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Mary Logan Bikoff

Bikoff covers lifestyle topics including fashion, art, and travel. She began her career at Atlanta magazine as an intern in 2006 and returned as associate editor in 2013. In between, she lived in New York and freelanced for Condé Nast, National Geographic publications, and Paper magazine. While there, she got a master's degree in American studies from Columbia University. A native of Atlanta, she is a University of Georgia graduate and lives in an old bungalow in Inman Park with her husband and Australian shepherd.

JJ’s Flower Shop offers new ways to buy blooms

JJ’s Flower Shop
“Bev,” the floral truck

Photograph by Wedig + Laxton

Sometimes, store-bought or readymade bouquets aren’t quite right, so you toss the fern filler here, snip a stem down there, and rearrange it more to your liking. Building your own bouquet just the way you want is the premise of JJ’s Flower Shop, which operates both out of a storefront at Ponce City Market and the back of a spiffy 1968 Volkswagen drop-side pick-up truck named Bev.

Owner Sarah Donjuan had little floral experience—beyond deconstructing and rearranging the bouquets her then boyfriend (now husband) bought her—when she launched JJ’s in 2018, named for her Goldendoodle. She had a business degree, a marketing job, and an interest in flowers and doing something entrepreneurial. Just looking for a side hustle at the time, Donjuan did her research, bought the truck in California, and launched with a create-your-own-bouquet mobile pop-up on weekends. Six months later, she quit her day job and opened her brick-and-mortar shop.

“I knew there were a lot of floral companies with an events-based business, and I wanted to do something different,” she says. “I’m not a professional florist. I just saw a gap in the market and thought it would be fun, so I figured it out.”

The beauty of JJ’s is that everything is priced by the stem—starting at just a buck—so you can mix and match or buy as little as one bloom for a sweet souvenir.

Now, Donjuan employs a lead floral designer and shop manager, plus four assistants. At its Ponce City Market location, JJ’s also offers readymade and custom arrangements and conducts monthly workshops on flower arranging and, like more typical florists, offers same-day delivery and wedding florals. From March through September, floral truck Bev rolls around town, making stops at markets and shopping centers like Avalon and the Shops Buckhead Atlanta, and can be hired for private parties. Should events remain on pause, take advantage of JJ’s flower subscription service and regularly refresh your blooms without ever leaving the house.

JJ’s Flower Shop

Build a bouquet

“We encourage thrillers, fillers, and greenery,” says Sarah Donjuan of JJ’s Flower Shop, referring to the age-old recipe of combining a tall, big, or bright statement flower with smaller accent blooms and greens.

1. Envision a color palette or a theme. “Decide if you’re going for neutral, bright, moody. It helps establish a creative direction,” says Donjuan. “We chose a vibrant, tropical palette for this arrangement.”

2. Use a piece of greenery as a base. “Greenery holds everything together and helps form the overall shape of the arrangement,” she says. This bouquet is anchored by pointy-leafed ruscus.

3. Pick your focal point (aka your thriller). This one features a pincushion protea.

4. Shape it. “We love an asymmetrical shape,” says Donjuan. Two longer-cut roses and a carnation—a flower Donjuan insists is “back”—create an ever-so-slightly off-kilter balance.

5. Finish with filler and more greenery. Billy balls, mimosa, dried lunaria, and the rest of the ruscus are tucked in, cut at varying heights, with the yellow billy balls acting as exclamation points.

This article appears in our May 2020 issue.

In her battle to be reunited with the elephant she raised, Carol Buckley built a world-class sanctuary in South Georgia

Carol Buckley elephants
Carol Buckley with Tarra at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee in 1995.

Photograph courtesy of Carol Buckley

One sunny morning in 1974, when Carol Buckley was 20, her German shepherd began barking at the bay window of her rental house in suburban Simi Valley, California. Buckley looked out to see a man walking a baby elephant down the street on a rope. She blinked. Then she ran outside and chased him down. The man, Bob Nance, boasted a mini-menagerie at his tire shop and had purchased the six-month-old Burmese elephant as his star attraction. Just three feet tall, with a scruffy tuft of hair on her head like an Old English Sheepdog, the calf was named Fluffie.

Buckley was studying exotic-animal management at the nearby Moorpark College, and she began showing up daily at Bob’s Tire Center. She wasn’t exactly summoned, but Nance didn’t complain. Buckley mucked the small truck where Fluffie lived, protected her from taunting kids, and fed her from a bottle. When Buckley arrived each morning, Fluffie would take her long, strong trunk, grab Buckley’s nose, and exhale, greeting her like she would another elephant. Soon, Buckley was driving Fluffie back to her own house at night, backing the truck up to the window so they could see each other when Buckley was inside. At the time, she didn’t know much about elephants, but she figured she could do better than Bob Nance, who eventually hired her as Fluffie’s caretaker. She read books and consulted her professors and the local vet. After a few months, Buckley quit school to spend all her time with her ward.

Two years later, with the help of her parents, Buckley secured a $25,000 loan to purchase the animal, renaming her Tarra, a name she found “exotic and grand.” For Buckley, who had one short-lived marriage at 24 and never had children, Tarra became her family. She thought they would be together for the rest of their lives.

Carol Buckley elephants
Buckley at her new elephant refuge in Georgia.

Photograph by Matt Odom

On a recent bluebird January day, Buckley bumped along at the wheel of a camouflage Kawasaki Mule on a red clay road in the most southwestern reaches of Georgia. The old farm is not unlike those around it, a mix of rolling grasslands, carefully culled pines, gnarly live oaks, and meandering paths to spring-fed streams and ponds. Buckley pointed out whitetail deer, wild hogs, and goldfinches that darted from the tawny brush.

“And when you get down there,” she sang, motoring toward Little Attapulgus Creek, “it’s just heaven for elephants.” The fields made way for hardwoods and a cool, boggy streambed. She sprung from the Mule and opened her arms wide and smiled, closing her eyes and inhaling like a blissed-out yogi. A tiny stick hung in a tangle of her long, fine, sandy-colored hair, a souvenir from a bushwacking gallop down a hillside. The calm lasted only a moment. The Mule was stuck in the mud. After Buckley exerted considerable revving and pushing, the tour continued on foot. At 65 years old, the diminutive Buckley, with a tanned complexion that shows little wear for a lifetime spent outdoors, still clocks a brisk pace.

On these 850 acres in Decatur County near Attapulgus (population 449), Buckley has created a refuge for retired circus and zoo elephants, nearly 25 years after she founded the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee with a similar mission. That nonprofit, located southwest of Nashville, rescued 24 elephants and grew to 2,700 acres and assets of well over $20 million under Buckley’s tenure before a great rift formed between her and the board of directors and she was ousted in 2010. She lost her job, her home, her life’s work, and Tarra. So here she is, starting all over again, with plans to get her friend back.

Less than a year after being booted from the Tennessee operation, Buckley launched Elephant Aid International, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of captive pachyderms in Asia. Since then, she has traveled overseas as much as half the year, working with NGOs and governments in Nepal, Thailand, and India to improve the habitats, healthcare, and treatment of elephants used for work and tourism, while raising money and searching for the perfect U.S. property for a new refuge and headquarters. On her list of requirements: hundreds of rolling acres with shade and meadow, abundant grasses and forage, and a subtropical climate, all to mimic the native habitats of Asian elephants. Southwest Georgia fit the bill, and she closed on the property for $2.4 million in 2016.

EAI has functioned mostly with a staff of one and thousands of supporters, including hundreds who followed Buckley in the split with the Tennessee sanctuary, many of whom now make up EAI’s board and advisory council. After all, it was she who dreamed up that first Tennessee haven 25 years ago and started it using her own money, with Tarra as its founding resident. Along with her one-time romantic partner and cofounder Scott Blais, she oversaw every aspect of the facility. But by 2009, complaints about her management style, squabbles over spending, health scares, and the death of a caregiver had turned the organization into a cesspool of feuding factions.

