Susan Hable never expected to move to Georgia. She and her husband, Peter, bought the early-20th-century Victorian-style cottage in Athens on a lark—as a second home, a respite from the frantic pace of Brooklyn. That’s where Susan and her sister Katharine still base their international textile company, Hable Construction, named after their great-grandfather’s road-building business in their native Texas. But the recession—and two young children—made the family reconsider their priorities.
Hable became smitten with the university town during product shoots with Athens-based photographer Rinne Allen. An artist with an affinity for pink hair, Hable relished Allen’s imaginative dinner parties with yoga instructors, chefs, stylists, and sundry other creatives. “I used to say, ‘This is the land of misfits, and I think I belong here,’” she says with a laugh. “Every time I went back, I kept saying that Athens is a really great town full of interesting people.” Eventually Peter drove over during an Atlanta business trip and just bought a house—without Susan ever seeing it.
The cottage is in a historic district, so renovation proceeded slowly, over the course of several years. The couple gutted the inside, lifted the structure, repoured the foundation, and added on to the back of the house. Still, they weren’t intending to leave New York. “We were delusional,” says Hable. “We really just needed to accept that we needed to leave the city.”
In 2009, with the design industry retracting and renovation almost complete, the family went all in. Hable remembers watching her kids skipping around in a circle in the backyard. Her nanny, who had traveled with them from New York, leaned in and said, “This is what I picture for your family.” And Hable knew they were home.
Peter, a corporate attorney, now commutes to Atlanta several days each week. Hable commutes to her backyard, where she has built a studio out of two mill houses relocated from an Eatonton tin factory. Susan rescued them from demolition and used one just for parts—bricks, lap siding, and 100-year-old wood planks.
This was the first time Hable had ever decorated an entire house, so as an artist and textile designer, she started with what she knows best: color and pattern. Each space has a different palette of pinks, greens, and blues—reflecting the azaleas, roses, trees, and sky just outside her windows. She chose bold patterns such as Jocelyn Warner’s bright pink “Kaleido” wallpaper for the dining room and her own deep blue “Aventurine Ropes” fabric for the family room curtains. Then she left all the rooms empty. The kids had a blast.
Gradually Hable began collecting furniture. She found the unusual mint-green-tinged marble table in the dining room on a birthday trip to Argentina. The “Beauty and the Beast”–like candelabras mounted nearby were opera props. She covered a pair of “conversation chairs” in vintage brocade and rose velvet, their diminutive size lending the living room what Hable calls an “’Alice in Wonderland’ effect.” Indeed, there is a bit of through-the-looking-glass wonderment about the various artifacts and treasures the family has collected in every room—it’s curiouser and curiouser.
If anything, Hable has found her productivity has increased in Athens. This spring, Hickory Chair introduced Hable Construction’s first furniture collection. And, with photographer Rinne Allen, she recently authored her first book, “A Colorful Home“—which provides advice based on Hable’s professional expertise (as a board member of the national Color Association), plus inspiration based on her newfound love for gardening (colors are named for natural objects like roses and treetops).
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.