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Kimberly Turner


House Envy: Avondale Estates farmhouse has ties to Candlers, Waffle House founders

During its 116-year life, Avondale Esates’s Miley Bright Farmhouse has been many things: a gentleman’s city retreat, working farm and dairy, dilapidated boarding house, private home, and most recently, bed and breakfast.

Built as a country getaway and farm for Judge John S. Candler (brother of Coca-Cola founder Asa Griggs Candler) in 1900, the 4,068-square-foot house later became the boyhood home of Waffle House cofounder Tom Forkner. By 1926, Avondale Estates was taking shape. The Forkners kept 25 acres of the lot and sold the remaining 425 to the fledgling city.

After the Forkner family moved out, the property was purchased and converted into a 14- to 16-room boarding house that allowed people to pay by the week for accommodations. It was what current owner Diana Simon refers to as a “boarding house/bordello/crackhouse.” After a kitchen fire, the property was allowed to fall into severe disrepair.

Diana, who owns Miley Bright with her husband, Joe, says the house was boarded up and condemned when they bought it in 1997. “The exterior porches had been enclosed and turned into bedrooms. The place was just a rabbit warren of hallways and dark passages—really creepy. All six fireplaces had been filled with concrete and closed over. The doors had been clad in metal with deadbolts. It was terrible.”

Although their previous renovation experience had been limited to one 1920s Poncey-Highland bungalow, the couple saw potential. Perhaps more importantly, they had supportive friends with experience in plumbing, electrical work, tiling, and carpentry. The massive project turned into a full-time job for Joe, who left his corporate job to complete it. Thanks to the advanced level of deterioration and all the additional walls that had been erected during the home’s boarding house days, demolition alone took several years.

The entire project—which included new electrical, plumbing, siding, paint, and roofing—was not complete until 2002. While Diana says they “restored it back to its original footprint and did everything we could to keep its original character,” the Simons opted not to register the sprawling farmhouse as a historic building due to the restrictions that designation imposes on restoration projects.

Still, the heart-pine floors are all original—save for the kitchen, which has salvaged floors. The six original fireplaces were saved, despite the concrete, and topped with mantels made from timber milled on the property. Joe learned the lost art of plaster restoration to maintain the original walls. Several of the four bathrooms have vintage features such as an antique claw-foot tub and hand-painted sinks and tiles (Diana was inspired by the bold color palette of the Biltmore House). Because of Miley Bright’s age, the sconces that hang throughout the home were once plumbed for carbide gas and have since been wired. “Electricity was novel and high-tech back then,” says Diana.

In the backyard, a farm garden pays homage to the property’s history, growing blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, figs, persimmons, and more for use in the 24- by 15-foot chef’s kitchen. A walkway leads back to an old well and a rose bush that grows where an outhouse once stood. Out past a covered veranda, the front garden features a magnificent magnolia tree and a wide array of flowers that attract butterflies and birds during much of the year.

The intent of the restoration was not to build a bed and breakfast. “It was just a labor of love—probably not of common sense but certainly of love,” says Diana. When the job was complete, the couple realized that the six-bedroom farmhouse was “too much house for two people.” They spontaneously put the in-law suite up on bedandbreakfast.com and had their first booking from a guest in Cardiff, Wales, the next day. “We just kind of fell into it,” says Diana. “With the recession, we added more rooms.”

The bed and breakfast, which grosses about $71,000 a year, has hosted guests from Japan, Shanghai, the U.K., Estonia, and around the world. “You have to like meeting lots of folks, but we have enjoyed extending our Southern hospitality to people,” says Diana.

The unique property is on the market for $625,000. For more information, contact Amy Noack of Keller Williams Metro Atlanta at 404-564-5560 or AskAmy@AmyNoack.com.

House Envy: Vintage industrial chic in Virginia-Highland

Located in the heart of Virginia-Highland, the charming five-bedroom at 1019 Adair Avenue appears to have leapt from the pages of a  storybook. And for one couple, Anthony and Ann Guy, the historic house truly did spur a fairytale romance.