Now, down in South Georgia, 60,000 feet of specialized steel cable fencing encloses the habitat for Buckley’s latest endeavor, Elephant Refuge North America, an initiative of EAI. Crews of contractors and volunteers helped clear the land, cut out the old cattle fencing, and removed downed trees. Buckley herself can get lost in the quiet satisfaction of pulling a bush hog, and savanna-like grasses have sprung up in place of brambles. There’s a 5,000-square-foot barn with infrared heating and soft estuary sand dug four feet deep to cushion the pachyderms’ platter-sized padded feet. All told, the compound, which was completed in March 2019, cost $3.75 million, all from donations. Live-streaming cameras across the property allow the public to view as many as 10 rescued and retired elephants, otherwise largely free from the human gaze, roaming the pastoral grounds, splashing in the ponds, trumpeting to their friends and family.

But for now, all viewers see is trees swaying in the wind. As yet, there are no elephants at the Elephant Refuge North America.

Carol Buckley elephants
Buckley doing homework and babysitting the orphaned one-year-old Tarra (then Fluffie) at Bob’s Tire Center in 1974.

Photograph courtesy of Carol Buckley

The elephant, both Asian and African species, is among the world’s most intelligent creatures. They exhibit sophisticated emotions and behaviors like altruism, grief, and cooperation, and have been seen helping each other up muddy banks or spraying dust on a companion’s wounds. The animals’ hippocampus, which is linked to emotion and memory, is especially large, thus the saying “an elephant never forgets.” Their families, led by a matriarch, may be the most closely knit in the animal kingdom, with familial females spending their entire lives together. (Most captive elephants are female; bulls periodically enter “musth,” when heightened testosterone can make them aggressive, so adult males tend to lead more solitary lives.) When a loved one dies, elephants may perform funeral rituals, touching the body softly with their feet, carrying away the bones, or covering them in leaves and grass. In 1999, retired circus elephants Jenny and Shirley, who hadn’t seen each other in more than two decades, were filmed reuniting at the Tennessee sanctuary. So eager were the pair to touch that they bent the thick steel bars separating them on the first night. Elephants have shown similar affection for companions of other species, including humans.

There are around 300 elephants in zoos in the U.S., and perhaps 70 owned by circuses, but public opinion about holding these complex creatures captive has evolved since the days when a tire shop could legally house a pachyderm as a mascot.

Circus elephants spend much of their time confined in trucks or chained in stalls, forced to obey or suffer the bullhook, a notorious baton with an end like a fire poker. In 2016, after decades of protest and a slew of local laws prohibiting elephant acts, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, the nation’s largest circus, retired its elephants to a company reserve in Florida. Since then, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, and California have banned elephant circus acts altogether.

Conditions for zoo elephants have improved over the past two decades, most significantly since the Association of Zoos & Aquariums started requiring exhibits to house at least three elephants (in correspondingly larger habitats) in order to be accredited. Last year, Zoo Atlanta opened its expanded exhibit, the Zambezi Elephant Center, and introduced Msholo, an African male from the San Diego Zoo, to its two females, Kelly and Tara. Still, elephant populations in zoos are dwindling; the animals’ record of breeding in captivity is dismal and capture from the wild is highly controversial. Faced with new AZA directives, some institutions are phasing out exhibits, while others stay open without accreditation, housing solitary elephants in cramped conditions, a depressing fate for the biologically social, roaming animal. The AZA also has banned the routine use of bullhooks by 2023. AZA-certified zoos contribute millions of dollars each year to the conservation of wild elephants in Asia and Africa, where the animal is threatened by habitat destruction and poaching. Still, some experts now question whether elephants belong in zoos at all, even as many zoos are enjoying record attendance.

Buckley, for her part, wishes to partner with zoos rather than clash with them. Equal parts realistic and quixotic, Buckley ultimately views the sanctuary model as a transition to a day when elephants live only where nature intended—in the wild. When she founded the Tennessee sanctuary, it was the first of its kind in the U.S. In the beginning, she just wanted a home for Tarra.

Settled in the living room of her spare Georgia farmhouse on the new refuge grounds, Buckley recalled her saga with Tarra. She has lived on the property for three years, but the room was empty except for a few mismatched chairs and Nepali trinkets. Moving boxes were still stacked against the wall. “I didn’t realize I was going to have to create the place that would be good for her,” she said. “I thought, On my journey, I’m going to turn a corner and, oh, here’s a great place for elephants. And then I realized, Oh, there is no great place for elephants. Nobody has done that, so I’ve got to do it myself.”

After she launched the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, it didn’t take long for the other elephants from small zoos and traveling circuses to arrive, many bearing scars, fears, injuries, disease, or even old ankle chains, and they thrived in their newfound freedom and friendships. As president and CEO, Buckley oversaw the retirement of two dozen elephants, including the first rescue confiscated by the USDA and another eight stripped at once from the Hawthorn Corporation, a provider of circus elephants. The sanctuary prompted widespread discussion about improving the animals’ lives in captivity, and Buckley’s work was recognized by National Geographic and Oprah.

But Buckley’s 45-year career with elephants didn’t start in animal welfare. It began under the big top.

Carol Buckley elephants
On wheels for a photographer at Buckley’s property in Ojai, California, in the early ’80s.

Photograph courtesy of Carol Buckley

Buckley grew up one of six in Orange County, California, at the edge of a post-war housing tract backing up to acres of fields. As a child, she trained German shepherds and collected chickens, geese, and rabbits. At community college, she met a guy who worked at a nearby wild animal amusement park. He asked her out on a date. She agreed to go if he would introduce her to his boss. After an informal visit, the park director offhandedly invited her to “come back any time”—and she did. Every day for months, following the dolphin and sea lion trainers like a shadow. The director eventually convinced her to apply to Moorpark.

Just a week after she enrolled, baby Tarra lumbered into her life.

Buckley began teaching her tricks. This was the land of Disney, and regional theme parks dotted seemingly every corner of the state. Traveling carnivals with whirly-gigs and acrobats and top hat–wearing tiger trainers pulled their trucks from town to town. Buckley and Tarra’s first job was with Marriott’s Great America in Santa Clara—now California’s Great America—where they landed a two-year contract. Buckley rented a 10-acre place nearby for them to live.

Theirs was a classic circus routine. Tarra would dance on a tub (“ba ba ba,” Buckley demonstrated, straightening her back and putting her hands through a little cha-cha), play the xylophone, waltz, wiggle the hula in a grass skirt. Maquillaged and sporting Farrah Fawcett locks and a tight leotard, Buckley conducted the performance with a tap here and there of a fiberglass wand. The duo were famous for strapping on roller skates—both of them. The pair took their act all over the country and Canada, living and sleeping together in Buckley’s trailer, Buckley in a tiny cubby over the gooseneck and Tarra in the custom-built bed.

Buckley insisted that for a time, when she and Tarra were young, they both enjoyed performing. “She was a kid,” she said. “The more people would cheer, the sillier she would get. She’s hyper—like me.”

In the late ’70s, the pair moved out to a sunny canyon in the Los Padres National Forest near Ojai. They bathed in the deep pools of the Ventura River, wandered trails, and curled up to rest under ancient oaks. By then Tarra was doing some studio work. She appeared in an episode of Little House on the Prairie, and Carol Burnett rode on her back in the final medley of Annie. She delivered the envelope with the winner for “Best Costume Design” at the 57th Academy Awards when A Passage to India was nominated. But travel was becoming arduous. Circus stunts began to feel cheap. Tarra was growing up—and Buckley was growing with her.

