Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein
Fifteen years ago, when Jeff Jones bought a 1930s Midtown house that had been destroyed by fire, the residential designer vowed to rebuild an even better one. “You always hate to lose an old house, but sometimes it’s an opportunity to redesign and do it right,” he says. Jones drew inspiration from a classically designed cottage in Inman Park, with symmetrical windows and a wide center hall providing an axis for the floor plan. After studying historic plans and experimenting with scale, he designed and built this deceivingly simple house with cedar shingles, four narrow columns, and a brick courtyard garden in front.
Although the updated, shotgun-inspired house won a local urban design award, Jones is almost more proud of a nearby resident’s comment. “He said this new house fits in the neighborhood better than a lot of the older houses,” recalls Jones. “So many of the older houses have been changed so that they’ve lost their charm.”
This inviting residence soon caught the eye of Joe McGinnis, who used to slow down whenever he was driving by so he could get a close look at his favorite house. When McGinnis spotted a “For Sale” sign in 2000, he slammed on the brakes and went right to Jones, even though the house was already under contract. Fortunately for McGinnis, the first buyer dropped out, so he purchased the home and moved in with his partner, Alan Frazier.
McGinnis was immediately as smitten with the character-rich interior as he had been with the exterior. In the living room, twin salvaged brick fireplaces pass through to the kitchen and dining room, a reference to the days when homes relied on fire for cooking and heating. Weathered shutters serve as doors for kitchen cabinets. And the pine floors came from a timber company in the Northeast. Jones was taken aback when the boards arrived covered in black soot. “Fortunately, all it took was a light sanding to give them a good patina,” Jones says.
Wanting more of a live/work/play setting, McGinnis designed and built a carriage house studio for the backyard, where he could run his brand marketing business, Voyage Communications. With its similar facade of shingles, columns, and a water feature out front, the smaller version pays homage to the main structure. “We really respected Jeff’s vision and wanted to do right by his example,” says McGinnis, who even ran his plans by Jones for approval. “The challenge was not to overdesign it, but to honor the original vision of simplicity and balance.”
McGinnis and Frazier’s furniture reflects their creative spirit as well. Midcentury items, flea market finds, and newer pieces are carefully mixed with antiques and contemporary art. The living room, for example, started with a button-tufted blue wool chair with swanky, retro-style lines. Other furnishings range from leather Barcelona stools and Saarinen tulip tables to an oversized Italian urn and an antique wooden chest. “It’s not an identifiable look,” McGinnis explains. “It’s more of a collection.”
With its wall-sized 7Up sign, the home office is always a conversation piece. “I knew I wanted the sign when I first saw it at Kudzu Antiques,” says McGinnis. At first the dealer didn’t want to sell, but after months of persuading, McGinnis “wore him down” and brought home the iconic Peter Max advertisement. Midcentury desk furniture also channels the sixties, a heyday of the advertising industry. “I was thinking Bewitched when I decorated the office,” says McGinnis. “I wanted a nod to Darrin’s office.” After all, it’s his business to recognize a memorable brand.
This article originally appeared in our July 2010 issue.