The couple met at a party in the building, during the 50-year period when it served as an apartment block. They hit it off, and today—one marriage, two kids, and one massive renovation later—the Guys live in the place where they first met, though they’ve recently put it on the market.

The couple purchased the four then-dilapidated apartments in 2006, with the intention of transforming the space into one single-family home. The down-to-the-studs renovation took nearly two years to complete, during which a three-story addition was added to the back of the building.

Because a City Hall fire destroyed the records, no one knows the exact year the house was built, though it was certainly between 1900 and 1915. (By 1916, the house was the center of a well-publicized dispute known as the Great Adair Arc Light Controversy, which involved some black paint, a disgruntled pastor who did not want a community arc lamp shining into his bedroom, and a whole lot of irritated neighbors.)

During the renovation, the Guys endeavored to maintain a “vintage industrial chic” vibe with designer wallpaper, French tiles, and vintage lighting. While some elements, such as the heart pine flooring on the third floor, are original to the house, most of the décor comes from salvaged and repurposed antique pieces sourced elsewhere. The 110-year-old kitchen island, for example, came from a French department store. Tiles in the foyer were reclaimed from England. And the one-of-a-kind clay kitchen backsplash tiles were hand-painted by a British artist. Elsewhere, old meets new: Restored Tudor fireplace mantles are paired with modern gas fireplaces. Other aspects, such as the Art Deco pedestal sink in one of the five bathrooms and the airy, open floorplan, are relatively modern without seeming out of place.

Listing agent Chase Horner of Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty, says, “The owners really wanted to create an environment where it was hard to tell what was old and what was new. I think they succeeded.” To add to the intrigue, the owners even added a “secret door” leading from the wet bar to the dining area. Outside, a professionally landscaped yard features an English garden surrounded by a fence handcrafted from petrified locust wood.

The well-situated abode is on the market for $1,175,000. Contact Chase Horner of Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty at 404-334-4919 or chasehorner@atlantafinehomes.com for more information.

House envy: Part log cabin, part hunting lodge, this Sandy Springs home is rich with history

You could walk right past 5757 Riverside Drive and never realize that the Tudor-style brick ranch is one of the city’s most unusual structures. Its story starts about 120 years ago, when the now-1.4-acre lot was used as a horse-trading site for people crossing the Chattahoochee at the Powers Ferry Crossing—roughly three miles to the west.

In 1895 a one-room schoolhouse was erected here; and, in the 1930s, the building was converted into a scouting lodge. By 1960—nine years before Interstate 285 was opened nearby—the leafy area that would eventually become part of Sandy Springs was becoming more residential. A home was built on the lot, but rather than demolishing the 65-year-old log cabin, builders incorporated the 19th-century schoolhouse into the design of the new house.

According to the current owner, the original structure’s roofline and windows can be seen from the attic above the entrance hall. Listing agent Sister Hood of Harry Norman Realtors elaborates, “The floors in that area aren’t original to the schoolhouse, but they are very old, beautiful heart-pine floors.”

When the home was expanded in the 1970s, the owners took its pastoral character to the next level by incorporating a hunting lodge from South Carolina. The lodge was deconstructed, moved, then reassembled on site to become a great room. The master bedroom was also updated with antique railroad ties and cross-cut cedar planks sourced from a tobacco smoke house in Kentucky. The cherry wood in the kitchen cabinets and bricks on the front patio were once part of a local seminary.

Most of the house looks like it came straight off of a Pinterest board with a name like “Rustic Living” or “Log Cabin Fever,” so the structure requires a certain level of dedication to theme when it comes to furnishings. The bright, high-ceilinged kitchen and dining area, however, are comparatively modern with skylights, stainless steel appliances, and updated lighting fixtures. The airy room opens onto a landscaped backyard and pool.