“It was a hard life,” says Buckley. “Tarra had fun when she was little, but as she started physically getting bigger and her maturity level was changing, her likes and dislikes were shifting. I felt like every day, I went to bed going, Okay, I’ve learned this much about her. And then the next day, Okay. I’m learning more. Learning more. She was forever changing. She was growing all that time, and I was like three steps behind her every time, trying to stay up with her. She was 10 in 1984, and I said, That’s it. No more circus.”

Given that elephants can live for decades—70 years or more—Tarra was still an adolescent. For years, they tried zoos, offering Tarra as an attraction and Buckley as a caregiver. At the Racine Zoo on the shores of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin, Tarra bonded with a solitary female elephant, Rasha. With the blessing of the zoo director, Buckley planned an expansion and renovation of the habitat. During the construction, she moved the two elephants to a breeding center at a wildlife park near Toronto, hoping both would return pregnant. In Canada, Buckley met Scott Blais, who was then a 19-year-old elephant trainer, 20 years her junior. The two began dreaming about a better life for captive elephants and then—after striking up a romance—about a future together, too.

Tarra did become pregnant, but a new director at the Racine Zoo fired Buckley. With a baby elephant on the way, she and Blais had no trouble finding a new home at the Nashville Zoo. In 1994, Tarra delivered a calf. But after a difficult and frightening labor, the baby emerged with its lower body twisted and contorted from a crippling joint deformity called arthrogryposis. After about 20 minutes, the vet announced, “the baby is gone.” Tarra put one foot gently on the body, paused, then walked away.

“I just couldn’t accept it,” Buckley said. “I was really messed up over it. I was the one in mourning. I was sleeping in the barn with Tarra, and she’s going, Come on, it’s okay. She did great. She helped me through it.”

The vet assured Buckley that Tarra was young and could try again. But she told him, “I will never ever do that to her again.” After years of dreaming of a sanctuary for elephants, that was all the push she needed. Soon after, she used her savings to buy 112 acres and a house in rural Hohenwald, Tennessee, 80 miles southwest of Nashville.

“I don’t regret what Tarra and I have been through,” she said, “but I often think about, Oh, how fabulous would it have been if when I first met Tarra, I already knew everything I know now and she never had to do any of that. But that’s how I gained the knowledge and the experience to do what I am doing well.” And if Tarra had never been captured at all? “If she could have her life back? Oh, man. I’d give it all up in a minute.”

It has been five years since Buckley has seen Tarra, now somewhat beyond middle age, the subject of a bitter custody battle with the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee that has shaken conservation and animal-welfare circles. The opposing parties met in court most recently last April to determine Tarra’s rightful and permanent home.

The events leading up to Buckley’s dismissal in 2010 had compounded over several years. In 1997, Buckley sold the property, including its improvements and her residence, to the nonprofit for her purchase price. Buckley and Blais lived together on the grounds, working around the clock, seven days a week, for no pay for years. But as the organization grew, Buckley found that, as president and CEO, she was managing staff—eventually as many as three-dozen employees—as much as caring for elephants.

“In many ways, we were a victim of our own success,” said Blais. “We grew exponentially. It could be chaotic.”

For Buckley, understanding elephants is easy. “Elephants are an open book completely,” she said. “They don’t hide anything, they don’t fake anything.” It’s humans who are hard. “People are quite confusing to me. I cannot read people at all.”

She was surprised when new, young staffers asked for Christmas vacation or pricey benefits packages. For her, the elephants always came first.

There was one employee whose commitment matched Buckley’s: caregiver Joanna Burke. The soft-spoken Massachusetts native’s devotion verged on obsession, to the point where she broke off a 10-year relationship and rarely left the grounds. Buckley saw Burke as her successor.

Burke had been at the sanctuary for eight years when, in 2006, she was bathing an elephant named Winkie, who had arrived six years earlier from a Wisconsin zoo with a reputation for violent behavior. Without warning, Winkie struck Burke with her trunk and stepped on her, killing her instantly. Blais was with Burke at the time and suffered bruises and a broken ankle trying to save her. Burke’s family agreed with Buckley that Burke would not have wanted Winkie euthanized. (Winkie lived until 2017.)

It wasn’t until the accident that Buckley learned Burke and Blais had become romantically involved. The relationship between the cofounders, already soured, turned toxic. Buckley and Blais wouldn’t speak without a mediator, and both attest many staffers sided with the young, affable Blais. Buckley admits to being an uncompromising manager. “They were afraid of me,” she says. “Absolutely.”

“For years, she said she did not belong managing people,” recalled Blais. “She has an incredible mind, an incredible spirit, but I think she doesn’t know when to step back.”

Not long after, Buckley found herself at odds with the board, opposing spending on a glossy elephant education center in downtown Hohenwald and over a tuberculosis outbreak that infected eight employees, though none fell ill.

In 2009, Blais threatened to quit, and the board placed Buckley on leave. Rejecting offers of lesser roles, she also refused to resign, then was fired in March 2010. Blais was persuaded to stay, although he left the following year, married another former staffer, and now works with elephants in Brazil.

Buckley was devastated and blindsided, she said. That October, she sued for wrongful dismissal, unauthorized use of her name and likeness, breach of contract, and defamation, seeking $1 million in damages and visitation rights with Tarra.

In February 2011, the sanctuary responded to Buckley’s allegations, asking the court to dismiss the suit and denying all charges. In a statement, it said, “Ms. Buckley created what workers described as a toxic work environment” and that she “neglected worker safety concerns.”

Donors, a board member, members of the advisory board, and even some staffers broke ties with the organization, pledging to follow her. “I was on the phone taking minutes for the board meeting when they announced they were removing her,” said Kate Elliott, who was the sanctuary’s managing director from 2006 to 2009 and is now a supporter of Elephant Aid International. “I was sick to my stomach. It was completely out of left field.”

Elephant experts from conservationists in Kenya to animal psychologists wrote letters to the board of directors in Buckley’s defense. One was Dr. Rob Atkinson, who at the time served as head of wildlife at Britain’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “There is only one place I personally would want a captive elephant to live, and that is with Carol at the Sanctuary,” he wrote. “Carol has underpinned the Sanctuary’s work with a deep, ethically sound philosophy which gives it its strength. The elephants and the Sanctuary need Carol’s skill, heart, and wisdom. I have met elephant carers all over the world, and been one myself, but I have never met anyone like Carol.” That fall, Atkinson himself was hired as CEO of the Elephant Sanctuary. He resigned less than two years later and was succeeded by Janice Zeitlin, a Nashville art dealer who has been on the board since 2004. Zeitlin declined to comment for this story.

Following a dip in donations after Buckley’s departure, the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee has continued to thrive financially. In 2018, it raised more money than ever—nearly $10 million—and now has assets of almost $50 million and top ratings from Charity Navigator. Staff includes 20 caregivers, and it remains the largest natural habitat refuge for elephants in North America. The new Elephant Discovery Center, with its interactive exhibits, opened last year, bringing student groups and tourists to tiny Hohenwald; and the nonprofit’s distance-learning program reached more than 14,000 students in 26 countries in 2019. But over the past 10 years, the herd has shrunk to 11, with seven deaths and four arrivals.

Initially, Buckley believed the best place for Tarra was still the sanctuary, even if she could not live there with her. “If she were happy, why would I move her?” Buckley was granted a property inspection to visit Tarra; but that reunion was so traumatic for Buckley that she revised her lawsuit in 2014, dropping all other charges aside from custody of Tarra. During her next visit in 2015, she stayed in the car, watching Tarra from a distance. Now, she does not even watch Tarra on the EleCam. “The next time I see her, I’m bringing her home,” she said.

