To make new friends in Inman Park, there’s no need to wait for a formal invitation. On the last Friday of every month, residents hold a Porch Party, where anyone new or old to this intown neighborhood can drop by for an impromptu get-together on a designated porch. “It’s a great way to get to know your neighbors, and it’s actually a pretty easy party to throw, since everyone brings a dish and their own drinks,” says Pat Westrick, the IP resident who organizes these monthly gatherings.
Porches have always played a key role in Inman Park, well known as Atlanta’s first planned community and for its exuberant Victorian architecture. In the days before air-conditioning, sitting on a wraparound porch was a way to catch the breeze. The tree-lined streets near Downtown were also ideal for strolling and chatting with neighbors lounging outside. In fact, that’s partly how entrepreneur Joel Hurt promoted the lots when he began selling them after the Civil War: a little bit of country life in the city. So right from the start, Inman Park had that Mayberry quality.
Of course, Mayberry looked more like Haight-Ashbury by the middle of the last century. Suburban flight and urban blight had turned many of the once-grand homes into decayed apartment buildings with junked cars sitting outside and absentee landlords. Fortunately, a few prescient pioneers began restoring the neighborhood in the 1970s, and its original glory was revived.
Today’s Inman Park is a unique blend of its bohemian and aristocratic pasts, and throughout this history, porch living has remained a constant. “It’s just the way we stay connected in Inman Park,” Westrick says.
Pat and Richard Westrick
IP residents since 1975
When Pat Westrick and her husband moved in during the free-spirited seventies, Inman Park prices were cheap, and most residents did their own renovations to save money. The Westricks restored the white gingerbread trim on their yellow Victorian, using an old photo as a reference. (They found another photo in which the facade was fuchsia.) These days, since most of the houses have already been renovated, everyone just has more time to visit on front porches, Pat observes. “Inman Park still has the same kind of spirit—the neighborliness—that it did back in 1975,” she says.
Alfredia and David Scott
IP residents since 1999
While some people may think of an outdoor porch as an extension of the indoors, Alfredia Scott views hers differently. “I wanted it to continue the feeling of what’s going on out in the garden,” says Alfredia, whose husband, David, represents the Thirteenth Congressional District. Accordingly, her front porch is filled with garden statues, flowers, and ferns. It’s also why she chose the trim color of this regal, hundred-plus-year-old brick house: a light mint green, the color of spring, Alfredia’s favorite season.
Jan and Windell Keith
IP residents since 1990
Windell Keith used to travel often to San Francisco, so it’s no coincidence that the circa-1890 King-Keith House now resembles one of the famed “painted ladies” in the California city. “I used to study the Victorian houses there, and I knew where we wanted to start, color-wise—with peach,” says Windell. Of course, he didn’t stop with one color. True to the San Francisco approach, more than a dozen spring colors now emphasize the home’s elaborate woodwork and architectural accents, and it’s become one of the most photographed buildings in the neighborhood. The residence is also a B&B, and Windell has noticed that guests love relaxing on the upper-level porch, one of the higher perches in this part of Atlanta. “You get a good sense of what’s going on in the neighborhood while sitting up there, but with all the trees, there’s enough privacy that people don’t necessarily see you,” he says.
Christina and Alan Farabaugh
IP residents since 1995
Even people who have never met the Farabaughs know their house. The oversized outdoor lanterns that Christina changes on a whim—most often red, but sometimes black for Halloween or hand-painted for a party—catch the eyes of passersby. “The people who notice the lights really pay attention to them and depend on me to change them out,” Christina says. As an artist, she felt compelled to jazz up the three plain lights previously on the porch, but it’s all part of an ongoing priority to bring a modern edge to a graceful Victorian house.
Douglas Weiss and Chris Casey
IP residents since 1998
Douglas Weiss and Chris Casey had admired this house for years, so it was serendipitous when Casey drove by just as the previous owner was hammering a “For Sale” sign in the front yard. By the next day, Casey and Weiss had the house under contract. As an interior designer, Weiss loves the intricate woodwork, rich chocolate color, and deep eaves of the Dutch Colonial Revival structure. “It’s a masculine house, maybe more similar to Craftsman style than Victorian,” he says. (At one point, though, it was a triplex covered in asbestos siding.) Weiss (in photo) and Casey host an annual porch party for up to 200 guests during the Inman Park Festival, with the upper deck offering the best views. “It’s a crazy and diverse neighborhood,” says Weiss, “but in a good way.”