For more information on this unique home, currently listed for $679,000, contact Sister Hood at 404-233-4142 or sister.hood@harrynorman.com.

House envy: Striking Brookhaven contemporary is first of a series

With its unconventional angles and assortment of exterior finishes, the towering four-story contemporary home at 2496 Oostanaula Drive in Brookhaven stands out among its neighbors—but it won’t for long. It is about to be joined by two more modern abodes by architect and native Brookhavenite Stephen Flanagan of Studio One Architecture.

While all three homes will feature the same general aesthetic, each is a one-of-a-kind design. Listing agent Jeff Mueller of Sage Real Estate Advisors explains, “These are not stock plans that Flanagan tweaked. A lot of the houses in the neighborhood are stock plans where one variation is not too much different than the others. Builders share architectural plans, but [here] the architect started from scratch.”

Each of the homes will feature reclaimed century-old wood from the home that previously stood on the property. In the first construction, listed at $995,000, the remnants of the former house were used to create the large sliding barn doors leading into the office, which add some history to the room without sacrificing the modern feel of the space.

European-style Possini lighting, acid-stained concrete floors on the lower level, and an abundance of right angles give this 3,523-square-foot listing a thoroughly up-to-date look. The master suite encompasses the entire top floor with oversized windows, a soaring beamed ceiling, and a private balcony. Some architectural elements do double duty, such as stone stacks that have been transformed into planters so that residents can grow flowers or even herbs for their kitchen. Shelves that slide into the walls, custom cabinetry, and an elevator that serves all four levels add to the convenience.

The new construction also includes a number of green, eco-friendly features, including high-end custom, energy-saving windows; a tank-less water heater; and a Green Tree Metals roof designed to reflect sunlight to reduce energy costs. The homes are within a quick walk to the MARTA station and amenities like pubs, yoga studios, salons, and top restaurants such as Haven Restaurant and Bar, Valenza, Verde Taqueria, Kaleidoscope Bistro & Pub, and J. Christopher’s.

For more information, contact Jeff Mueller at 770-365-5933.


House Envy: A look inside Tyler Perry’s sprawling former estate

Update: In June 2018, this house was listed for sale by its new owner, once again for $25,000. Curbed Atlanta reports that Perry sold the house in 2016 for $17.5 million, making it the most expensive house in Georgia.

An enormous infinity-edge pool with poolside bar, a lighted tennis court atop a multi-level garage, and 17-acres of lush gardens and riverfront land — you’d be forgiven for thinking the home belonging to Tyler Perry was an exclusive resort rather than a private residence. Yet the movie mogul, actor, author, and playwright has lived in the 34,688-square-foot mansion with his long-time girlfriend, Gelila Bekele, since it was built in 2007. In November 2014, they added a son to their family, reducing the amount of space for each of them to a meager 11,562 square feet each.

The star recently put the seven-bedroom, 14-bath estate on the market for $25 million. The listing makes the bold claim that the lavish Chattahoochee-side property is “perhaps the most compelling private residence to ever be offered to market in the history of Atlanta.”

It features all the perks and amenities one would expect of a home belonging to the man Forbes named 2011’s highest-paid entertainer (with an income of $130 million): a gym that would rival most high-end fitness centers, a luxurious spa, a sizable wine cellar, elevators, a helipad, and, of course, a movie theater for Madea marathons.

Balconies provide views of the Buckhead skyline as well as views over the well-manicured gardens and hedge maze. A lavish bar showcases stained glass. Car-sized chandeliers, hand-painted murals in the dining room, soaring ceilings throughout, and enormous stone fireplaces large enough to stand up in add to the extravagance. An underground ballroom with its own catering kitchen is ideal for special get-togethers at the house, which has hosted guests such as Obama, Oprah, Kanye, and Kim Kardashian.

With guests like those, security is a priority. Guard houses and towers, “presidential-level security,” and a generator mighty enough to power the entire estate ensure the New Orleans native and his guests are well taken care of.

