In his own Brookwood Hills home, Vern Yip practices what he preaches

“This entire house is a reflection of our journey,” says Vern of his and husband Craig’s abode.
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Vern Yip
Vern and Craig, who love to entertain, remodeled their cramped kitchen last year. A white subway tile backsplash that runs all the way to the ceiling and wide black-and-white stripes help tie the two sections together.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Never one to be intimidated by overseas shipping, Vern Yip has a one-ton marble bathtub in his backyard to prove it. He and his husband, Craig Koch, spotted the antique tub decorated with elephant carvings in Udaipur, India. “Too bad we can’t take it home,” said Craig, knowing Vern’s affinity for the animal rich with Eastern religious symbolism. “Why not?” replied Vern.

As a UNICEF Ambassador, HGTV star, Washington Post columnist, and product designer, the peripatetic entrepreneur frequently brings along an empty suitcase (or two) for treasures discovered on the go. “This entire house is a reflection of our journey,” says Vern of his and Craig’s Brookwood Hills abode. “When I walk through this door, I walk into my life’s story.”

Vern Yip
Family dogs Scooter, left, and Hank keep watch on the front stoop. Both Vern and Craig work from home (Craig helps manage the design business as well as Wag-A-Lot), and Vern uses their residence to test furniture prototypes and fabric patterns. “Our house is a living, breathing studio and office,” says Vern.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Vern Yip
Inside the home

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Every space reveals the couple’s passions: Asian antiques, fine art photography, contemporary furnishings, and, above all, family. In the foyer alone, there are spires from an ancient Thai building, a ceremonial mask from Bhutan, a pair of antique teak statues from a Burmese temple, black-and-white images by well-known photographers like Kiichi Asano, and a table that belonged to Vern’s mother, Vera—whose vintage, colorized portrait gazes benevolently across the sunny space.

This intensely personal way of decorating is also what Vern preaches in his bestselling new book, Design Wise: Your Smart Guide to a Beautiful Home. “The best approach in a world filled with the next new thing is to create something timeless and enduring that speaks to your life and personality and tells your story,” he writes. “This path transcends trends.”

But he also insists that good design adheres to lasting standards of balance, scale, and color. “You need some rules so your house doesn’t look like a garage sale,” he explains. Beloved for his super-practical decorating advice (don’t buy long two-cushion sofas, because no one wants to sit in the crack), Vern teaches that it’s the right “numbers” that bring order to all of that self-expression (hang art so the center is 60 inches above the floor).

Vern Yip
The dining room features fabrics Vern designed, and the room’s artwork reflects his fondness for elephants and horses. The bronze vases in the windows are actually antique French Champagne buckets; Vern bought them in New Orleans during a five-minute break while filming HGTV Design Star.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Vern Yip
The matador image is from Vee Speers’s Bulletproof series of young adolescents, who remind Vern of his own children.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Vern Yip
A pale blue ceiling softens the graphic color scheme. The crystal “egg” lighting fixtures are from Vern’s line by Stonegate Designs for AFX.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

His living room, part of the home’s original 1925 structure, could be a case study for the book. Trios of pendants, photographs, and arched windows add counterweight to pairs of coffee tables, chairs, and pedestals. Shiny and matte, contemporary and antique, black and white, all balance harmoniously. “I’m a sucker for symmetry,” admits the designer.

If the math comes as naturally to Vern as the art, it’s because he earned master’s degrees in business administration and architecture simultaneously. He got the MBA to reassure his mother, who hadn’t planned on his opting out of medical school at the last minute. In fact, when Vern confessed that he didn’t want to be a doctor, his mom took him to New York to visit the legendary architect I.M. Pei, who happened to be a family friend. “Tell my son where to go to school,” she said. He suggested Georgia Tech. Meeting Craig, owner of Atlanta-based Wag-A-Lot dog care centers, cemented Vern’s ties to the city.

Vern Yip
A pair of antique teak statues from a Burmese temple provides a focal point in the treasure-filled foyer.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Vern Yip
In the master suite, bed linens are a mixture of Vern’s own fabric lines and Jim Thompson silks brought back from Bangkok. (“They’re not always the same as the ones available here,” he explains.) The red bolster is a wedding pillow from Marrakech. Perched atop the dresser is a pair of colorful stuffed birds from Deyrolle, the legendary Parisian taxi­dermy shop.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Vern Yip
The master bath features Asian artifacts like an orange lacquered temple bowl and sandstone Balinese foo dogs.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Vern Yip
In Vera’s room, above, a painting of journeying animals by James McLaughlin Way reflects the traditional Chinese symbols for the years in which each family member was born. Orange is Vera’s favorite color, and Gavin’s is gray. (“I’m so lucky,” quips Vern.)

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

The couple admired their stately home long before they bought it in 2009. Although Vern isn’t a strict devotee of feng shui, he loves the way the south-facing house sits on its elevated wooded lot. And though the original footprint was expanded in the 1940s and then again by Vern and Craig, the designer calls the house a “reverse shotgun” because it is wider than it is deep—allowing natural light to penetrate every room.

Their children, Gavin and Vera, were born shortly after the couple moved in. “We are the fourth family to live here,” says Vern. “Everyone raised their kids here. The house just exudes that energy. To me, it feels like a family home.”

Vern Yip
From left to right: Vera, age five; Craig; Vern; and Gavin, age six. Even the kids’ playroom is furnished in good taste—from pint-sized ghost chairs to the Vik Muniz image After Van Gogh’s Wheatfields.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Vern Yip
One of Vern’s favorite features is his home’s flat backyard.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Vern Yip
The marble bathtub Vern and Craig shipped home from Udaipur, India, and turned into a fountain.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Vern Yip
Pillows with geometric patterns create inviting spots for outdoor relaxation.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

This article originally appeared in our Winter 2016 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

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