Litigation over Tarra drags on. In Tennessee’s Lewis County chancery court last April, Buckley testified that she has had concerns for Tarra’s well-being since her first inspection. Lawyers called on witnesses from wildlife officials to veterinarians to accountants, as well as Buckley, Zeitlin, and Blais, whom the Elephant Sanctuary flew in from South America. The most intense questioning revolved around Tarra’s bond with the sanctuary’s herd.

Tarra’s barn has recently housed Shirley, who was seized by Castro’s forces in Cuba, later survived a shipwreck, and at nearly 72 is one of the oldest Asian elephants in North America; Sissy, another Asian elephant who rejoined the herd in October after more than two years in tuberculosis quarantine; and, according to a sanctuary veterinarian’s testimony in the April trial (a sanctuary spokesperson denies a shared habitat), Nosey, an African elephant who has been at the sanctuary since 2017, though her custody is also currently being disputed.

“Tarra has a beautiful life at the sanctuary,” Blais said later by phone from Brazil. “Shirley adores her, and she adores Shirley.”

But Tarra’s closest companion for years was, in fact, not an elephant at all but a dog: a white stray named Bella, whom she preferred over any of her own species at the sanctuary. Buckley turned their story into a children’s book, which Dolly Parton selected for her book club, sending free copies to children around the world. (Tragically, a pack of coyotes later killed Bella, and Tarra carried her body back to the barn.)

On the third day of the trial, the jury ruled that Buckley did not irrevocably give Tarra to the sanctuary, and Buckley rejoiced quietly, making plans for her transport to Georgia. One month after the verdict was filed, the Elephant Sanctuary filed a motion for a new trial, and it was granted in September. A date has not been set, and Tarra remains in Tennessee.

One day last November, Buckley arrived in Sauraha, Nepal, a tourist town of a few thousand at the gateway for Chitwan National Park. Locals called out to her as she walked along the dusty streets. They emerged from souvenir shops and waved, beckoning to her by name from balconies. She hugged them all. “Namaste,” she said again and again in the customary greeting, smiling, putting her palms together in prayer and conducting quick, excited bows. She asked about their families and in some cases, their elephants, which are sometimes housed just out of view behind the cheap hotels and restaurants that line the streets, which hum with motorbikes, safari Jeeps, and livestock.

Visitors—mostly from Nepal and India and many from China, Germany, and Russia—come to Chitwan, in the grassy lowlands, hoping to spot the endangered one-horned rhinoceros and elusive Bengal tiger, and often, to ride an elephant. Wild elephants roam the surrounding forests, though they are considered mostly seasonal wanderers from nearby northern India. There are around 200 captive elephants in Sauraha, most belonging to hotel owners and others who offer tourist rides, and 60 or so that belong to the government. These government-owned elephants are a crucial part of the anti-poaching brigade, taking park rangers deep into the jungle to head off illegal hunters after horns, skins, and ivory. Buckley knows the creatures by name: Mel Kali, Sundar Mala, Ram Gaj.

In the decade since Buckley was removed from the sanctuary, she has focused on the welfare of captive elephants across Asia, establishing relationships with governments and private companies in Nepal, India, and Thailand. In these countries, captive elephants are used for work and tourist safaris and typically spend resting hours with their ankles shackled to a post, some unable to move more than a few inches.

In Nepal, where she has spent months each year, Buckley established Asia’s first chain-free corrals for working elephants in 2014, allowing more than 80 elephants to roam, graze, play, lie down, and socialize within solar-powered electric fences. This success story was covered by National Geographic, featuring video of elephants being released from chains and trumpeting, flapping their sail-like ears.

Buckley does not believe elephants should live in captivity at all, much less for the purpose of labor or entertainment for humans. But she recognizes that societies don’t change overnight. The initiatives of Elephant Aid International are intended to improve the health and living conditions of working elephants—and educate their owners and caregivers. This often deviates from cultural norms, with mixed success. Her biggest accomplishment in Nepal, she said, was working with the British-owned luxury ecolodge Tiger Tops, on the north side of Chitwan National Park, to release a dozen or so elephants into 18 acres of chain-free corrals. In 2015, the lodge ceased elephant-back safaris for tourists, instead offering jungle walks alongside the giants, where visitors can watch them in their seminatural state. Elephant tourism is big business in Nepal, and this, Tiger Tops and Buckley both attest, is a way to bridge the gap between local livelihoods and responsible tourism.

“Once one does it, they’ll all do it,” she predicted of the tourism industry. Reform has proved to be slow.

On this visit, as she does twice a year in Sauraha, Buckley was conducting a foot-care workshop to trim the elephants’ nails and treat their enormous padded feet for infection. A leading cause of poor health and even death among captive elephants is osteomyelitis of the feet, a bacterial infection of the bone thought to be caused by restricted movement and standing on hard or unclean surfaces.

Although it is the government—or the rich—who own the elephants, it is always the mahouts who care for them. A mahout, the lower-status profession of elephant caregiver, is paired with an elephant for years—or life— living alongside it, typically in a rudimentary hut, feeding it, cleaning its stable, bathing it, training it. Mahouts and their superiors, patchuas and phanets, “drive” the elephants, mounting them from their trunks and straddling their hulking shoulders, directing them by foot and stick as they patrol the forest or carry tourists. No one knows an individual elephant as well as her mahout.

Buckley knows many mahouts by name too—Rupesh, Ajay, Harindra, mostly men; they beamed when she recognized them. With help from a local friend, Shanti, whom she calls “a sister from another lifetime,” she spread the word to mahouts about her workshop, which offered free tools and a small stipend for their time spent away from other duties. And they came, on rickety bikes, on foot, aged 20 to 80, carrying little headshots for their applications, to Shanti’s corner market to sign up.

That first morning in Sauraha, Buckley started off on foot to make the rounds with a gaggle of glommers-on. There was Leslie PonTell Schreiber, a longtime friend from Moorpark College and an Elephant Aid International board member (and former board member at the Elephant Sanctuary), and Becky Dan, a member of the executive council, who was charged with taking photos and video of the activities and registering the mahouts. Other acolytes emerged: An intern from a nearby veterinary school who acted as a translator. Eventually, his entire class joined. Canadian park rangers in town for the annual World Ranger Congress, who heard Buckley speak at the conference over the weekend. A vet originally from Atlanta, who was Buckley’s first intern at the Elephant Sanctuary in 1995, who later moved to Sauraha and acquired an elephant in order to save her. Another from Switzerland, who had done the same—and both were working on initiatives for elephant walks for tourists.

The first stop was the main government-owned hattisar, or elephant house, where Buckley has worked many times before. The open shelters at the edge of the dense jungle house eight elephants, and they all stood in chains in the hazy morning mist, though many of the surrounding electric corrals were working. Buckley figured the fences had become a device for keeping wild bull elephants—as well as tourists—out of the stable. She wasn’t surprised. She knew elsewhere the corrals EAI established from 2013 to 2015 had been washed away during the monsoons and were never repaired. Five years after installation, nearly all of the park elephants were back on chains.

The new official in charge was out. Buckley would have to come back the next day. No amount of arguing or pleading succeeded. As an American woman, she faces an uphill battle with the officials in Nepal, she said, at one point calling out over a whizzing motorbike, “I kiss so much ass here it blows my mind.”

The entourage headed back to Shanti’s shop while Buckley furiously poked at her phone, chatted gaily with Shanti about fashioning a winter blanket for a thin, old elephant, sliced a pomelo for the group, and rounded up motorbikes for a visit to a privately owned hattisar. There, in a yard behind a low-slung jungle hotel, a crowd of mahouts in rubber flip-flops and EAI volunteers gathered for the foot-trimming lesson. “Where’s the clipboard?” she called, sending her aides scrambling. “What is the name of this hatti?” The intern-translator finds out the name of the elephant. “Where’s my sharpener?” Someone ran to get it. “Hold these. Don’t stab anyone with them.”

