Old-school architectural charm and new-school comfort make a cozy family home

Maurie Mintz’s Decatur house appears to be a quaint renovation, but it’s actually a brand-new construction
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Mintz house
Photograph by Jeff Herr

From the street, Maurie Mintz’s house appears to be a quaint renovation in an established Decatur neighborhood. Its cedar shingle facade invites you in with a stepless porch. An eyebrow window at the roofline with flanking dormers adds architectural expression. There’s a cat nestled cozily by the cerise-red front door.

What a surprise, then, to learn that it’s actually new construction by design/build firm Terracotta.

Architect Ili Hidalgo-Nilsson, the company’s principal, explains, “Maurie invited us to see how we could renovate and expand the home she already had, but in the process, it became clear that she would benefit from starting fresh with a brand-new home. New construction would be more cost-effective and a better investment in the long run.”

The family’s favorite room, the screened porch, is proportioned to accommodate lots of friends and family or to be an intimate outdoor nook.
The family’s favorite room, the screened porch, is proportioned to accommodate lots of friends and family or to be an intimate outdoor nook.

Photograph by Jeff Herr

Luckily, an old structure four doors down had recently been demolished. “Ili showed me three different house plans that would fit on the lot,” Maurie recalls. “I chose one and simply made the dining room smaller so that a desk area would fit between it and the kitchen.”

Pops of jewel tones in the master bedroom illustrate how the overall neutral palette throughout the house can become the backdrop for multiple color schemes.
Pops of jewel tones in the master bedroom illustrate how the overall neutral palette throughout the house can become the backdrop for multiple color schemes.

Photograph by Jeff Herr

The challenges to building on a smaller intown lot included working around mature trees and making the house sympathetic to neighboring architecture. “Before we could even start building, there was a monstrous tree with three trunks on the lot,” Maurie says. “The City of Decatur had a 90-day moratorium prohibiting any trees to be cut down.” This Chinese cypress was a bane not only to Maurie, but to nearby residents. It leaned precariously, dropped debris on sidewalks and yards, and blocked sunlight from anemic gardens. Neighbors cheered when the 90 days were up and the tree was finally removed.

Terracotta used clever architec­­­tural tricks to ensure that the house was sensitive to the scale of nearby homes. “The sloping roof of the front elevation allowed us to get the necessary height while also reducing the mass from the street view,” Ili explains. “It also created an opportunity to play with less conventional eyebrow dormers and corbel details, which are unique and in keeping with the historical nature of the neighborhood.”

The 4,600-square-foot house exhibits its charms inside as well. Thoughtful details abound: Built-in storage flanks the den fireplace and runs along a wall of the music room and even under the stair landing. In the kitchen, undercounter power strips ensure that the Black Sea granite countertops and Carrara marble backsplash are uncluttered. Maurie and her two daughters—Caroline, 13, and Katie, 10—love music and art, so a front room holds a piano and various musical instruments, including a violin, guitars, and a ukulele. There’s a craft room downstairs with a practical tile floor and lots of natural light. The girls even have a “sleepover room” that offers privacy and buffers the inevitable giggles from the upstairs master bedroom.

“I had heard so many remodeling horror stories,” says Maurie. But she believes Terracotta lives up to its ambitious promise of creating spaces “where families’ lives unfold.”

Pro Resources
Terracotta Design Build Kitchen Blue paint: “Labradorite,” Sherwin-Williams, sherwin-williams.com. Countertops: Polished Black Sea Granite, Intown Design, intowndesigninc.com. Island pendants: Ballard Designs, ballarddesigns.com. Window pendants: Pottery Barn, potterybarn.com. Range hood: Zephyr, zephyronline.com. Backsplash: Carrara marble, Intown Design. Appliances: Miele, miele.com. Stools: Wayfair, wayfair.com. Master bedroom Lamp: West Elm, westelm.com. Bench: Safavieh, safavieh.com. Master bath Wall tile: Carrara marble, Intown Design. Bathtub: American Standard, americanstandard-us.com. Fixtures: Moen, moen.com. Lighting: Capital Lighting, capitallightingfixture.com. Girls bath Dark blue penny tile: Floor & Decor, flooranddecor.com. Bathtub: American Standard. Fixtures: Grohe, grohe.com. Countertops: Polished Venetino marble, Intown Design. Hardware: Anthropologie, anthropologie.com. Music room Chairs: Wayfair. Bench/ottoman: Made Goods, madegoods.com. Dining room Chandelier: Robles Heritage from Horchow, horchow.com. Ceiling paint: “Artichoke SW-6179,” Sherwin-Williams. Screened porch Lounge: Pottery Barn. Table: CB2, cb2.com. Living area off kitchen Sofa: Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, mgbwhome.com. Console: All Modern, allmodern.com. Floor lamp: Crate and Barrel, crateandbarrel.com. Rug: Horchow. Chaise lounge: Dwell Studio, dwellstudio.com (fabric by Osborne & Little). Table lamps, tripod side table: Jonathan Adler, jonathanadler.com. Banquette dining area off kitchen Lighting: Hudson Valley. Chairs: CB2. Stools: Wayfair. Pillow fabrics: Harlequin, harlequin.uk.com, and Duralee, duralee.com.

This article originally appeared in our Summer 2016 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

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