An unexpected garden room in the heart of Buckhead high-rises

This lush courtyard is surrounded by skyline

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Bill Musso Garden
A 12 x 14 foot steel-and-teak pavilion/pergola by Kettal anchors the courtyard, providing architecture and shade. The homeowners consider the area as somewhat of a public space, as they have 36 floors of neighbors above.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Most high-rise homeowners covet top floors for city views, but this couple chose the ground level in order to create a lush courtyard surrounded by Buckhead’s skyline. Interior designer Bill Musso and his husband, Bryan Cooke, saw a concrete slab sometimes littered with debris and imagined possibilities. With the help of garden designer Alex Smith, they now enjoy an extra 3,200 square feet of outdoor living space, including nine trees.

“I wanted the garden to pull you into it as if it were magnetic,” says Bryan. “When we have friends over, they usually bypass the living room and head straight for the garden.” The two often start their days there with coffee, take work calls outside, then enjoy dinner or a cocktail al fresco in the evening.

Bill Musso Garden
A dozen or so different grasses and sedum lend an informal look to this corner of the yard. A steel sculpture by Fernando M. Diaz that homeowners Bill Musso and Bryan Cooke bought on a trip to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico reflects their love of art even outdoors. “The San Miguel sculpture is the only red in the garden, and we thought it added a nice surprise and created a little tension,” says Bill.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Bill Musso Garden
Interior designer Bill Musso (left) and his husband, software project sponsor Bryan Cooke, added climbing vines to soften their once all-concrete backyard.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Installing a garden on top of concrete—with a parking deck below—was no easy feat. Alex and Patrick Walker of Malone Construction worked with engineers to ensure the weight of garden walls, planters, and plant material would be safe, as well as to address water and drainage issues. Artificial turf and raised planters give the illusion of a natural lawn, with Chinese fringetrees, Korean boxwoods, and Wheeler’s dwarf pittosporum providing structure.

Bill Musso Garden
Modern furniture—including Bertoia dining chairs, a yellow Paola Lenti chair, and a sofa from Dedon—delineates both seating and dining areas under the pavilion.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Bill Musso Garden
“Alex Smith presented the idea of three to four different levels in the garden, with the pavilion the center of attention and lush beds on all four sides,” says Bryan. “It’s a big design element that’s perfectly absorbed into the overall scheme.”

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Bill Musso Garden
The couple sometimes adds temporary features, such as a citrus tree, to add seasonal interest. The frog sculpture by Robert Kuo can be moved around.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

The couple was somewhat inspired by the Lurie Garden in Chicago’s Millennium Park, which was also built above a parking garage. As in that garden, here, they bring out seasonal items such as a citrus tree and climbing roses in warm weather. The playful frog sculpture by Robert Kuo can be moved around to add visual interest. “We use the garden year-round but mostly in spring and fall,” says Bill. “It’s such a natural space to entertain in.”

Resources | Interior design: Musso Design Group | Garden design: Alex Smith Garden Design | Construction: Malone Construction

This article appears in our Fall 2022 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

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