Buckley gently instructed the mahout to ask his elephant to lie down. He barked commands and the elephant complied, careening to the ground and curling her trunk into her head like a fiddlehead fern. The crowd closed in.

“Okay, everyone, take a step back,” she said. “We have to listen to the mahout. He knows the elephant.” Buckley, fiercely protective of the animal’s space, interacted with the elephants only as much as was necessary to treat their feet. She aches that they must endure the endless stream of unwanted petting, selfies, and rides demanded by tourists.

After documenting each foot by camera, she asked the mahouts to describe what they thought about the condition of her feet. Then she got to work. Like a surgeon, she used metal tools to cut and file the pads of the feet and nails, demonstrating and then passing the tools to the mahouts. She spouted off one-word Nepali instructions, working with the kind of urgency one might expect when dealing with a 7,000-pound creature on its side.

“Rasp.” “Knife.” “Krupa.” “Very good.” “This: Thulo. Too big.” “Beautiful.” Then quietly, to the elephant lying dutifully on the ground: “You’re okay, sweet girl.”

When she was done, the elephant’s mahout led her back to her shelter, where she stepped in and cocked her back foot slightly to allow him to affix her chain.

Carol Buckley elephants
In 2019, teaching mahouts in Nepal how to trim their elephant’s nails to prevent infection.

Photograph by Mary Logan Bikoff

Buckley’s mission in Georgia isn’t about just one elephant. She is in talks with a number of facilities in hopes of assembling a herd, or two. The elephants will be free to choose their friendships, to form new bonds and families. As with elephant-tourism companies in Nepal, she believes once she has convinced one, the others will follow. She had expected the first arrival to be Mundi, a solitary female African elephant at the now-defunct Dr. Juan A. Rivero Zoo in Puerto Rico. The island’s only zoo lost its license from the USDA in early 2017 and was further hampered by damage from Hurricane Maria later that year. A contract from the Puerto Rican government confirmed the transfer to ERNA, and much of Buckley’s early fundraising was dedicated to the effort, with lines like “Mundi’s yard is finished!” and “Help us finish the barn for Mundi’s arrival” blanketing the organization’s channels. But in December 2018, the Puerto Rican government backed out after a change in leadership. For now, Mundi remains in Puerto Rico, her fate uncertain.

Buckley has learned to say “in theory” a lot. But one thing is certain: She won’t be juggling staffers. She hired a third-generation animal keeper as the lead caregiver, whom Buckley and Blais met in Canada some 30 years ago. He will handle the day-to-day operations, and Buckley can continue her international efforts. Because like the complex creatures she fights for, Buckley needs space to thrive.

This article appears in our April 2020 issue.

Three Mother’s Day gifts to enjoy at home—or look forward to

Mother's day gifts
Lunya’s washable silk PJs aren’t cheap—this set is $178—but they are luxurious and promise thermoregulation to keep you cool at night.

Photograph courtesy of Lunya

Just in time for hunkering down, luxury sleepwear brand Lunya announced plans to open one of its bedroom-themed shops at Westside Provisions District, joining locations in L.A., Brooklyn, and New York City. Visit the online shop for washable silk PJs, sleep masks, and organic pima loungewear—perfect for curling up with a book.

Iwi Fresh
“Skincare chef” Yolanda Owens, the founder of Castleberry Hill’s beloved veggie-inspired spa, prepares for a second location at the new ALI at Lakewood, a 24-hour retreat with services like massages and facials and a salt room and juice bar. Until it rolls out, check out the oils, scrubs, and creams made from Owens’s garden online—or buy a gift card for a later service.

Modern Mystic
Ponce City Market’s shop of crystals and meditation therapy has plenty of virtual comfort to offer, with online metaphysical classes, tarot, and its “Sunday School” conference and podcast available via online-conferencing tool Zoom.

This article appears in our May 2020 issue.

An Atlanta kitchen designer shares her hacks for loft living with a family

Loft Castleberry Hill
A gallery wall of local art is showcased around the spiral staircase, which is topped with a baby-safe glass guardrail and gates. Designer Kelly Carlisle found the Kelly Wearstler chandelier at the Circa Lighting annual sale. The stack of small suitcases is sentimental; they held everything her mother brought with her from Cuba when she emigrated at age 11.

Photograph by Ryan Hayslip

Kitchen and bath designer Kelly Carlisle and her husband, Brian Leigh, knew they wanted to live in a loft in Castleberry Hill, drawn to its urban charm and walkability. After a year of searching, they found just the place: a unit in the historic Sealy Mattress Factory, with original windows, exposed brick, and an old loading dock for a patio overlooking a small yard. Other must-haves: a highly functional and attractive kitchen, stylish but budget-friendly finishes, and room for a family. Here’s how the designer made it all work.

Loft Castleberry Hill
Upon the arrival of baby Zeyda, Kelly Carlisle opened her eponymous design firm after 13 years at Design Galleria. Her husband, Brian Leigh, is a healthcare management consultant but often can be found spinning vinyl at venues like the Sound Table and Banshee. “People ask what it’s like living in a loft with a baby,” says Kelly. “I’m trying to figure out what’s different about it.”

Photograph by Ryan Hayslip

Loft Castleberry Hill
Baby Zeyda’s “European baby nook”: The piece de resistance is a custom, felted mobile commissioned from Sheep Creek Studio. It was such a splurge that she asked her husband to give it to her as a “push present” when she had her baby.

Photograph by Ryan Hayslip

Think like a European. For baby Zeyda, Kelly opted to make over an underutilized second entry—inspired by small nurseries in European apartments—rather than give up the guest bedroom, where friends and family often stay. “I started calling it a ‘European baby nook,’” she jokes. “I got made fun of at every shower. Until people saw it.” A kitted-out, mirrored Ikea armoire makes the space feel double the size, and a mini-crib tucks sweetly under a custom, felted mobile.

Loft Castleberry Hill
Kelly and Brian wanted the quintessential loft, and theirs even includes the original loading-dock doors, which they keep open during the day. Local metal artist Kris Gunderson made the steel and glass doors to let in the sun. On the walls and ceiling, a high-gloss black, Sherwin-Williams “Inkwell,” bounces light around.

Photograph by Ryan Hayslip

Loft Castleberry Hill
Kelly and her grandmother, for whom her daughter is named, painted the artwork together, with Kelly helping with the architectural lines. The hanging chair is from Serena & Lily, and the pillow is made from a Turkish rug.

Photograph by Ryan Hayslip

Plan for that one big thing. For their wedding, Kelly and Brian registered for just one thing: the iconic vintage Eames lounge chair they’d both long coveted but knew was out of their budget. “It’s our love chair,” says Kelly. “I told people, ‘this is going to be in our lives forever.’” It is made of rosewood with original leather and parts.

Loft Castleberry Hill
“I really wanted a tiny sink,” says Kelly. “I kept going smaller and smaller.” She found this one at Signature Hardware. The wallpaper is by House of Hackney.

Photograph by Ryan Hayslip

Devise creative hacks. Want brass but have a chrome budget? Kelly bought chrome plumbing and hardware—typically the least expensive finish—and took it to Buckhead Plating to be stripped and refinished in brushed bronze. For her bathroom-door window tinting, the ever-resourceful designer called in the guys from the carwash at the nearby, world-famous strip club Magic City, who’d done the window tinting on her car.

Loft Castleberry Hill
Since the kitchen is open to the dining and living rooms, Kelly didn’t want the finishes to feel too “kitchen-y.” She opted for a mirrored tile backsplash and a Persian “I have an Etsy rug problem,” she confesses.

