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Before and After: Charming 1920s Dutch Colonial

A classic Atlanta home gets a revival

Written by Amy Elbert
  • Emily Followill

    So what if the powder-room toilet was visible from the front door and the kitchen dated to the Reagan administration? A sweet 1920s Dutch Colonial in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood sang with possibilities, and designer Debbie Cummins heard every verse. “There was something about the scale of the rooms and the way light came into the house,” Debbie recalls. “It really did speak to us. The house just exuded charm.”

    Admittedly, there were less-than-charming spaces, mainly the family room, kitchen, and bathrooms—rooms that had been added or redone in the 1980s. But those could be fixed, agreed Debbie and husband Beau, who have renovated several homes as they have moved around the country for Beau’s career in finance.

    Betting on the strengths of the original structure—spacious rooms with large windows and French doors, solid wood floors, and charming decorative plaster details like dentil molding and ceiling medallions—Debbie and Beau went headlong into a renovation, working with designer/builder Mike Hammersmith. “We bought the house quickly, knowing we would renovate,” Debbie says.

    The ’80s kitchen hit the recycle bin, and new custom-built cabinets in creamy white now complement the architectural details of the house and provide generous storage—a must-have for this couple who love to cook and entertain. A peninsula was removed to open the kitchen to the family room, and a large island painted a soft gray now anchors the space. To bring in more natural light, two small kitchen windows were replaced with taller ones that rise from the countertops and symmetrically flank the range. “I cook a lot, and as I work, I love having that bright natural light and spacious counters to work on—it’s like being outside,” Debbie says.

    The kitchen and family room ceilings were different heights and styles (most likely because the family room was added in the 1980s), so Hammersmith aligned them at 10 feet and put up painted-white wood planks and beams. “The kitchen’s old ceiling beams were faux finished to look like wood. The family room didn’t have any beams,” Debbie says. “We added the beams and planking and painted everything white to make the rooms consistent.”

    Debbie opted to keep the existing herringbone-pattern tile floors in the kitchen and family room, helping to unify the two spaces. The tiles were cleaned and refinished for a fresh look.

    The family room fireplace wall gained gravitas with a limestone fireplace surround, new custom built-ins, and horizontal wood planks sheathing the previously bricked wall.

    “The original parts of the house had beautiful woodwork, and I wanted to bring more of that into areas like the family room, where it was lacking,” explains Debbie. Horizontal wood paneling-—a classic Southern wall treatment—was also installed in the back entry, master suite, bathrooms, and elsewhere in the house. The family room’s existing French doors and floor-to-ceiling windows on two walls make the room a sun-warmed space to relax in, and Debbie maximized comfort by reupholstering a sofa in a chenille-style velvet trimmed with brown velvet cording. She kept the room casual with a custom sisal area rug over the red tile floor. “I have too many dogs to have a fancy rug,” she says. Witness the wicker end table by the family room sofa, which is also a kennel for their two Cavalier King Charles spaniels.

    The living and dining rooms are somewhat dressier, furnished with elegant French antiques, including a glass-front cabinet with its original well-worn sage green paint. The back of the cabinet is painted a lovely melon color that shows off the dishes (Beau’s grandmother’s) displayed inside. The cabinet colors inspired the green, cream, and coral choices for the rug and fabrics in the room.

    Debbie brought blue into the mix in the dining room, with a floral drapery fabric and satin hems on the slipcovered dining chairs. “The floral is more pattern than I typically use, but I loved that fabric, and it pulled everything together in such a pretty way,” she says. “There was something about this Dutch Colonial house that seemed to call for a floral fabric.”

    Debbie’s three sons are grown and living on their own, so the empty nesters weren’t interested in adding square footage and no exterior walls were changed. To make better use of the existing rooms, however, an interior doorway was added to connect the living room with the back hall, family room, and kitchen. “We wanted a circular flow in the house,” Debbie explains.

    A new glass-paned back door and metal-grille window bring light into the house, and provide sight lines from the front door to the backyard. The family’s four dogs—two Cavalier King Charles spaniels, a basset hound, and a Portuguese water dog puppy—appreciate the doggy-eye view as well.

