Home Tour: Contemporary Comfort

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Architect David C. Fowler has established something of a reputation for his contemporary interpretations of historic genres such as Arts and Crafts and Prairie styles. So when it came time for his family to move into a larger home, it was no surprise that they bought a 1940s bungalow in Virginia-Highland. Having lived in the neighborhood for years, the Fowlers particularly appreciated the exceptional privacy of the home’s lot and the creek out back. But while the existing stone foundation and exterior brick were nice, the house was small and lacked character, so David embarked on a total remodel and expansion before moving in with his wife and two young daughters.

It took six months to hammer out his design, tripling the square footage from 1,600 to 4,800. The home, which used to be one floor, is now three, thanks to an added story and a dug-out basement. Three bedrooms are now five, and two bathrooms are now four. Additions included an airy sunroom, a wine cellar, a gym, a playroom nook, and a finished basement with a media room. Quite the transformation. “When you’re the architect, builder, and client, things seem to go faster,” he jokes.

Fowler wanted a larger, more luxurious living space, but more importantly, he didn’t want the house to stick out on the street like a sore thumb. For instance, he made sure that the roof, with its several steep pitches, didn’t tower over nearby houses. “I think it architecturally melds with the neighborhood,” he says, which is crucial to the heart of the community. A cookie-cutter McMansion wouldn’t do.

The exterior is an Arts and Crafts collage of dormer windows, neutral colors, weathered granite, and the original brick. Inside is a crisp palette of clean arches, white walls, and rows of windows framed in dark-stained wood. The design blends a traditional Tudor style with clean, contemporary lines, a vision that’s not stuffy or overly formal. To achieve this balance, he went so far as to remove the door casings and mold a plain, plastic trim around the jambs.

“It’s an intown house, but there’s a second-home vibe to it,” he adds. “With second homes, people tend to let their hair down more.” Fowler wanted that more casual, creative tone for the everyday, using exposed raw materials such as timber beams to warm up the rooms. The best example of this organic motif is in the master bathroom. The countertop is made of a Sapelli hardwood from Africa, stripped of its bark with a rough, unfinished edge. Its cracks and ridges only enhance its beauty.

The entire interior layout was reconfigured and walls were gutted to improve the flow from room to room. Everything was opened up and aired out, and this is where his experience in construction proved to be invaluable.

He also partnered with Laura Walker on the interior design. “I have always enjoyed working with Laura,” he says. “She and I have a similar approach to design. We both like to contemporize spaces and mix it up, make it interesting. We both appreciate traditional architecture, but prefer it with clean lines.”

Fowler wanted to prove that a contemporary, European look doesn’t have to be cold. On the contrary, its clutter-free simplicity put him at peace, he says, giving him room to decompress.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, Fowler got to longing for even more open space, and he and his family recently moved to Bozeman, Montana. However, Fowler continues to expand his residential portfolio here through an alliance with Atlanta’s NCG Architects.

This story originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of Atlanta magazine

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