Diane and Bill Jordan
IP residents since 1973
Diane and Bill Jordan were happily ensconced in a new Decatur house and expecting their first baby in 1973, so Diane was skeptical when her husband suggested they check out an old, slightly dilapidated house in Inman Park. “This house had a real hippie living there, with marijuana growing in an upstairs bedroom,” she recalls. Most interesting was the front exterior: alternating blue and green clapboards, which made the house appear striped. The front porch had been enclosed, with macrame hangers everywhere. Not only did the Jordans restore the original open porch, but they also eventually acquired the lot next door, allowing them to extend the front porch along the side. The hippie house turned out to be a great family home, Diane says. They have raised four children there, even hosting two wedding receptions on the porch.
Bobbi and Andre de Winter
IP residents since 1999
Inman Park’s modern revitalization began with this Queen Anne–style house. Antiques dealer Robert Griggs bought it in 1969, restored the ornate architectural details, and persuaded friends and colleagues to do the same throughout the neighborhood. Current owner Andre de Winter sees himself and his wife as stewards of its history. “We’re just the keepers of this house, not really the owners,” he explains. A Realtor himself, de Winter was immediately drawn to the house, one of the oldest in the city, where the front porch made of Italian marble and Stone Mountain granite is just one of its charms. A belvedere, an Italian word meaning “beautiful view,” is a unique round porch located high in the turret. “This is the house that really stands out in the neighborhood,” Andre says.
Glenda and David Minkin
IP residents since 1997
Inman Park developer Joel Hurt built this house in 1892 for his brother, a physician who had an office in his home. Like other IP houses, however, at some point it served as a boarding house and suffered damage. Glenda Minkin chose a deep blue paint for the cedar shakes (one of the few neighborhood homes with that sort of exterior) and white for the trim and porch floor. The couple added a trellis, with an oval insert that mirrors a window by the front door. The trellis is covered in jasmine, with other potted arrangements nearby. The Minkins’ favorite way to use the porch? “We love to set up a bar outside so that guests can help themselves to a drink before venturing inside for a dinner party,” says Glenda.
The neighborhood’s two personas—imagine the carnival-like atmosphere of Bourbon Street merging with the historic architecture of Charleston—come together for three days later this month. Inman Park’s Spring Festival and Tour of Homes will be held April 29 to May 1. As usual, this celebration includes a huge street market, music and dance performances, arts and crafts displays, a dozen or so homes and gardens on tour, and the popular Saturday parade—with floats, bands, art cars, jugglers, drill teams, and the infamous Kelly’s Seed & Feed Marching Abominable. For more information visit inmanparkfestival.org. This year’s parade will pay homage to some of the pioneers who sparked the area’s rejuvenation.
› When adding a cellar, hire an experienced builder or installer who understands the room’s special requirements. For instance, the Hirsches’ storage area includes a drip pan that evaporates and humidifies the air (to keep corks moist). It also includes insulation with a moisture barrier similar to the material used around bathrooms.
› The Hirsches keep the temperature between 56 and 57 degrees so white wines and champagnes stay properly chilled, although Janie recommends not serving wines at that temperature. “Ideally, you should drink [reds] at a temperature somewhere between that found in a wine cellar and room temperature, so take the bottle out and let it sit for a few minutes before opening,” she says. White wines should be chilled slightly more, so pop them into the refrigerator for thirty minutes.
› Michael recommends taking time to fill a wine cellar with true favorites. “People often fill a cellar too quickly and are stuck with wines they don’t enjoy,” he says. “Never buy solely on ratings or friends’ recommendations. Find your own gems.”
› Even though cellars are for storage, don’t let your wines get too old, Michael cautions. “It’s better to drink a year too early than a year too late.”
1. Start with the small stuff. “Begin with a collection, like your collection of candlesticks, and just pick a few favorites, then box everything else up,” Meder advises. All the wedding china doesn’t need to be displayed, and almost everyone puts out too many picture frames. “Your daughter is now thirty-five, so do you really need eight photos of her when she was in kindergarten on the piano?”
2. Throw out old decorating ideas. “When you say, ‘I can’t put those lamps in the bedroom because those are my living room lamps,’ you’ve become your mother.”
3. Get outside help. When dividing up furnishings among grown children, sometimes it’s helpful to hire an outsider to be a mediator. Similarly, there are companies that hold estate sales or arrange for donation of unwanted items.