In 2010, Perry also paid $9 million for Dean Gardens, a garish home on 58 acres in Johns Creek. He never lived on that property and is now reportedly in talks to sell it to a developer who would demolish it to build a subdivision. He plans to build his new personal headquarters on 1,000 acres in Douglas County, not far from Six Flags.

Anyone interested in taking on the roughly $91,000/month mortgage for Perry’s current estate can contact Josh Reeves (404-547-3622, joshreeves@atlantafinehomes.com) for more information.

Update: For the 2018 listing, check out buying information here from Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty.

This article was originally titled House Envy: A look inside Tyler Perry’s sprawling estate. It was updated on July 6, 2018.

House Envy: Andrew Young reminisces on Herman J. Russell’s 1963 home

At first glance, the five-bedroom house at 714 Shorter Terrace appears to be an attractive but relatively unassuming midcentury modern home. Photos of the open layout, sunny living area, and double-sided fireplace don’t provide any hints about the history-altering conversations that once took place behind its brick walls.

The spacious home was built and owned by entrepreneur and philanthropist Herman J. Russell (1930 – 2014), who helped shape Atlanta, both physically and culturally. The native Atlantan built his business, H.J. Russell & Co., into one of the most successful African American-owned construction and development companies in the nation during the 1960s and 1970s. In 2015, it was ranked as the 13th largest black-owned business of any kind in the United States. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Philips Arena, Turner Field, and the Georgia Dome are just a few of the influential entrepreneur’s additions to our city’s skyline.

Beyond breaking down racial boundaries with his construction company (which is currently working on the new Atlanta Falcons stadium), Russell was the first black member of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and its second black president. He worked to help Maynard Jackson secure a spot as Atlanta’s first black mayor and made significant financial contributions to campaigns that furthered the fight for equal rights. As such, the circa 1963 home was a magnet for civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Maynard Jackson, Andrew Young, and others.

In a video tour of the house, Andrew Young says, “This was the place where the deals were done—the discussions about desegregating schools, the discussions about desegregating the economy, the efforts to build a new airport, or to pass MARTA legislation.”

The sturdy 8,761-square-foot home, designed for entertaining, features a basketball court, tennis court, indoor pool, and expansive outdoor entertaining area. Young fondly recalls coming by to swim and have fish fries with Ralph Abernathy, Martin Luther King Jr., and other influential African American leaders. “This is one of the warm memories of my life, hanging out with these guys, knowing that something good, even great, might come from any time they get together,” he says.

The Collier Heights house, which was also featured in this Atlanta magazine story about its historic neighborhood, was put on the market for $675,000 in August; but after two price drops, it is currently listed for $497,900. It sits on 1.5 acres of private, gated land. Contact Jenea Kennedy of Engel & Völkers Buckhead Atlanta at 404-304-8964 for more information.

House Envy: Heards Ferry tales stretch back centuries

If land could tell stories, the earth beneath 1295 Heards Ferry Road would spin a tale for the ages. Today, the eight-acre Sandy Springs plot hosts a charming six-bedroom, nine-bath mansion featuring an airy chef’s kitchen, stone fireplaces and floors, and even an art gallery; but a little digging (literally) uncovers a fascinating past.

The estate sits on a ridge near the Chattahoochee River where Union Major General Jacob D. Cox crossed on July 8, 1864 en route to launch the Battle of Atlanta. According to a historical marker, Cox described it as “one of the most picturesque [crossings] of the campaign.” Throughout the years, countless Civil War artifacts have been found on the property. That might also explain why a previous owner’s wife once asked the current occupants, “Have you seen the ghost?” (For the record, they have not.)

But the story doesn’t end there. In 1929, Dr. Dan Griffith—who founded the first pharmacy, post office, and clinic in Sandy Springs—purchased the 170-acre parcel from his nurse, Anna Heard. (Heard’s father then owned 1,000 acres and ran the ferry that crossed the river, hence the name of the road.) When the construction workers broke ground, they uncovered a Native American grinding stone dating from the Woodland Period (1000 BCE to 1000 CE).