    In the front entry, the coat closet and the powder room swapped places. The powder room was enlarged and the toilet repositioned to face the rear of the house rather than the front door. “Now when you enter the house you see a pretty sink and old trumeau mirror over it,” Debbie says.

    The upper-level master suite was reworked for better flow and an elegant master bath with white paneling, and a basket-weave tile floor replaced the outdated 1980s bath. A trumeau mirror Debbie found at an antiques shop 20 years ago hangs above the new freestanding bathtub, enhancing the period style of the space. “We took it back to a cottagey and classic look,” Debbie says. “We wanted it to be appropriate to the house.”
    The back exterior was also landscaped with brick walkways and an outdoor fireplace and dining area. “The house entertains beautifully, yet it’s small enough for just the two of us,” Debbie says. “It’s lovely.” Charm restored.

    Photography: Emily Followill
    Produced by Lisa Mowry

    Interior Design: Debbie Cummins, D Cummins Design, 404/825-0749. Builder: Mike Hammersmith, Mike Hammersmith General Contracting, 404/351-5227,

    Windows (custom): Mike Hammersmith General Contracting, 404/351-5227. 
    Exterior wall light (“Drake Gooseneck Light” #BLE-G-WHD-PC): Barn Light Electric, 800/407-8784,  

  • BEFORE Entry

    The previously bare entry of the colonial house sang with possibilities to designer and owner Debbie Cummins.

  • Emily Followill

    AFTER Entry

    A new window creates sight lines through the house and views for Sadie, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel.

    Paint (“White Dove” #OC-17): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667, Stair runner (“Herringbone,” Woolcord Collection): Saxony, 561/276-6774,; through Myers Carpet, 866/450-5551, Upholstered settee: custom. Hanging lantern: original to house. Demilune table and mirror; area rug: antique. Stool on stair landing: owner’s collection. Lantern on stool: antique.

  • BEFORE Living Room

    When the Cumminses purchased the house, the ‘80s-era interior didn’t match Debbie’s vision for the classic colonial.

  • Emily Followill

    AFTER Living Room

    Trim added to the existing mantel makes it taller and more substantial.

    Wall paint (“Off-White” #3): Farrow & Ball, 888/511-1121, Sofa (“Regency Sofa” #579-76-9, by Milling Road): Baker, 800/592-2537, Pair of chairs facing sofa: owner’s collection. Chair fabric (“Firenza”/Celery on Natural #2118/01): Rose Tarlow-Melrose House, 323/651-2202, Drapery (“Firenza”/Celery on Natural #2118/01): Rose Tarlow-Melrose House, 323/651-2202, Ottoman (discontinued): Hancock & Moore, 828/495-8235, Leather daybed; area rug: antique. Small chair by fireplace: antique. Lamps behind sofa: B.D. Jeffries, 800/954-3004, Tables flanking mantel: antique. Table lamp to right of mantel: Circa Interiors & Antiques, 704/332-1668, Sconces over mantel (custom): Edgar-Reeves Lighting & Antiques, 404/237-1137, Picture light: Circa Lighting. 877/762-2323,

  • BEFORE Dining Room

    The previous dining room was arranged around a rectangular table, but Debbie had a different idea. “I love round tables in a square dining room,” she says.

  • Emily Followill

    AFTER Dining Room

    An original plaster medallion adds a flourish to an antique Italian chandelier the Cumminses moved from a previous home. The “Tree of Life” drapery fabric is by Michael S Smith for Jasper. Slipcovered chairs circle an antique oak table that seats eight.

    Wall paint (“String” #8): Farrow & Ball, 888/511-1121, Drapery (“Tree of Life”/Sage #JP1209, by Jasper): Michael Smith Inc., 310/315-3018, Table (custom): Circa Interiors & Antiques, 704/332-1668, Chairs (#5204-O1C): Lee Industries, 800/892-7150, Monogram on chairs: Leontine Linens, 800/876-4799, Chandelier; area rug; French buffet: antique. Art over server, top and bottom (by Nancy Switzer): Gallery 1261, 303/571-1261,

  • Emily Followill

    China Cabinet

    The dining room’s antique glass-front cabinet with its original well-worn sage green paint displays Beau’s grandmother’s dishes against a lovely melon backdrop. The cabinet colors inspired the green, cream, and coral choices for the rug and fabrics in the room.