Photograph by Ryan Hayslip

Value efficiency. As a kitchen designer, Kelly, who spent 13 years at Design Galleria, knows something about maximizing space and function. “Kitchens are very scientific, and there’s often a right and a wrong,” she says. “I love that.” Rather than gut the existing cabinets, she repainted and reconfigured them. “I design big kitchens,” she says, “but I love small kitchens. You’ve only got one zone, and everything is a few steps away.”

Loft Castleberry Hill
The designer snagged an old Delta Air Lines galley cart for $35 during a public sale years ago. It now serves as their bar cart.

Photograph by Ryan Hayslip

Let Kelly Wearstler mingle with Ikea. “My house is all about highs and lows,” says Kelly. “I have this taste because of what I do, but then I have to reconcile that with reality.” Where she splurged for quartzite kitchen countertops from Levantina, she went budget with porcelain tile from Specialty Tile on the floor. She shelled out for House of Hackney wallpaper in the second bathroom, then went with Floor & Decor tile.

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

Decorative trim is back—and a little Georgia factory is leading the trend


Fringe MarketIn the rarefied world of passementerie—the decorative fabric trim, tape, tassels, and cords that adorn draperies, furniture skirts, and more—Georgia’s Fringe Market has the high-end niche cornered.

The mill, which operates out of a small factory in Eatonton, east of Atlanta near Lake Oconee, is one of the only U.S. makers of fine trim, which is staging a comeback in decorating as a finishing detail. Launched by Dalton natives Melanie and Mark Cosby, Fringe Market specializes in trim made of natural fibers like Belgian linen, jute, and recycled cotton in an array of custom-dyed colors and patterns, like embroidered Greek keys, pom-poms, and handwoven tassels. The company now produces private-label trim for some of the biggest textile companies in the world, also selling by the yard directly to the trade and at retail stores like Lewis and Sheron. This is not your grandmother’s shiny golden drapery cords—these pieces are a sophisticated and modern take on the age-old embellishment.

“There were holes in the market,” says Mark Cosby, who has been in the trim business his entire life and has a degree in textile engineering. “No one was making high-end casual trim for decorators, so we decided to brand ourselves as such.”

Fringe Market
Melanie and Mark Cosby adapted machines to handle their intricate designs.

Photograph courtesy of Fringe Market

That was seven years ago, when Mark’s wife, Melanie, joined the business, bringing an eye for design. (Then, as now, a significant part of their business was industrial trim—think seatbelts, trim on tires, and the edging of carpets.) These days, they release a chic new style nearly every week, have created more than 50 collections in as many as 80 colors, and can create fully custom work. The shelves of the warehouse are stacked high in threads, from pale pinks to dark cobalt and plenty of neutral hues in natural fibers.

Fringe Market
Some machines are computerized, while others are mechanical and as much as a century old.

Photograph courtesy of Fringe Market

Fringe Market
Some are computerized, while others are mechanical and as much as a century old.

Photograph courtesy of Fringe Market

Because the Cosbys are creating pieces no one else is, Mark had to adapt and reengineer the machinery to handle the intricate designs. There is also a team who hand-ties tassels and fringe.

“It’s a dying art that you don’t see much in the U.S. anymore,” says Melanie. Meanwhile, business is taking off.

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

A designers’ handbook to shopping for antiques in Atlanta

Parc Monceau
Parc Monceau at the Galleries at Peachtree Hills is a go-to for global antiques for designers like Jared Hughes.

Photograph by Patrick Heagney

Some say that brown furniture is back—some say it never left. An old piece can add history, warmth, and a collected vibe to a room, whether in a traditional space or juxtaposed with modern elements. Fortunately, Atlanta is a hotbed for antiques, with trade-only and retail sources ranging from dusty markets to pedigreed showrooms. Five designers give their takes on where to find the best old pieces in town and how to keep the look fresh and never fusty.

A vintage Maison Charles lamp from Travis and Company
A vintage Maison Charles lamp from Travis and Company selected by designer Loren Taylor.

Photograph by Jason Lagi

Loren Taylor Interior Design’s pick
Travis and Company
What: Founded more than 40 years ago as Donohue and Travis by Eden Donohue and Dotty Travis, this trade-only showroom at ADAC is still family owned, specializing in French antiques, acrylic pieces, and an exclusive upholstery line.

Hunting for: French Moderne, Louis XV, Louis XVI, Directoire, Empire-era pieces for a classic, glam look

Best find: A patinaed pair of small, mirrored Moderne chests. “They were the room and background simultaneously,” says Taylor. “When a certain light poured into the room, it was like a crack in a cavern had revealed some undiscovered dimension. I used them in a guest bedroom, where there was a depth challenge for side tables, with gorgeous chrome Stiffel ball lamps.”

Designer tip: “I always use antiques and vintage pieces in every space, but the secret is to have restraint when using them,” says Taylor. “Often, we want these sterile rooms with white everything and clean lines, but it’s pleasing to insert a spot of visual tension with antiques.” ADAC, travisandcompany.com

Patricia McLean Interiors’s pick
Miami Circle area: Foxglove Antiques & Galleries, William Word Antiques, Architectural Accents
A selection of go-tos open to the public on and around Miami Circle and Piedmont, offering everything from neoclassical commodes to antique hardware

Hunting for: Everything! English, French, and Italian furniture, art, accessories, lighting, and hardware all in one place.

Best find: All the antique mantles at Architectural Accents. “I love to build clients’ rooms around them,” says McLean, who is a past honorary design chair of the Cathedral Antiques Show. “One favorite client loved their French mantle so much that I designed bookcases my furniture makers constructed to complement it.” Other favorite finds? Chandeliers and antique hardware. “The first thing I bought for my own condo was an antique doorknob for the powder-room door,” she says. “I see it every day and love it.”

Tip: When you trust the sources, don’t be afraid to shop online. Says McLean: “William Word’s website is always up to date, and their emails and Instagram posts are current and clever. I actually buy from the posts sometimes!” The Shops of Miami Circle, miamicircleshops.com

Parc Monceau
Parc Monceau

Photograph by Patrick Heagney

Jared Hughes Design’s pick
Parc Monceau
What: A three-story townhouse in the Galleries at Peachtree Hills featuring high-end, classic, and global 18th-century to midcentury antiques

Hunting for: “We look for clean-lined, antique, wood pieces like Georgian sideboards or Hepplewhite secretaries,” says Hughes. “We love fun plaster pieces in organic shapes, which lend an air of whimsy to the design.” Other things on his list? Pastoral oil paintings, Indian peshawars, gilt Italian pieces, unique boxes, bone-inlay furniture, chinoiserie, or japanned pieces.

Best find: A Regency-style recamier for a client’s master bedroom

Designer tip: “Look for pieces with clean lines and classic elements and color patterns,” says Hughes. “Then, style and add in color with smaller accessories, fabrics, and paint.” The Galleries at Peachtree Hills, parcmonceauatl.com

Anna Braund Interiors’s pick
What: Kristen Marooney Walls and Shane Robuck have been importing 17th- to 19th-century antiques from Europe since 1994, with a shop in the Galleries of Peachtree Hills.

Hunting for: 17th- to 19th-century tables and case goods—anything with a story

Best find: A pair of leather-and velvet-upholstered club chairs, circa 1910, from the English Edwardian period. “The leather was in near-perfect condition and maintained the original patinaed brass nail heads and velvet cushions,” says Braund. “They were so unusual in that they required little restoration.”

Designer tip: “Antiques give a room its history and heart, but I enjoy a juxtaposition of form, texture, and color because it allows the eye to rest,” she says. “If you find an antique from the Italian Baroque period that is muddy in color and heavy in ornamentation, complement it with a clean-colored sofa with straightforward lines.” The Galleries at Peachtree Hills, robuck.co

Tabletop items from Interiors Market
Tabletop items from Interiors Market, including a French opaline box and another decorated with porcupine quills.

