A Modern Home Designed for Serenity

The minimalist space embraces its natural surroundings

Photograph by Patrick Heagney

Neighbors asked James Sarvis if he was building a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Well, no. But if the renowned architect were alive, Wright would undoubtedly appreciate this modern Buckhead home, an individualist abode tucked into a wooded street otherwise lined with fifties-era ranches. The concept of organic architecture—harmony between home and the natural world—may be attributed to Wright, but the Sarvis house gives it a current perspective.

“We asked our architect to put us in a tree house,” says James, a Delta executive. His wife Candy’s directive? “Make it serene.” The Sarvises’ master bedroom is cantilevered off the front, with floor-to-ceiling glass in one wall so that the couple indeed wake up surrounded by trees. (Hidden shades provide privacy.) Other bedroom walls are covered in wallpaper handmade of crushed seashells for a reflective sheen. The kitchen and living area is likewise designed to embrace the outdoors, oriented around a pool and Zen-like gardens, with large, commercial-style windows all around.

“I can see outside from nearly every corner of the house,” says Candy. “The windows are my favorite feature.”

Staffan Svenson, the project’s architect and a principal with modernist firm Dencity, placed the house on the property’s highest spot, preserving as many trees as possible. Though the lot is only three-quarters of an acre and the house fewer than 4,000 square feet, the property delivers a big impact. Visitors enter the house by way of a cantilevered stairway hovered above a reflecting pool, bringing them to an even higher vantage point.

The main materials of the T-shaped house include locally sourced stone, cypress, and stucco, but an interior feature—the dramatic floors—gets the most attention. “The white floors float through the house,” says Svenson. “The serenity of the house is held by the floors.” Glossy white two-by-two-foot tiles link every room, reflecting artwork, furniture, and the beloved trees.

Furniture is minimal in the house, partly because the Sarvises want to buy only furnishings they love, but also because the empty space is peaceful and clean. “James told the architects that he wanted thirteen shades of white in the interior,” recalls Candy.

As part of Modern Atlanta’s Design Is Human events in June, visitors can tour the Sarvis home, as well as others in metro Atlanta (and even beyond). Candy views the tour as a public service for the design community. “We’re not looking to convert people to modern, but it would be nice to see a few more modern homes in Georgia,” she says. “Modern architecture doesn’t appeal to everyone, and I’ve heard people describe modern as cold or a lot of straight lines. And although we have a lot of straight lines, our design has pulled together texture and organic finishes to make the home feel warm, we’d like to think.”

Modern Atlanta 2013
The Modern Atlanta home tour takes place Saturday and Sunday, June 8–9; tickets are $35. For information on the tour and other MA events, visit modern-atlanta.org.

This article originally appeared in our June 2013 issue.