  • BEFORE Family Room

    The large wall above the fireplace and the rounded bookshelves left much space unused.

  • Emily Followill

    AFTER Family Room

    The dark stain on the back wall of the new built-in cabinets adds a nice graphic punch. The art above the fireplace is a metal etching by Hoss Haley. Sadie and the family’s three other dogs appreciate the warm sisal rug over the tile floor.

    Bookshelves; fire screen: Mike Hammersmith General Contracting, 404/351-5227. Cabinetry paint (“Down Pipe” #26): Farrow & Ball, 888/511-1121, Wine cooler: Sub-Zero Wolf, 800/222-7820, Light over bookshelves: Circa Lighting, 877/762-2323, Art over mantel (by Hoss Haley): Blue Spiral Gallery, 828/251-0202, Area rug (Siskiyou Special Sisal, by Fibreworks): Myers Carpet, 866/450-5551,

  • Emily Followill

    Family Room Toward Windows

    An antique-looking Rose Tarlow fabric was used for draperies and on an armchair. A pair of Nancy Corzine chairs are covered in linen velvet. The iron chandelier with handblown glass was custom made, replicating an antique French piece Debbie had admired in a magazine.

    Sofa: owner’s collection. Pillows on sofa (“Calais”/Charcoal on Wheat #2104/05, by Rose Tarlow): Rose Tarlow-Melrose House, 323/651-2202, End table by sofa: dog crate. Wicker tray on end table: B.D. Jeffries, 800/954-3004, Fauteuils by window (“Rothschild Lounge” #2011): Nancy Corzine, 212/223-8340, Fauteuil fabric (velvet, by Jasper): Michael Smith Inc., 310/315-3018, Table lamp: Macrae Designs, 800/446-5526, Ottoman/coffee table (discontinued); ottoman fabric (chocolate brown leather): Holly Hunt, 312/661-1900, Gold lounge chair (“Louis XV Lounge Chair” #311); fabric (“Calais”/Charcoal on Wheat #2104/05): Rose Tarlow-Melrose House, 323/651-2202, Round table beside lounge chair; animal-print chair: owner’s collection. Chandelier (custom): Mike Hammersmith General Contracting, 404/351-5227. Drapery (“Calais”/Charcoal on Wheat #2104/05): Rose Tarlow-Melrose House, 323/651-2202, Drapery hardware: Ona Drapery, 303/442-8755, Paint (“Off-White” #3): Farrow & Ball, 888/511-1121, Area rug (Siskiyou Special Sisal, by Fibreworks): Myers Carpet, 866/450-5551,  

  • Emily Followill

    Back Hall

    A new large window and a door with metal grids bring in light. A doorway was added to link the living room and kitchen via the back hall, creating a nice circular flow through the main level.

  • BEFORE Kitchen

    The old kitchen was lacking a flow space.

  • Emily Followill

    AFTER Kitchen

    The new traditional-style kitchen is more open. The island is painted in Farrow & Ball’s “French Gray” and has a Rohl sink paired with a Perrin & Rowe faucet. The chandelier is from Dennis & Leen.

    Cabinetry (custom): Mike Hammersmith General Contracting, 404/351-5227. Main cabinetry paint (“Off-White” #3); island paint (“French Gray” #18): Farrow & Ball, 888/511-1121, Countertop: Calcutta gold marble. Range (48-inch Dual Fuel Range, 6 burners, by Wolf); refrigerator and freezer (by Sub-Zero): Sub-Zero Wolf, 800/222-7820, Range hood: custom. Farm sink at island; island faucet (Bridge Faucet with Sidespray, by Perrin & Rowe); perimeter faucet (Single Lever Kitchen Faucet, by Perrin & Rowe): Rohl, 800/777-9762, Backsplash tile (4x4-inch field tile, various colors): Renaissance Tile & Bath, 404/231-9203, Chandelier (“Gothic Chandelier” #DL-CD 06): Dennis & Leen, 310/652-0855, Ceiling lights (“Marquette Semi-Flush Ceiling Light” #1118): Barn Light Electric, 800/407-8784, Counter stools: owner’s collection.  