Photograph by Jason Lagi

Shayelyn Woodbery Interiors’s pick
Interiors Market
What: A 10,000-square-foot warehouse of multiple vendors offering modern, antique, and vintage goods and art, china, and accessories from a wide range of styles and periods. Also, a new French cafe.

Hunting for: “I gravitate toward unique pieces with intricate details that set them apart,” says Woodbery, “like ornately carved woods— especially on chairs and the legs of tables—water gilding, hand engraving or filigree work on brass pieces, inlaid wood, and unique hardware.”

Best find: An early 19th-century landscape oil painting for the family room in an Inman Park project Designer tip: Mix it up! “I typically include at least one or two antique or vintage pieces in every space that I design,” says Woodbery. “I feel like including antiques is essential to a space feeling collected and not fabricated. In my home, I have antiques from multiple periods and styles all mixed together.” 55 Bennett Street Northwest, 404-352-0055

This tiny, mighty cottage in Poncey-Highland survived getting bulldozed


Poncey-Highland cottage

According to residential designer Rodolfo Castro, one of the most remarkable things about this historic English-style cottage in Poncey-Highland is that it was spared the bulldozer in the 1960s when the block was largely razed for a highly protested, never-built freeway system. Now, it sits on a corner lot gracing an entrance to the Freedom Park Trail with its detailed brickwork, a steeply pitched slate and copper roof, and original single-paned windows with views of downtown. “This is a perfect little jewel box of a house,” says Castro. “It is tiny by today’s standards, but every inch of it is charming.” Slight buttresses give it a subtle strength, and dark trim adds a cozy vibe. But inside, says Castro, who is friends with the owners, it is airy and sun-drenched. “They designed the interiors so it functions like a yacht,” he says. “No corner goes unused, but it still feels spacious and light.”

Poncey-Highland cottage

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

New shops, breakout designers: Atlanta’s best design finds of 2019

Best of Atlanta HOME

We rounded up the things that caught our eye, tickled our fancy, or sparked inspiration in 2019. Here’s your handy manual to the year in review, local design edition.

Worth the Drive: Steel + Plank

In Athens, architect–turned–furniture designer Kelley Bishop has opened a wonderland shop of handmade goods centered around her rustic but contemporary furniture, including walnut waterfall dining tables and solid plank platform beds. But it’s not just about the big stuff: A wide array of textiles, art, lighting, and ceramics cozies up the historic warehouse space. Makers include Atlanta ceramicist Charlotte Smith Studios, Athens’s boho stone-focused Mineral Forest, and Hudson Valley–based Minna, which creates colorful, graphic, Bauhaus-inspired textiles. @steelandplank

Gallery Opening: Maune Contemporary

Longtime collectors Heidi and Ramsey Maune made their new Miami Circle gallery stand out from stiff competition by focusing on limited-edition prints and multiples by blue-chip contemporary artists. The opening exhibition in September made a big splash with pieces by uber-cool nonagenarian pop artist Alex Katz, including an original oil painting.

Auction House: Hindman

Atlanta scored a new auction house with the opening of Chicago-based Hindman on Miami Circle last spring. Since then, it’s sold Parisian haute couture worn by Olivia de Havilland and the Estate of Charles Ackerman, a collector and Atlanta commercial real estate developer. A Wilfredo Lam oil on canvas, a highlight of the Ackerman collection, brought in upwards of $200,000—more than four times the presale estimate. Someone else who’s sold? Michael Shapiro, former director of the High Museum, who serves as a senior advisor.

ADAC Addition: Julian Chichester

Just six months after British furnishings brand Julian Chichester (by the designer of the same name) opened its ADAC showroom, it doubled its 5,000-square-foot space due to demand. The eclectic offerings—case goods, upholstery, lighting—feel like the meeting of an 18th-century European estate and a clubby cocktail lounge. The showroom also offers a studio for creating bespoke furnishings.

Best of Atlanta HOME: Kevin Francis Design
Kevin O’Gara, 22, of Kevin Francis Design

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Francis Design

One to Watch: Kevin Francis Design

Kevin O’Gara has been a local design fixture since he started his blog, Thou Swell, in 2013 when he was just 16 years old. Now 22, he’s got a bamboo silk, labyrinth-inspired rug collection under his belt and more than 20,000 Instagram followers. After studying interior design and hospitality management at Cornell University, he’s back in Atlanta to focus on Kevin Francis Design.

Best of Atlanta HOME: The Lola
The Lola, a chic new women-only co-working space that’s meant to feel like your stylish friend’s house or a boutique hotel.

Photograph by Mali Azima

Design-Lovers Hangout: The Lola

With a design by Cara Cummins of TaC Studios, Farrow & Ball paint colors, and Kravet fabrics, the Lola at Southern Dairies isn’t your average co-working space. Founded by Eileen Lee, a former corporate consultant, and Martine Resnick, who was a senior brand manager at Turner, the Lola is a women-only professional and social club with a podcast studio, private meeting rooms named after notable Southern women, a mothers’ area, and a chic powder room. “We were thinking women first—we wanted it to feel soft, feminine, welcoming, warm, and not like an office at all,” says Resnick. “We wanted it to feel like a members’ club or a nice hotel lobby.”

Expansion: Englishman’s

The old is new again as Englishman’s Fine Furnishings—a long-time resource for antiques and reproductions—adds a location at ADAC in addition to its original Vinings storefront. Clients can scout for historical pieces, customize them, or build something new to order. “Expanding to ADAC makes sense because it’s where designers go to shop in Atlanta,” says Anita Vreeland, president of marketing and design. The showroom, which stands among modern neighbors like Habachy Designs and Showroom 58, also showcases new additions like reclaimed wood flooring and barn doors.

New Digs: Lewis & Sheron

After nearly 35 years on Huff Road, Atlanta’s go-to fabric shop Lewis and Sheron has relocated to a new 18,000-square-foot design center on Collier Road. “Our goal was to create a design center that changes the way people shop for furniture and fabrics for their home,” explains Sam Sheron of his vision for the next phase in the 75-year-old, family-owned company’s evolution. The center offers more than 40,000 yards of in-stock fabric, plus many thousands more to order from mills around the globe.

Lighting Launch: Amy Morris + Avrett

Influenced by French modern style, Atlanta interior designer Amy Morris released a new eight-piece lighting collection this year with Charleston-based manufacturer Avrett. “I often found myself challenging Avrett to make custom pieces at almost twice the size of what they had,” she says. “Eventually, owner Peyton Avrett approached me about a collection.” The fashion-forward offerings include geometric sconces and sculptural chandeliers that play with scale to add interest.

Best of Atlanta HOME: Restaurant Holmes
The new Restaurant Holmes in Alpharetta

Photograph by Heidi Geldhauser

Rising Star: Laura W. Jenkins

Take down this name. After years at boutique firm Square Feet Studio (best known for restaurants like Kimball House and the General Muir), and a stint at MT Studio (Mashburn, Brother Moto), designer Laura W. Jenkins struck out on her own. Since then, she’s rolled out designs for Alpharetta’s Restaurant Holmes (which features a howling wolf mural) and Never Enough Thyme (cheery and colorful). Her residential work is just as much fun.

Best of Atlanta HOME: Jessica Davis's Nest Studio
Hardware pieces from Jessica Davis’s Nest Studio

Photograph by Jason Lagi

Designer Arrival: Jessica Davis

Atlanta can add to its roster of top-notch interior and product designers with the arrival of Jessica Davis of Nest Studio and Atelier Davis from the New York City area. Her whimsical, artisan hardware, including colorful Bauhaus-inspired curved pulls, brass figurine knobs, and glazed ceramic pieces, can be found at Matthew Quinn Collection at ADAC West. Next up? Expect collaborations with local artisans, and an expansion of her interior design work in the area.

