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

Think like a European and don't be afraid to shop at Ikea

2717
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.

Advertisement