In a good way, Nikie Barfield views the world in black and white. The Atlanta interior designer likes to contrast these two basic colors, subtly accenting them with companion hues. “I definitely love neutrals,” says Nikie. “My favorites are black, white, gray, silver, and gold—but wood is a neutral, too.” Her philosophy: Let architectural details, texture, and the interplay of materials steal the show, not bright colors or patterns.
This serene approach appealed to her clients, Decatur real estate agent Natalie Gregory and her husband, Eric, who enlisted Nikie’s help designing a custom home within walking distance of the historic Decatur Square.
Both Nikie and Natalie appreciate the charms of an old house, but they welcomed new construction as an opportunity to blend vintage-looking elements with modern conveniences. Drawing on her residential experience, Natalie came up with a wish list—including 10-foot ceilings, a spacious kitchen/family room, and large windows—then found a dilapidated house that was a good candidate for a teardown. “The lot had a private backyard and was located on a quiet street where we already had friends,” says Natalie. “But the existing house didn’t have a lot of architectural integrity.”
Architect Wright Gardner created a facade that blends with older homes nearby, yet the modest exterior contains an open, modern interior, with a spacious 4,000 square feet for the couple and their two daughters, Abigail, 14, and Ava, 11. Dana Clemons helped set the stage with kitchen and cabinetry design.
Natalie and Nikie updated a few furnishings from the Gregorys’ previous house, but mostly they started over to get scale and comfort just right. For example, the spare dining room, seen from the front door, sets a refined tone. “We didn’t want anything too formal, like the typical long walnut table,” says Natalie. “This dining room fits us better—and it’s more social.” The space contains a round table made of reclaimed wood with a whitewashed finish. Seating is casual: a curvy upholstered bench and a few wicker chairs. A simple, oversized chandelier and an antique mirror add sculptural elements, but there are no paintings on the walls. “We decided the paneling is our art,” says the designer, referring to handsome judges paneling.
Contrasts of light and dark, smooth and textural, old and new continue throughout the house. The kitchen features pale cabinets, but hardware is darker—with bronze knobs and pulls, shiny chrome faucets, and a breakfast room chandelier that is both bronze and black metal. “People sometimes freak out about mixing metals,” says Nikie. “But it all goes to balancing the room.”
The slate gray, herringbone, and greige linens seen throughout the home would be equally appropriate in a fine men’s clothing store. For Nikie, the handsome textiles are just another aspect of design’s natural yin and yang. “I like to be gender-neutral,” says the designer, “but always delicate and natural.”
This article originally appeared in our Winter 2016 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.