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.
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.
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.
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.
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.