Michelle Workman traded a Hollywood design career for farm life on Lookout Mountain

“Instead of decorating homes for Jennifer Lopez, I’m now choosing colors for the henhouse!”

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Michelle Workman's Lookout Mountain home

Photograph by Ty Johnston, Ty In The Sky Photography

A decade ago, interior designer Michelle Workman might have spent Friday night at a party hosted by Leonardo DiCaprio. These days, she’s more likely to enjoy happy hour with her pot-bellied pig, Sherman. The L.A. native, whose clients have included John Travolta and Kirstie Alley, left Hollywood behind in 2013 so she, her husband, Justin, and their boys, Brody and Hartley, could experience small-town life. After a lot of research, they settled on a 13-acre farm on Lookout Mountain, Georgia, putting in an offer sight unseen. “We wanted to be near a ‘largish’ city, and Atlanta is very close in terms of driving time—at least for someone from L.A.—and Chattanooga is small but quite cosmopolitan for its size,” she says. “My goal was to have something like three acres for a Martha Stewart–type compound, but we ended up with a bit more.”

Michelle Workman's Lookout Mountain home
The living room, with its gold-painted ceiling, epitomizes designer Michelle Workman’s Hollywood glam style. The blue sofa is vintage 1960s, reupholstered in a Clarke and Clarke herringbone velvet. A pair of Selig-style mid-mod chairs were reupholstered in a Robert Allen embroidered fabric, coexisting with a 1960s French coffee table. Workman brought back the camel stool from a trip to Morocco.

Photograph by Anthony-Masterson

Michelle Workman's Lookout Mountain home
“Every single person who walks in the door comments on this floor,” says Michelle of the stenciled foyer. She purchased the pair of elegant lamps from a Murano factory in Italy years ago.

Photograph by Anthony-Masterson

Michelle Workman's Lookout Mountain home
One of Michelle’s first projects was redoing the terrace level (once a three-car garage) as a guest suite and office area, starting with built-ins and glossy blue paint. Unlikely basement furniture includes a high-backed sofa in a metallic linen from Schumacher.

Photograph by Anthony-Masterson

Michelle Workman's Lookout Mountain home
A collection of vintage art resides above the sofa cabinet, pale yellow when they bought it 20 years ago.

Photograph by Anthony-Masterson

Michelle Workman's Lookout Mountain home
The pair of chaises came out of an old Hollywood estate, now reupholstered in a Robert Allen cheetah pattern.

Photograph by Anthony-Masterson

She brought the glam with her. The couple wanted a farm lifestyle so their animal-loving boys could grow up with plenty of critters and room to roam, but their home hardly screams “country.” Over the years, the Workmans redid parts of the ’90s-era house to better reflect their sensibilities (“you can see my personality in spades,” Michelle says). Her collection of furniture and accessories would make design icon Dorothy Draper (and her TV namesake, Don Draper) proud: Think brass bar carts, Italian lamps, and lots of velvet. Her closet is stocked with vintage gowns. “My personal style is very ‘old Hollywood,’ she says. “It’s a mix of mid-mod and traditional, updated with the use of saturated color. The traditional part of it is what makes the look work for a farmhouse—that and lots of baskets,” she quips. The house has even served as a laboratory for some of her own lines of furniture and wallpaper with French Heritage and Dynasty Home, respectively.

Michelle Workman's Lookout Mountain home
The Workmans remodeled the kitchen and all bathrooms. Glass tiles by Crossville Tile dance across the kitchen backsplash, tying in the cabinets with their trichotomy of colors. “I’m not usually a fan of granite, but I loved the large motion in this particular black slab,” says Michelle, who painted all doors in the house a glossy black as another dramatic touch.

Photograph by Anthony-Masterson

Michelle Workman's Lookout Mountain home
Highlights in the master bedroom include a wall covered in the first run of wallpaper from Michelle’s collection with a UK company (Dynasty Home) that launched this spring. She designed the headboard in L.A., using gray velvet from Kravet. The vintage lace and embroidery coverlet was found at a flea market in Seville, Spain. Michelle transformed a vintage 1960s chest into a jewelry container for some (but not all) of her baubles.

Photograph by Anthony-Masterson

Michelle Workman's Lookout Mountain home
A traditional dining room table is from a local estate sale. “I added built-ins to house my rather obsessive purchases of china and hollowware,” says the homeowner. The wave front chest with bamboo-style hardware is a mid-mod chinoiserie piece from an estate in San Francisco.

Photograph by Anthony-Masterson

Michelle has been touted as a celebrity designer—with big spreads in Veranda—but that persona mostly takes a backseat to country life these days. Michelle reports: “Instead of decorating homes for Jennifer Lopez, I’m now choosing colors for the henhouse!”

Michelle Workman's Lookout Mountain home
Highlights in the master bedroom include a wall covered in the first run of wallpaper from Michelle’s collection with a UK company (Dynasty Home) that launched this spring. She designed the headboard in L.A., using gray velvet from Kravet. The vintage lace and embroidery coverlet was found at a flea market in Seville, Spain. Michelle transformed a vintage 1960s chest into a jewelry container for some (but not all) of her baubles.

Photograph by Anthony-Masterson

Michelle Workman's Lookout Mountain home
In the funky guest bedroom, a custom quilt Workman had made in L.A. plays well with a coral wallpaper by Thibaut. The antique headboard is upholstered in Schumacher “Glimmer,” and the barrel-backed chair wears a silk velvet, also by Schumacher. Midcentury-modern lamps sit atop vintage Biedermeier-style bedside tables.

Photograph by Anthony-Masterson

Michelle Workman's Lookout Mountain home
Glass mosaic tiles were installed in a stripe pattern in the guest bath. A former console table was topped with marble and turned into a vanity. Faucets and hardware are by Brizo.

Photograph by Anthony-Masterson

Michelle Workman's Lookout Mountain home
Michelle and her husband, Justin, who commutes to Nevada as a software company CFO. Michelle grew up in L.A. Once a closet organizer, her career kickstarted when she helped her artist mother on a mural project for a soap star.

Photograph by Anthony-Masterson

Resources
Interior design Michelle Workman Interiors, 423-437-9000
Living room Navy sofa fabric: Clarke & Clarke, clarke-clarke.com. Side chairs and chaises fabric: Robert Allen, robertallendesign.com. Pink bombe chest: French Heritage, frenchheritage.com.
Sitting room Sofa: Burton James, burtonjames.com.
Kitchen Tile: Crossville, crossvilleinc.com. Slab: Marble Valley Stone, 423-475-5040.
Master bedroom Wallpaper: Michelle Workman collection, Dynasty Home, dynastyhome.co.uk. Headboard fabric: Kravet, kravet.com.
Master bath Tile: Crossville.
Guest bedroom Headboard and chair fabric: Schumacher, fschumacher.com. Wallpaper: Thibaut, thibautdesign.com.
Guest bath Faucets: Brizo, brizo.com.

This article appears in our Summer 2019 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

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