Best of Atlanta HOME: Quintessential Kitchens
A spread from Matthew Quinn’s new book, Quintessential Kitchens and Spaces

Photograph by Jason Lagi

Reading List: Quintessential Kitchens and Spaces

The man who wrote the veritable bible on kitchen design has done it again. This fall, Matthew Quinn of Design Galleria released the second volume of Quintessential Kitchens and Spaces (Parrish Press), three years after the first. Drool over stunning photography of 15 kitchens, plus baths, dressing rooms, pantries, laundry rooms, and bars in recent projects ranging from a Nashville Tudor renovation to a whimsical retreat in Vero Beach, Florida.

Shop Within a Shop: Tom Dixon at Switch Modern

With an expanded space dedicated to British designer Tom Dixon’s avant-garde creations at Switch Modern, Atlantans can see samples of all of his furniture and lighting in person. “It shows how impactful his work can be when shown in clusters of like designs,” explains store co-owner Doug Henderson. The Melt and Opal suspension lights hung in clusters are one such showstopper.

Hotel Upgrade: The St. Regis Atlanta

When the hotel got a series of interior overhauls in honor of its 10th anniversary, its restaurant, Atlas, landed the highlight: a sort of secret garden in a 3,000-square-foot solarium with retractable walls, designed by the Johnson Studio at Cooper Carry as a casual complement to the main dining room. Decor includes a floating bar with a laser-cut metal facade and a mosaic interpretation of Gustav Klimt’s unfinished Portrait of Ria Munk III in Italian glass tile.

AmericasMart Addition: Curated Home Goods

It’s long overdue: With the opening of Curated Home Brands, Katrena Griggs is the first black female principal of a showroom at the 7.2-million-square-foot AmericasMart. The former vice president of Codarus launched her showroom softly at summer market, with plans for a grand rollout in January. Her 2,500-square-foot space hosts 12 lines of furnishings, bedding, and accessories, including the local SmithHonig’s splashy textile collection Boho Luxe and MooMoo Designs’ earthy global goods of horn, wood, resin, and bone. This year, Griggs was bestowed the Kimberly E. Ward Icon Award from the Black Interior Designers Network in honor of its late founder.

Tabletop Finds: The Clay Shop

The local ceramics studio with the nationwide cult following, Courtney Hamill’s Honeycomb Studio, has expanded in a big way this year with the opening of a brick-and-mortar called the Clay Shop. Part workspace, part boutique, the new Chattahoochee Avenue shop carries not only Hamill’s own work—her famed gold-dipped bud vases and matte black plates—but also that of other artists, including L.A.’s A Ways Away and local artists like Courtney Tate’s Sandwich Shop.

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

Vern Yip’s 5 tips for making your house feel like a vacation home

Vern Yip's Park City home
Roche Bobois table, Donghia lighting, Williams-Sonoma Home chairs. Mitch Epstein photo from Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

Photograph by David A. Land

Ever the one for practical advice, Atlanta star designer Vern Yip has a theory: Your primary residence can feel like a vacation, provided you take a few steps to make it organized, calming, and balanced. In his new book, Vacation at Home (Running Press), Yip outlines what he’s learned from top resorts around the world to create that restful luxury at home—and shares a few of his favorite projects for inspiration, including this Park City, Utah, retreat. Here are five things to take away from the read—and what makes this slope-side lodge the perfect winter getaway.

Vern Yip's Park City home
Floor-to-ceiling windows make the most of views of the Wasatch Mountains.

Photograph by David A. Land

Vern Yip's Park City home
Keeping the color palette consistent allows the eye to rest between the bold artwork and contemporary photography. The sectional is from Roche Bobois, the swivel chair is Donghia, and the painting is by Kojo Griffin.

Photograph by David A. Land

Stay organized
“It’s what you don’t see that matters,” says Yip in his book. High-end hoteliers understand the power of messaging: “Visual pollution is jarring.” There are no stacks of mail and receipts lying around on tabletops at high-end resorts. Clutter causes stress, which is the opposite of vacation. Make sure everything has a place to be put away.

Reset the room before you leave
Fluff pillows, pick up toys, put dishes in the dishwasher. Each room will feel fresh when you reenter. On that note, consider a few surprises for yourself: Rearrange your furniture every once in a while; switch out the art.

Opt for low-maintenance everything
Make life easy by minimizing little tasks. Select quartz countertops, install (warm!) LED bulbs, and choose performance fabrics and rugs. Even your bed can take cues from hotels—if you want an easy bed to make, use just a comforter or duvet, and ditch all the shams. Go for extra-long Egyptian Giza cotton for true luxury.

Vern Yip's Park City home
The cozy den features a leather sofa by Andrew Martin. The pendants are by Vern Yip for Stonegate by AFX, available at Ferguson Bath, Kitchen, and Lighting.

Photograph by David A. Land

Indulge in the details
Yip is a master of warm, soft lighting—achieved with LED bulbs between 2400 and 3000 Kelvin, with dimmers on every switch. Fragrant hand soap and cream in pretty dispensers go a long way. Put one type of flower in little bud vases around your house.

Sometimes you need a real vacation
Photos of second homes Yip has designed in Utah and Florida fill the book with inspiration. This Park City house takes cues from contemporary ski lodges, framing a view of the Wasatch Mountains with floor-to-ceiling windows. Moody interiors contrast with the sparkling white outside.

Vern Yip's Park City home
The photograph by Vee Speers through Jackson Fine Art makes a statement in the quiet master bedroom, with a bed from RH, bedding and drapery trim by Vern Yip for Trend, and a pendant by Oly Studios.

Photograph by David A. Land

Visit Park City
As a major Delta hub, Salt Lake City is an easy flight from Atlanta year-round, and from there, Park City is just a 40-minute drive. This year, a new resort backing up to Deer Valley, a couple of miles from Park City, was announced as the largest in the country since Beaver Creek, Colorado, opened in 1980. The Mayflower Mountain Resort, developed by Extell Development Company, will encompass between 400 and 900 skiable acres, three hotels, condos, and townhouses, and will add five to seven new lifts, which are scheduled to start turning in 2021.

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

10 decor items you should have in your house, according to designer Clary Bosbyshell

Clary Bosbyshell standing in a foyer

This year, Clary launched her own eponymous firm after 10 years working with her mother, interior designer Margaret Bosbyshell of Margaux Interiors Limited. A recent Traditional Home New Trad, she is known for a classic, feminine aesthetic. Here’s what’s inspiring her now.


Recent purchase
We designed a handcrafted plaster chandelier from New Orleans–based Julie Neill Designs for my dining room.

Floral everything! I love midilength feminine dresses. My favorite designers at the moment are Emilia Wickstead and Anna Mason.

Climbing roses and peonies. For tabletop entertaining, I think whole fruit and green potted plants instead of freshly cut flowers feel more unexpected.

Gramercy Fine Linens & Furnishings is a go-to for tabletop and bedding. They are the only ones in town who carry D.Porthault.

Anything from Quadrille. “Arbre de Matisse” in French blue in the reverse, on tinted linen, is my favorite.

Anna Weatherley’s Botanical collection—I have the white tulips.

Atlanta artisan
Bob Garner at Fabulous Things for faux-finish tables. This is the “oyster swirl”.

Hotel du Cap in the South of France

Restaurant design
Always the Swan Coach House and now the new terrace bar at Atlas

Locally, I shop at W. Port and Ann Mashburn, where I got these Rebecca de Ravenel earrings. I love this Amanda Lindroth Palm Beach basket tote.

Parc Monceau at the Galleries of Peachtree Hills

Hand-painted scenic florals by Gracie Studio. This is “Indigo Garden” in a custom color.

I’m all about blue. Now, it’s Benjamin Moore “Santorini Blue”.

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

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