House Envy: $4.4-million Tuxedo Park estate is a federal beauty

Gargoyles be gone! This home went from medieval horror to federal classic.
3584 Woodhaven Road
Photo courtesy of Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby's International Realty

Self-proclaimed renovation queen Karen Richardson refused to get out of the car when her husband first took her to see her future home at 3584 Woodhaven Road in 2003. “It was slated for demolition,” she recalls. “It was so unbelievably ugly, I wanted to let them tear it down.”

Built in 1954, the house was first renovated in the 1980s by a family with a predilection for Gothic castle-style décor. Karen recalls five-foot gargoyles surrounding the stone fireplace, griffins guarding the porch, a medieval-inspired stained glass door, and two-story Doric columns covered in purple wallpaper. The then-hard-coat stucco façade was topped by a mildewed, wood shake roof.

Despite the house’s obvious shortcomings, Karen’s late husband, Joe, saw potential. Together, the couple spent nearly three years transforming the Tuxedo Park abode into a grand example of federal architecture with the help of Greg Palmer of Harrison Design. They tore it down to the studs (even moving some of those), bricked the outside, significantly altered the roofline, and opened the layout.

Thanks to undergraduate studies in art history and 12 previous renovations with her husband, Karen had very specific plans for the design. She and Joe pored over architecture books, drawing inspiration from the Gardner-Pingree House in Salem, Massachusetts, and the John Brown House of Providence, Rhode Island—both iconic examples of federal architecture from the turn of the 19th century.

“I gave Greg [Palmer] photos of everything I wanted: the arches, the front door, the frieze boards over the porch. I even gave him two addresses of homes in Atlanta where the keystones were the correct size; so many people get that wrong. Greg is wonderful. How many architects would put up with a client like me?” Karen laughs.

That attention to detail is evident in the final product, a 8,890-square-foot home that feels simultaneously luxurious and welcoming. “My design mantra is ‘Please, come in and sit down.’ I wanted everything not to be too fussy or too formal,” says Karen. Her Florida roots and love of sunshine also led her to add as many French doors and windows as possible to bring in natural light from the large, wooded backyard.

Plaster details, crown molding, and raised-panel wooden walls, along with an authentic reproduction front porch, Palladian window, and brick quoins give the house a truly classic appearance that disguises its comparatively young age. It features a gym, pool, grand foyer, and children’s wing with three bedrooms and a spacious playroom. The upstairs master bedroom has separate his and hers master baths.

Sitting on 1.88 acres near the corner of Tuxedo Road, the house is currently on the market with an asking price of $4,395,000. For more information, contact Burma Weller (, 404-735-6666) or Cheri Riley (, 404-944-9992) of Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty.