Dan, I had to pinch myself. He was so legendary that working for him was a big deal.

One of the great things about working for Dan is that he had worked for Rich’s and consulted with Baker Furniture, so he knew that design-wise, anything was possible. There were very few dead ends when working for Dan. He taught us not to take ‘no’ at face value, which was an invaluable lesson. Dan also gave us nerves of steel. Very little shakes us now, because we know how to handle it.

The nice thing about Dan’s work was that there was always something unexpected to it. He pushed us to take our work up a notch. Dan made sure that we went beyond coordinates by adding an unusual fabric or antique. He liked his rooms to be inviting and fluid, and as a result, his rooms were really used. Our clients say the same of our rooms today.

Life was an adventure for Dan. He never had an ordinary day, because he could find extraordinary things every day.


Photograph by Emily Followill

Will Huff
“When I decided to get into the design business, my father, who is also a decorator, wasn’t going to let me work for just anybody. Dan not only took a fresh approach to traditional design, but he also knew how to run a business. Seeing how he ran his business was an education on top of learning about design. Dan could make anything happen.

Although our style is not Dan’s, it does reflect his influence. Like Dan, we make sure there is a level of comfort and functionality in our work. However, we use stronger colors than he did, and art and rugs are more important to us. Also, we are asked by clients to decorate in a wider range of styles than Dan typically did. It’s a different time today, because the Internet exposes people to a variety of looks. Dan would have enjoyed that too, because he could do both very traditional and very contemporary rooms.

If Dan’s client wanted something that wasn’t going to work, he could say no in a very humorous way. He used humor to deal with these issues. He was also a master at stories. We realized that you learn more from a story than from being told what to do.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Altanta Magazine’s HOME.

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