The Atlanta Decorative Arts Center is the design profession’s best-kept secret. We amateurs can’t jet off to New York showrooms—much less Paris flea markets or Turkish bazaars—every time we want to redo our family rooms. But guess what? Neither can interior designers. Thankfully, Atlanta is one of a handful of cities fortunate enough to have a world-class design center, with furniture, antiques, fabrics, wallcoverings, art, fixtures, and accessories gathered from around the globe. Even without a five-figure decorating budget, anyone can come here to find one fabulous fabric or a unique chair to create that all-important focal point.
Of course, for decades ADAC served only “the trade.” And though it has been open to the public for a couple of years now, that nondescript complex on Peachtree Hills Avenue can be a bit intimidating—which is why we asked designer Michel Smith Boyd to show us around.
“I source most of my things here,” says Boyd. “There’s not a showroom I avoid, and I don’t get everything from the same place. I don’t think people are one-dimensional, nor should they live that way. At ADAC, I’m able to interpret a client’s personality. I don’t want everything to look like I live there. I want a person’s home to look like the best version of themselves.”
At the beginning of his career, Boyd says he gravitated toward chic Italian lines like Minotti and modern pieces by Atlanta-based Bradley. But now he goes for what he calls a “collected” look. “The goal is to mix many textures and layers in a room,” he says. “If everything is new and flat, it looks like a store display.”
Boyd’s seven stops
1. Martin Nash
“A lot of people think of ADAC as traditional, but it has a very diverse bunch of showrooms,” says Boyd. There’s no better example than the bold graffiti wall by Skie in Martin Nash’s showroom near the main ADAC entry.
4. Holland & Company
A Great Scott highboy by Bobby McAlpine from MacRae Designs hints at a family heirloom. “We want to create a story, a narrative,” Boyd says. “This looks like it might have belonged to someone’s grandmother.” But a closer look reveals clever twists, like the black stain and unexpected hinged panels that update the collection’s take on traditional case goods.
5. Baker Furniture
The Laura Kirar Collection reflects deco and modernist flavors interpreted from both European and Latin perspectives. “I want home to be a destination for clients,” Boyd says. “People often live better in hotels than they do at home. That’s backwards.”
How to make a purchase
Although anyone can browse at the center, ADAC and its neighboring ADAC West still sell mostly through professionals. You may also need a designer to check out fabric or wallcovering samples (called “memos” in industry jargon)—no snipping swatches here! This spring, ADAC is dedicating much of its fifth floor to design offices, so professional advice will be nearby if you’re shopping solo. Also, the American Society of Interior Designers has an office here and offers a free referral service.
Photographs by Kaylinn Gilstrap
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.