A mismatched aesthetic that replaces chaos with harmony
Despite the fact she "loved, loved, loved" some mismatched antique French doors, interior designer Lori Tippins knew that wasn't reason enough to bring them home. That's when the text messages started flying between Lori and her architectural designer, Holly Johnson. "I was doing construction drawings and Lori texted me: Hey, I found some awesome doors," Johnson recalls. "I noodled through some things and texted her back: OK, I got them in. Go get them."
This back-and-forth collaboration and mutual enthusiasm for design forged a friendship between the two women and built a new Atlanta home for Lori and her husband, Clay, and their two children. But "new" was not the look Lori wanted.
She and Johnson share a love for designs by late 19th- and early 20th-century British architect Edwin Lutyens, who leaned toward symmetrical massing, Tudor influences, and loads of charm. "The house needed to look and feel like it had been here forever," Lori says. "I didn't want it to look like the new house on the block."
That put Lori on the search for antiques and age-appropriate furnishings. There's a circa 1700s French cupboard bought when the kitchen was barely a pencil sketch. An antique limestone fireplace- had a similar love-at-first-sight story. Lori snapped up the surround and asked the store owner to toss it out back to "age" for a year until the new family room was ready for the installation.
"I am an intuitive designer, but I don't buy impulsively," Lori says. "When I saw that vaisselier [French breakfront], there was no way I was walking out without it. If you truly love something, you can find a place for it." Particularly if you have a design soul mate. "Most of the time, I gave Lori the parameters she had to work with, and she figured out the interiors," Johnson says. "But there were a few times she said, I love this, I love this; we need to get it to work. We usually found a way."
Johnson captured Lori's vision, with a Lutyens-inspired painted brick home with symmetrical gables and three dormers centered above the front door. The floor plan is classically inspired as well, with formal rooms at the front of the home. French doors in the living and dining rooms provide a pleasing symmetry from the exterior and fill the interiors with natural light.
In the living room, Lori kept the palette light, with white velvet sofas facing off in front of an old marble fireplace. A round pedestal table is centered on the fireplace beneath an Italian chandelier. "It's a very simple table but I like having a higher coffee table," Lori says. "I like to vary heights so your eye moves up and down. You need to tease the eye all around a room, and higher tables do that."
An antique French trumeau above the mantel is another "love-it, have-to-have-it" buy. The original green paint on the mirror's frame inspired the color of the living room walls, "a gray that leans a touch toward green," Lori says. A sea grass rug on the floor has cream and gold tones with shots of gray. "I like grays, but I'm not afraid to combine them with warm colors," she says. Walls throughout the main level are subtle variations on a gray-white theme. She adds that she "wanted to vary color from room to room but also have it seem virtually seamless." Trim throughout the house is painted with the same color of white. She sampled dozens of whites before finding one that complemented wall and fabric colors in all the rooms and had the proper sense of age.
While the words classic and elegant dominate Lori's design vocabulary, so does family comfort. "We have two kids and two dogs and friends coming and going all the time," she points out. The back of the house is all about family, with a large kitchen and keeping room that opens to a porch. "I wanted an old-fashioned European eat-in kitchen, with a table smack-dab in the middle." That's a decision she's never regretted. "We live there. It's a happy kitchen."
A 6x3-foot antique walnut kitchen table that extends to nearly 10 feet can seat a crowd-and often does. "Anytime you come in my kitchen, there will probably be somebody sitting at my table." Antique French chairs are covered in white vinyl for easy cleanups, but it's the bench on the opposite side that the kids love. "That bench is where everyone gathers. They're like birds on a wire," she says.
Even the dressier living room welcomes kids and dogs. A blanket is generally draped over the back of one sofa because that's where one of the Tippins' Vizslas prefers to hang out. "I've given up that good fight," Lori admits. "Before company comes, we just get out the lint roller."
The back porch and two pergola-covered walkways (one on the front and one on the back) shield the house from the hot Atlanta sun and offer more family play areas. A two-sided fireplace makes for cozy gatherings in both the keeping room and back porch. "We have a TV out on the porch, and in the fall we light a fire and watch football games."
Neither Lori nor Johnson wanted a multi-car attached garage detracting from the period look of the house, so Johnson designed a porte cochere with three car bays. Although it's attached to the house for easy access, the structure's peaked roof makes it seem like a separate pavilion. A vaulted white-painted board ceiling and brick paving give the interior space a finished look, perfect for outdoor entertaining. "It's almost like a big open party area that doubles as a garage," says Johnson.
In addition to a common understanding of design, Lori and Johnson are both mothers of 4- and 7-year-olds. Maybe that's why this project speaks so strongly to Johnson. "I've always loved that house," Johnson says. "I tease Lori, telling her, this should be my house, right?" Maybe not, but Lori is happy to share the credit.
Interior design: Lori Tippins, Lori Tippins Interiors, 3038 Arden Rd., Atlanta, GA 30305; 404/441-6668, loritippinsinteriors.com.
Architectural consultant: Holly Mizelle Johnson, HMJ Designs, LLC, 840 Independence Court, Philadelphia, PA 19147.
Landscape architect: Chris Threadgill, Threadgill & Assoc., 508 N. Lakeshore Dr., Carrollton, GA 30117; 770/834-1137.
Photography: Emily Followill
Produced by Lisa Mowry
Lori Tippins nicknamed her antique French farmhouse table the "swayback mare" because of its sagging top.
The lamps were made by Lori's mother, Lou Treadaway, who custom-fabricates lamps and accessories.
Three sets of French doors are draped floor to ceiling with elegant charcoal silk taffeta lined with white silk satin from Koplavitch & Zimmer.
When she couldn't find light fixtures to her liking, Lori designed and had made gilded metal lanterns. Wood floors, laid in a herringbone pattern, and beamed ceilings give the new home a sense of age.
The floor plan and kitchen cabinets were designed around one of Lori's favorite purchases-an antique French breakfront.
Leather chairs by Wesley Hall flank the salvaged fireplace surround. Reclaimed French doors were made into a cabinet that hides the TV above the fireplace.
Walls in the guest bedroom are Farrow & Ball "Light Blue"-Lori's go-to color. The headboard is upholstered in a Kravet raffia and dressed with a canopy and bed curtains in a bird-themed Ainsworth-Noah linen.
The same Farrow & Ball blue is paired with white marble floor tiles and countertops in the master bath. A Kravet embroidered linen Roman shade adds softness and provides privacy.
The Tippin family often dine on their back portch on a recycled marble slab set on vintage pedestals.
Wood-molded bricks were used rather than standard extruded masonry to give the new house an aged look.
Lori and Clay Tippin and their children Henley, 7, and 4-year-old William Jr. (nicknamed "Tip").