After moving back to Marietta following seven years in New York, Dana and Hicks Poor couldn’t find the right house and were starting to consider new construction. Then one day Dana went for a walk near the square and spotted a foreclosure notice on a midcentury-era house that the two native Mariettans had long admired. Even though the home was in disrepair, it had the sort of modern energy that the couple craved.
“The house was in bad shape, but had potential, so I saw it as a sign that we were meant to be here,” says Dana. “We loved everything about its look.” Longtime fans of midcentury architecture and design, the Poors had collected period furniture for years. The prospect of a major renovation wasn’t intimidating, since Dana, an interior designer, and Hicks, a general contractor, had been looking for a joint project.
Structural damage meant the house had to be gutted, but the creative couple salvaged some lighting and other fixtures and decided to rebuild an almost identical floor plan, even duplicating architectural details. “The original layout was good, so there was no reason to change it,” says Dana. “If we had been building our own house, it would be laid out just like this.”
The 1957 home was designed by Marietta resident Gloria Kidd Brown, one of the first female Georgia Tech grads, who went on to attend the New York School of Interior Design and work for prominent architects, including John Portman. Located on a street lined with traditional cottages, the modern brick-and-redwood house was always unusual for the neighborhood, says Hicks. The original owners had wanted a California-inspired house, similar to split-level homes then being built on the West Coast.
Hicks appreciates the simplicity of midcentury design, and how each room connects with the next. “It’s obvious that someone has put a lot of thought into every feature,” he says, citing architectural elements such as the wooden soffits and sculptural stair railing as his favorites.
Wide-open rooms are ideal for the Poors’ two daughters, which is fitting because the couple moved South to raise their girls closer to family. Sydney, eight, and Holland, six, have the entire second floor at their disposal, as the floor plan has the rare master-on-main configuration.
The no-nonsense nature of vintage furniture works well for a house with children running around, since its wood frames are sturdy and already a little dinged from age. Dana and Hicks own designer pieces, such as a Knoll desk and an Adrian Pearsall dresser, but they aren’t necessarily purists. Their living room sofa came from a lawyer who lives nearby. It had belonged to his in-laws, but the lawyer, who admires the Brown-designed house, had saved it for whoever bought the home because he knew it would be a perfect fit.
“I have a love of modern design, and that also comes with patterned rugs and other things not strictly midcentury,” says Dana. “There’s a story behind everything in this house.” —Lisa Mowry
With midcentury art, furniture, and fashion experiencing popular revivals, can midcentury architecture be far behind? Even Atlantans—stalwart devotees of white columns and two-story redbrick—are starting to embrace a more streamlined aesthetic. Modern Atlanta, the annual tour and collection of symposia (May 30–June 7, ma-designishuman.com), is thriving in its ninth year. And last summer, the DeKalb History Center staged an exhibit titled The Mid-Century Ranch House: Hip and Historic! From 1945 to 1970—when DeKalb was Georgia’s fastest-growing county—70 percent of new homes were ranches. DHC traced the genre’s origins back to Cliff May, the “father of the California ranch house,” who reinvented traditional Spanish haciendas and California adobe homes. (The exhibit included a pink powder room, knotty pine paneling, and Franciscan ware.) To see midcentury architecture in Atlanta, visit these spots:
- Collier Heights This west Atlanta community was built during the Jim Crow era as a state-of-the-art neighborhood for affluent African Americans. Its prominent residents included Martin Luther King Sr., Ralph David Abernathy, Herman J. Russell, Cynthia McKinney, and Jasmine Guy. In 2008 it was one of the first ranch house subdivisions added to the National Register of Historic Places. To read the fascinating history of this area, see our 2010 feature story “A Separate Peace.”
- Sagamore Hills Located in northeast DeKalb near Briarcliff, Clairmont, and Lavista roads, this ranch house neighborhood was built mostly during the 1950s and 1960s.
- Northcrest Just north of Spaghetti Junction (the intersection of I-85 and I-285), this community was developed from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. Marketed as “homes of tomorrow . . . today,” it includes brick ranches, A-frames, colonials, and split-levels.
- Cecil and Hermione Alexander House Famed Atlanta architect Cecil Alexander, who studied under modern masters Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, designed this house at 2232 Mount Paran Road in 1957. In 2010 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. —Betsy Riley