  • Emily Followill


    The fresh-looking library features blue cabinetry and an elegant gold chandelier.

  • Emily Followill

    Master Bedroom

    Horizontal wood planking was added to the walls in the master bedroom and painted Farrow & Ball “String,” a warm ivory color. Next to the bed is Debbie’s “secret” door, which leads to her closet. Although the oak barley-twist post bed looks like an antique, Debbie bought it new at Toby West Antiques & Interiors.

    Wall paint (“Creamy White” #OC-7): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667, Bed (reproduction English oak barley-twist post bed with canopy, designed by Toby West): Toby West Antiques, 404/233-7425. Bed cover: owner’s collection. Shams and bolster pillow (silk mohair/Seafoam): J. Robert Scott, 877/207-5130, Table lamp: Mrs. Howard, 404/816-3830, Dresser: antique. Mirror above dresser: antique. Club chair: Lee Industries, 800/892-7150, Chair fabric (“Canterbury Stripe”/Natural #2101/00); drapery (“Montague”/Bay Blue on Natural #2111/05): Rose Tarlow-Melrose House, 323/651-2202, Chair trim (“Oxford Border”/Glacier, Snow #977-36358.07): Samuel & Sons, 212/704-8000, Carpet: Stark Carpet, 212/752-9000,  

  • Emily Followill

    AFTER Bathroom

    A custom-made iron chandelier and an antique mirror hang above the tub.

    Vanity: Mike Hammersmith General Contracting, 404/351-5227. Faucets (“Dixmude Wall-Mounted Single Hole Mixer” #4204): Herbeau Creations of America, 800/547-1608, Mirror: custom. Wall paint (“White Dove” #OC-17): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667, Tub (Piedmont Skirted Tub” #872, Sunrise Specialty): Renaissance Tile & Bath, 404/231-9203, Tub faucets (“Royale Exposed Tub & Shower Mixer Wall Mounted” #3031): Herbeau Creations of America, 800/547-1608, Chandelier: Mike Hammersmith General Contracting, 404/351-5227. Mirror by tub (antique): Circa Interiors & Antiques, 704/332-1668, Window seat cabinetry: Mike Hammersmith General Contracting, 404/351-5227. Drapery: white linen.

  • Emily Followill

    Bathroom Window Seat

    Builder Mike Hammersmith added board walls and ceilings, his-and-her walk-in closets, twin vanities, a basket-weave tile floor, and a window seat that offers a backyard view from the suite’s small hallway.

    Window seat cabinetry:  Mike Hammersmith General Contracting, 404/351-5227. Shutters: original to house. Chandelier (“Pimlico 4-Light Chandelier” #CHC2150): Circa Lighting, 877/762-2323,

  • Emily Followill

    Bathroom Vanity

    Vintage-style faucets from Herbeau are mounted on the arched marble backsplashes behind each vanity.

  • Emily Followill

    Bathroom Closet Doors

    Mirrored closet doors in Debbie’s walk-in closet are accented with wood trim in a diamond motif, which replicates molding on the base of the kitchen island.

    Mirrored cabinet (custom); cabinet with drawers (custom): Mike Hammersmith General Contracting, 404/351-5227. Wall and cabinet paint (“Creamy White” #OC-7): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667, Chandelier: antique. Drapery (“Montague”/Bay Blue on Natural #2111/05): Rose Tarlow-Melrose House, 323/651-2202, Carpet: Myers Carpet, 866/450-5551, Chair: antique.

  • Emily Followill

    Outdoor Fireplace

    The property was landscaped with brick walks and patios that provide outdoor living spaces. Areas like this one by the fireplace increase opportunities for family entertaining.

    Fireplace: Mike Hammersmith General Contracting, 404/351-5227. Brick patio stones: original to home. Chairs: Kolo Collection, 404/355-1717, Pedestal table: antique.

  • Emily Followill

    Cummins Family

    Debbie and Beau Cummins with Debbie’s sons (standing, from left) Andrew, Daniel, and Matthew Bensch.