He wanted to live in Buckhead; she preferred Alpharetta. Rita and Mike Brown found a compromise in Avalon, the new live/work/play development just off GA-400 at Milton Parkway. “We were able to get the ‘walk to everything’ atmosphere of Buckhead without leaving the suburbs,” says Rita. As empty nesters, the couple was ready for something smaller than their previous home in White Columns, a North Fulton golf community. But with the move, they also gained a more European way of life, with a private courtyard, little-to-no yard maintenance, and a plethora of shops and restaurants a block away.
Working with architect Lew Oliver and builder Monte Hewett Homes, the Browns opted for a 3,900-square-foot house with a floor plan that features open living areas. A striking stone wall separates the foyer from dining and living spaces. Interior designer Shayelyn Woodbery added modern and kid-friendly features (the couple has daughters and grandchildren nearby) with a nod to the Browns’ previous traditional decorating style. “Many of the early selections Rita and Mike made before I got on board were clean and more contemporary in nature, so that set the tone for a transitional interior,” she says.
Shayelyn anchored the sitting room with a custom gray sofa from Bungalow Classic. Swivel chairs with a bohemian vibe provide a modern touch and allow for watching TV or chatting with guests, depending on the angle, while an Oushak rug adds warmth and patina. Since the dining area is part of the same large space, she chose items that merged the two areas gracefully. A camel-colored bench beside the dining table matches kitchen barstools and a leather ottoman next to the sofa, while a gray banquette complements the gray/blue/brown scheme elsewhere.
“The color story for the house is primarily blues and neutrals,” says Shayelyn. “But it was important to bridge the gap in some of the contrasting building materials, such as warm cedar beams and door lintels with cool gray walls and countertops.” Her solution: fabrics with a wide range of both cool and warm tones.
The Browns’ varied art collection adds interest to every room. An oil painting they already owned—now front and center over the fireplace in the den—was a jumping-off point for decorating, particularly once it was reframed. “I liked the piece but felt like the old frame detracted from the work,” says Shayelyn. “So I chose a simple antique gold floater frame to let the colors and texture of the piece show.” The designer also guided the couple toward more diverse mediums: oils, encaustics, mixed media, and photography. Mike’s penchant for photography inspired a conversation-worthy collection around the house, including works by Lyle Owerko and Jack Spencer, both represented by Jackson Fine Art.
The Browns have discovered that even friends who were originally skeptical about their move to a mixed-use development with small lots soon appreciate the benefits of the couple’s new lifestyle. “People who come here usually don’t understand the closeness of the homes at first,” says Rita. “But once they come inside and see the courtyard, the level of privacy, and the quality and the design of the home, they see why we were drawn here.”
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.