View elegant yet durable furnishings in the family home of former Atlanta Braves' shortstop Jeff Blauser.
Base hits and double plays were Jeff Blauser's bread and butter for more than 10 years as a major leaguer for the Atlanta Braves. Who knew the shortstop had a keen eye for architecture and design as well?
Now retired from playing professional baseball, Jeff and his wife, Andee, drafted their own team--architects, designers, artisans, and a contractor--to build a new home in the Atlanta area. The couple and their two children, Abbie, 11, and Cooper, 8, needed space to spread out, but building big wasn't the overriding goal. Instead, Jeff and Andee favored a flowing floor plan with a great room, kitchen, and loggia on the back of the house that see as much action as a pitcher's mound. Kids' pool parties and sleepovers, family dinners and impromptu gatherings on the loggia are the norm at the Blauser house. Interiors are a graceful blend of Southern elegance and down-home Southern hospitality, reflecting Andee's Louisiana upbringing.
"I love the beauty of neutrals," says Andee, who warmed to a dreamy backdrop of cream and taupe, with blue and chocolate accents. Elegance was key, but so were furnishings that would perform. Antique beams, oiled wood floors, and nubby fabrics tone down any pretense of dressiness and are virtually indestructible. "Both Jeff and I love antiques, so we wanted to go that route," says Andee. "We also mixed in new things because it makes rooms unique and more interesting. We don't want to look like everyone else."
Atlanta designers Heather Dewberry and Will Huff hit the antiques markets and shops with Andee in search of furnishings that were the right mix of comfort and style. "They wanted a home that was great for entertaining and would also feel cozy when it was just the four of them," Dewberry says. Both Jeff and Andee weighed in on design decisions, and Andee, in particular, "had to really love something before they bought," the designer adds.
The same held true for the architecture, with the Blausers taking a couple of years to finalize house plans. "They wanted an English manor-style home, but they also wanted it to be open and contemporary inside," says Bill Harrison, who designed the house with fellow architect Bulent Baydar. Triple gables across the front pay homage to the English style, while huge bay windows ensure interiors are flooded with light.
"That's one of the trends we're seeing," adds Baydar. "People want the look of an old home on the outside, but inside they want lighter spaces with lots of windows, less trim, and clean lines." Per Jeff's request, interior trim and architectural details are restrained. "Jeff wanted clean lines, minimal trim, nothing fussy," Baydar says.
The open floor plan is centered on a spacious stair hall that flows to the great room, kitchen, and a loggia. French doors topped with transoms and gabled windows cut into the kitchen's vaulted ceiling fill the rooms with light. Antique ceiling beams and trim around some doorways ground the rooms, adding warmth and character. "These are very fluid spaces, and the house almost feels contemporary, but it is brought back to traditional with the natural beams, the wood trim, and, of course, the furnishings," Harrison says.
A pair of sculptural chaises and a chocolate brown sofa in the great room allow for comfortable television viewing without blocking the French doors.
"As you walk in the front door, you see right into the great room," says Dewberry. "We didn't want to block the views from those glass doors with sofas."
While the chaises were custom-made to fit Jeff's 6-foot-1-inch frame, "the kids have totally claimed them," Andee says. Fortunately, the designers covered them with a durable chenille basket-weave fabric. "This is a high-traffic room, so we made sure fabrics would perform." A center coffee table/ottoman wears easy-care Ultrasuede. "You can spill anything on it and wipe it off," Dewberry says.
A multiarm Italian chandelier hangs above the ottoman and balances the large room without dominating it. "We all fell in love with that chandelier," Huff remembers. "It's open and elegant and just what the room needed."
Activities spill from the great room into the showstopper kitchen, with a ceiling that soars to 24 feet. Counter bar stools and a charming scalloped high-back banquette in the family dining area allow for plenty of seating for daily meals and when the family entertains. "The square-to-round table is great when we have extra people," Andee says. "We can just open the leaves on the four sides and pull up a few more chairs."
Atlanta kitchen designer Beth Barfield maximized limited wall space for cabinets with a tall, pull-out pantry beside the range and countertop-level cabinets with flip-up doors for storing small appliances. Cabinets are painted a soft blue-gray, a palette repeated throughout the house; corner cabinets are fitted with leaded mercury-glass fronts. A scallop-topped marble backsplash on the sink wall, curvaceous candle-style sconces, and graceful chandeliers give the space a dressy feel without being overly formal. "We're definitely not over-the-top-type people," Andee says.
Proving that, the Blausers spend much of their time on the loggia off the kitchen. With soft seating, outdoor draperies, a fireplace, and a television, "the loggia is Jeff's favorite room," Andee reports. Friends often drop by with the greeting, "Is it loggia time?" she adds. "In the summer, we have the fans going, and when it's cool, we light the fire and close the outdoor curtains. It's really cozy." A home run, whatever the season.
Architect: Bulent Baydar, Harrison Design Assoc., 3198 Cains Hill Pl. N.W., Atlanta, GA 30305-1844; 404/365-7760, harrisondesignassociates.com.
Interior design: William C. Huff Jr., and Heather Zarrett Dewberry, Huff-Dewberry, LLC, 2300 Peachtree Rd. N.W., Suite B201, Atlanta, GA 30309-1122; 404/355-7600, huffdewberry.com.
Kitchen design: Beth Barfield, Beth Barfield Designs, 3135 Margaret Mitchell Dr., Atlanta, GA 30327; 404/867-1725, bethbarfielddesigns.com.
Photography: Emily Followill
Produced by Lisa Mowry
In the sitting room, quartersawn oak paneling with a whitewashed finish enhances a limestone fireplace tucked into an arched inglenook.
The dining room's antique host and hostess chairs were re-covered and monograms stitched onto the back cushions. "We wanted to create family heirlooms," says designer Heather Dewberry.
A banquette covered in "pleather" backs the island. Barry Dixon chairs are covered in Ultrasuede--another easy-care fabric. Floors are hand-scraped walnut. Lead caming in graceful semicircles embellishes mirror-front corner cabinets.
In a hallway, turquoise oyster plates and a giant clamshell are a nod to Andee's Louisiana heritage.
Durable fabrics such as Ultrasuede cover furniture to withstand traffic from the swimming pool just outside this terrace-level rec room. "We dialed up the color when we came downstairs to the terrace level," says designer Heather Dewberry.
A Hawaiian quilt motif was reinterpreted as an appliqué on the fronts and backs of side chairs.
The master bedroom's custom bed has a scalloped wood canopy and headboard upholstered in blue velvet. A glazed blue linen covers the underside of the canopy and the wall behind the headboard.
In the master bath, a Waterworks soaking tub is centered in an alcove.
The triple-gabled house is wrapped in brick with a thin, tinted stuccolike coating.
Jeff and Andee Blauser and their children Cooper and Abbie.