This Buckhead church building was converted into a bright family home

The chapel? Now a guest room.
Buckhead Catholic church turned home

Photograph by Laura Negri Childers

This brick tudor on Buckhead’s Habersham Road was built in 2014, but it already has a storied history. Originally constructed as a facility for the Catholic church, its clean-lined, ceremonious façade might seem solemn. But inside, a family has made it into a warm and joyful home.

The owners, both news anchors who’ve worked all over the U.S., Susan Hendricks and Joe Carter first crossed paths in Atlanta on an HLN weekend morning show. Susan, an alumna of Anderson Cooper 360, can still be seen on HLN. Joe is a former CNN sports anchor who has headed up his own production company, Hencar, since 2015.

Buckhead Catholic church turned home
Homeowners Joe Carter and Susan Hendricks, and their children, Emery and Jackson, gather around a zinc-topped trestle table in the breakfast room, which they created from an outdoor patio once used for church events.

Photograph by Laura Negri Childers

Buckhead Catholic church turned home
Given its past life as a church, the house came with several handicap-accessible half baths, a couple of which were converted into Carter’s current office: a handsome men’s lair filled with pieces from Restoration Hardware.

Photograph by Laura Negri Childers

The site was once owned by Joseph Mitchell, the last living heir to Gone With the Wind scribe Margaret Mitchell. Upon his death in 2011, he donated it and a large sum from her estate to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta.

The church spent two years scrapping the existing house and building a residential-style events space complete with an austere (and elevator-accessible) live-in apartment for its prelate archbishop.

“They saw the house as an opportunity to grow the Catholic name, to welcome out-of-town visitors, to host events, to grow the Catholic church for years to come,” Joe explains.

Buckhead Catholic church turned home
Just beyond the foyer, there’s an open-format keeping room beneath a series of powerful arches and columns. Formerly a dark wood, the trim was given a creamy coat of paint to brighten the entire home.

Photograph by Laura Negri Childers

Buckhead Catholic church turned home

Photograph by Laura Negri Childers

Buckhead Catholic church turned home

Photograph by Laura Negri Childers

However, a front-page story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about plans for the $2.2 million residence helped touch off sharp criticism from parishioners. The archbishop issued a public apology, moved out, and put the building up for sale. When the couple visited with their real estate agent, Joe immediately saw its potential. It wasn’t extravagant or ostentatious, but it was elegant—stately, even.

“Joe has a keen eye. He sensed what great bones this house has,” Susan says. But after considering its dark wood archways, commercial-coded bathrooms, stained-glass-shrouded chapel, robe room for wine and offerings, working kitchen, a “safe room” concealed behind a bookcase, and industrial A/C that “could cool down a high-rise within minutes,” Susan was hesitant. “I worried we couldn’t make it feel like a home.”

“Growing up, I had this great respect for the priests and the archbishop, so being in that room with the holy water was a little strange,” says Susan, who, like her husband, is Catholic. Their family of four, which includes eight-year-old daughter Emery and one-year-old son Jackson, all attend the nearby Cathedral of Christ the King.

Buckhead Catholic church turned home
Softly draped linen seating from Huff Harrington Home makes for an inviting living space. Commercial-quality millwork and stalwart support columns give the residence a certain sturdiness and gravitas. “It just feels solid,” says Susan.

Photograph by Laura Negri Childers

Buckhead Catholic church turned home
The family room features a comfortable gray sectional and Susan’s favorite Greek key pillows.

Photograph by Laura Negri Childers

Buckhead Catholic church turned home
Susan applied Phillip Jeffries wallpapers in several of the home’s small spaces, including this downstairs powder bath, displaying “What A Gem” vinyl silk in charcoal.

Photograph by Laura Negri Childers

Buckhead Catholic church turned home
Numerous seating arrangements make the dining room ideal for entertaining, and an Aubusson rug cozies up the space. The glam mirrored cabinet and polished-chrome sconces over the fireplace were Jonathan Adler finds.

Photograph by Laura Negri Childers

But an entire year of renovations, accomplished with the help of Atlanta-based ESD Homes, put their fears aside. Plans included moving many walls and reimagining large chunks of the floor plan. The chapel was converted into a guest room. What was formerly a suite for visiting clergy became a bedroom-playroom combination. And the archbishop’s diminutive apartment saw the greatest transformation: His keeping room was made into a luxe new master bath, his former bathroom was changed into the master lounge, and the low ceilings of his former sleeping quarters were vaulted to create a loftier look. His closet, formerly lined with robes, became home for Joe’s sleek wardrobe.

Susan changed all the light fixtures and painted the home’s dark-wood details in light, creamy colors to brighten the space. She also added luminous Phillip Jeffries wallpapers to the foyer, daughter Emery’s bedroom, and the downstairs powder bath, rather than the lacquer wall treatment she had previously considered.

Buckhead Catholic church turned home

Photograph by Laura Negri Childers

Buckhead Catholic church turned home
The en-suite lounge area was carved out of a space that was once the archbishop’s bathroom. The couple tends to opt for hues of gray, platinum, silver, and cream, but the bold pop of Hermès orange on the desk chair provides just the right contrast. The luminous glass sconces above the fireplace were acquired from the St. Regis Atlanta: Buckhead hotel during a renovation.

Photograph by Laura Negri Childers

Buckhead Catholic church turned home

Photograph by Laura Negri Childers

Next was figuring out comfy, kid-friendly furniture placements in an open-format living arrangement. “Our previous house was smaller, but because rooms were so contained, they fit more furniture [than this one],” Susan explains. A fan of transitional style who extols the talents of Suzanne Kasler and Beth Webb, Susan purchased a number of new pieces for this house, consulting with Ann Huff and Meg Harrington of Huff Harrington Home to carry off the light and airy look. Gracing the walls are art pieces from Huff and Harrington’s gallery by the same name, while Susan filled in with furniture and decorating finds from local shops Interior Philosophy, B.D. Jeffries, Boxwoods Gardens & Gifts, Restoration Hardware, Ralph Lauren, and a touch of Jonathan Adler (seen over the fireplace in the exceptionally plush dining room). Oushak rugs, like the one in the foyer, cozy things up.

Though there remains a pervasive preconception that Tudors are dark and foreboding, this house, the very height of light and bright, shatters it.

This article originally appeared in our Winter 2017 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

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