The home was built from stone quarried on the site, and Dr. Griffith’s family lived there until the 1970s. Later in that decade, it sat vacant long enough for a commune to move in and build some small structures in the woods. But by the late 1970s, Bob Shipman bought the dilapidated property, which was then down to 12 acres, for $100,000 and began the long process of restoration.

The current owners took over in 1997 and continued renovations, both inside and out, for seven years. They restructured rooms, added a sunroom, and in 2003, began an expansion that included a new kitchen and enlarged the home to 7,085 square feet.

Outside, they cleared the overgrown land. “It was a jungle. There was not a flower and not a place by the driveway where you could place a foot,” says resident Bernadine Richard. “The brush was covering the trees in the island and up against the house.” The resulting gardens—including terraces, waterfalls, a tropical water garden, meditation garden, chapel garden, “Hobbit’s stream,” and labyrinth—were so spectacular, they earned a place on the Atlanta Botanical Garden tour.

The grounds and estate, complete with tennis court, chapel, pool, and gardener’s house, are currently on the market for $4,395,000. Contact Jared Sapp at jared@jaredsapp.com or 404-668-7233 for more information.

House Envy: An 1891 Great Fire survivor gets yet another chance

By 4 p.m. on May 21, 1917, the Great Atlanta Fire was roaring down Boulevard toward Angier Avenue. The flames would go on to engulf 1,900 structures on 300 acres but would spare the lucky 26-year-old home at 534 Angier by less than a block.

Shortly afterward, the family of current owner Miss Maddie Davis purchased the home. For 95 years, the house—frequently referred to as “the most beautiful house on the street” by neighbors—remained in her family. When Miss Davis began facing health issues, the circa-1891 residence, located just two blocks from Ponce City Market, fell into disrepair.

In 2014, Kerri O’Connor and her construction company, Legacy Ventures, went to work on the dilapidated former beauty, restoring and renovating it over the course of 10 months. “We updated it and brought it up to today’s standards, but really, really tried to keep a lot of the original character,” says O’Connor.

In many cases, honoring the home’s history involved repurposing materials. Outside, the herringbone-patterned walkway was rebuilt using bricks from the original home’s chimney. The first-floor bathroom’s vanity was constructed using reclaimed floor joists. The stair railing was too short to meet modern codes and had to be lifted, but every other spindle was tall enough to be reused; the others are meticulous recreations that are virtually indistinguishable from the originals. Some areas also feature floating shelves made of wood recovered from the original construction.

The five-bedroom house boasts four original brick fireplaces as well as some decorative exposed brick areas revealed when plaster was removed. Much of the exterior is made of original siding that was carefully repaired and restored.

When significant changes had to be made, O’Connor’s team strived to retain the aesthetic of the original home. A second gable replaced the shed roof for the sake of balance; but, O’Connor notes, “When we added the larger gable on the right, we mirrored the original trim work and design, which has an almost board-and-batten kind of feel. We also created new columns and corbels for the sides of each window and along the side of the house that mirrored the original ones.” A radius window in the master bedroom had to be replaced for egress but the shape of the original and the siding around it was maintained.

Listing agent Jen Engel of Nest Atlanta says, “The house was in really rough shape, but Kerri honored the house’s history to create something that is honestly amazing.” The team hopes to bring Miss Davis out to witness the transformation of her family’s long-time home for herself but will walk her through the online virtual tour in the event that she can’t make it in person.

The 3,400-square-foot restoration is on the market for $799,900. Contact Engel at 404-281-6350 for more information.

House Envy: Million-dollar condos with million-dollar views at 1065 Midtown

During the bleakest days of the recession, condo development in Atlanta slowed to a crawl, and the creation of new high-end, high-rise condos ceased altogether as the market moved toward apartments. The units on the 11 floors atop the Loews Atlanta Hotel followed that trend with developer Daniel Corp. building 52 furnished apartments as part of its 12th & Midtown project in 2010. The centrally located rentals near Piedmont Park fetched between $2,500 and $7,000 per month.