4. Streamline holiday decorating. Go through seasonal decorations and keep only the handmade or truly distinctive items. Give away all the department store Santas, balls, and garlands.
5. Enjoy knowing your donations will be used by someone else. One client donated furnishings to a women’s shelter and ended up getting involved with it. “Sometimes, giving away things leads to a larger purpose,” Meder says. blacksheepinteriors.com
Green House Solar panels on the roof, geothermal heating and air conditioning, and rainwater harvesting systems reduce utility costs. In the kitchen, floors and island countertop are each made of reclaimed wood. Formaldehyde-free cabinets and a salvaged light fixture also give this classic kitchen a sustainable sensibility. But if the materials are cutting-edge, the design is Old World. Cabinetry resembles furniture. Vintage touches such as subway tile, marble countertops, and a wood-plank ceiling give the new house a historic look.
Back Story The wood used for the island top is from an old oak tree that was knocked down in Oakland Cemetery by the tornado of 2008 (when many of the windows in the Westin Peachtree Plaza were also damaged). An adjacent butcher-block prep table was made from wood salvaged from the White Provision factory. Wendi loves the island’s beat-up, lived-in quality. “I wanted the island to look like an old French bakery table with an antique piece of furniture pushed up next to it,” she says. “We laugh that it’s full of ghosts and haints.”
Test Drive A few weeks after moving into the new house, Wendi and John hosted Thanksgiving for twenty-five people. “The tables where people ate were spread out all over the house, but we were able to put all the food and plates—the entire meal—on the island,” recalls Wendi. The kitchen’s three dishwashers (a full-size one and two dishwasher drawers) earned their keep that day too.
The Challenge Although only 200 square feet (just eight feet wide), this galley-style kitchen in their Colony House condo has to live large. “The Feinsands needed the room to function in three different ways,” says kitchen designer Robin Pittman of Design Galleria. “It serves as a kitchen, laundry room, and a bar–serving area, so we had to use every inch.”
Triple Duty A pantry at the end of the kitchen has frosted glass doors so the room doesn’t seem too closed in. Open metal shelves against a glass backsplash keep the look modern and streamlined. The other side of the room contains a second sink (where Ellen repots her orchids) and hides a washer-dryer below. Counter space can be used to fold clean laundry one day, then serve as an entertaining station the next.
Shiny Things The cappuccino-colored cabinets have a shiny lacquer finish—a good fit for this high-rise home that overlooks the sparkle of Atlanta skyscrapers—but the floors are limestone tiles with a matte surface. Similarly, the metal fixtures and glass backsplash are reflective, but honed granite countertops provide contrast. “Everyone loves the colors in here, and particularly the glass tiles,” says Ellen. Design Galleria kitchen specialists and interior designer Bill Stewart worked together to coordinate the carefully balanced room.
Test Drive The Feinsands have entertained as many as a hundred guests in their condo. “We’ve had two particularly memorable parties using this kitchen,” says Ellen. “A dinner party in honor of artist Todd Murphy to celebrate the installation of a major piece by him in our living room, and a surprise party for all of Howard’s friends to celebrate his birthday.”
Save and Splurge The Boomershines saved money on remodeling their kitchen by keeping existing cabinetry, although they rearranged the components to position the sink under a window. To spruce up the old cabinets, every surface now wears Lucite hardware and a couple coats of gray oil paint in a glossy finish. With the cabinetry savings, they splurged on Calcutta marble countertops. A cork floor brings more interesting texture into the room. Cinda loves the mix of high-low elements, which include budget-savers such as four Ikea pendants. “One wouldn’t have been interesting. It’s the repetition that works,” says Cinda.
Walls of Another Stripe “Home is my laboratory to experiment with ideas that clients wouldn’t normally let me do,” says Cinda. Case in point: using leftover paint from adjoining rooms to create stripes on the upper walls, which is both an affordable wall treatment and a conversation piece. Mark patiently did the application himself. “A good level and painters tape are your best friends for a job like that,” says Cinda.
Time Together “We take turns as far as who does the cooking, depending on who’s the busiest at any given time,” says Cinda. But both of them pitch in for the annual “Fig Extravaganza.” In July, when the Boomershines’ backyard fig tree is bursting with fruit, the two experiment with every sort of concoction that can be made with figs—such as fig-prosciutto pizza. “We try new things every day until we’re totally sick of figs,” she says.