Today, the economy is recovering and resale prices for condos are on the rise, so TriBridge Residential (which purchased the apartments from Daniel Corp.) decided the time was right to convert the rental units to upscale condos, now named 1065 Midtown. The transition kicked off in April, as leases began to expire and continues with two new three-bedrooms hitting the market this week.

Starting at $990,000, the one-, two-, and three-bedroom luxury homes range from 1,182 to 2,819 square feet with 12-foot ceilings, hand-scraped Brazilian oak flooring, and private elevators and entrances. The newly listed three-bedrooms are some of the larger units at 2,288 square feet for $1,275,000 and 2,819 square feet for $1,665,000.

The developer flew to Italy to select the granite and marble used in the bathrooms and kitchens, which also feature Thermador appliances and SubZero wine refrigerators. The floor-to-ceiling windows are equipped with automatic shades in case the views of Midtown’s and Downtown’s glimmering skylines get a bit too bright. Residents in many of the homes can also appreciate views of Piedmont Park from their private glass-walled balconies. They can enjoy a heated rooftop pool exclusively for residents, a media room, a private lounge, and a curated art collection.

And while all of that sounds lovely, the real differentiator between 1065 Midtown and many other upmarket condos is the hotel. Residents of these high-rise condos have access to all of the amenities available to hotel guests: housekeeping, room service, on-premise car rental, a 24-hour business center, and a private chef. The concierge provides a wide array of services including dog walking, car detailing, dry cleaning, appointment scheduling, and priority event ticket purchasing. If they tire of hanging out in their swanky digs, residents can head downstairs to the Exhale Spa or Saltwood Charcuterie & Bar or hit the streets of Midtown for countless shopping, dining, and entertainment options. (The condos have a Walk Score of 92 — a “walker’s paradise.”)

For more information on these new properties, contact agent Christa Huffstickler of Atlanta Fine Homes, Sotheby’s International Realty, at 404-874-0300 or email info@1065midtown.com

House Envy: Survive a nuclear blast in this $17.5-million underground shelter

Less than three hours south of Atlanta, near Tifton, Georgia, one of the most unique properties in the country is buried 45 feet underground. The “luxury” bunker can withstand a 20,000-ton nuclear blast and comes complete with safety features such as a decontamination shower, three-foot thick concrete walls, and environmental monitoring equipment. Tests have shown that 30 people can survive for a year in the self-contained facility. But safety doesn’t come cheap: Survivalist types who want this level of protection will need to shell out $17.5 million.

Although it was built in 1969, during the height of the Cold War, the underground lair has not actually been occupied by paranoid preppers. Rather, it has served as a commercial training facility for communications, thanks to its inability to be infiltrated by electromagnetic interference. Accommodations for trainees, including military personnel, include four 600-square-foot, two-bedroom apartments—each with its own kitchen, living room, dining room, and bathroom. All up, the roughly 14,000 square feet of living and working space has 12 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, five kitchens, plus a 15-person movie theater, library, conference room, gym, and a classroom/theater.

A $2.5-million renovation in 2012 brought the massive bunker up to EPA standards. Today, the self-sufficient shelter offers everything doomsayers need to get by: its own three-phase power plant with solar backup, an air filtration system, aquifer access, and secure air intake systems. For those who want a touch of modernism, it also comes equipped with HVAC and two DSL broadband lines for internet access. When claustrophobia inevitably sets in (assuming the world hasn’t been nuked out of existence), the owner can travel up to the surface where they’ll find an outdoor firing range on the 32-acre lot.

For more information on this one-of-a-kind subterranean homestead, contact Sister Hood at Harry Norman Realtors of Buckhead at 404-233-4142 or sister.hood@harrynorman.com.

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