Before and after: If this redo had a motto, it would be “lighten up!”
Atlanta interior designer Bill Murphy was on the hunt for a new home when he spotted an orange brick, 1960s-era ranch tucked among grand Tudors and elegant Georgians in the prestigious Buckhead district. The house's deceptively generous size-5,700 square feet on two levels-and heavily wooded lot won him over. With encouragement and advice from his longtime business partner and fellow designer, Jim Essary, Bill bought the house and embarked on an extensive renovation. The orange brick was painted a neutral putty that blends with the wooded surroundings. To camouflage the chimney, a wrought-iron ladder-style trellis was added and planted with jasmine. A new driveway, walkways, and plantings of magnolia trees, azaleas, ivy, bamboo, and flowering annuals make the house a welcome retreat at the end of Bill's busy workday.
Architect: Fred Bainbridge.
Interior design: Bill Murphy, Essary & Murphy Inc., 2870 Peachtree Rd., Atlanta, GA 30305; 404/609-9091, jessary.com .
Landscape design: Hamilton Land Services, 404/842-1949, hamiltonlandservices.com .
Photography: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn
Produced by Lisa Mowry
BEFORE: Bill Murphy's house before he transformed it.
Because the house had plenty of room, Bill Murphy stayed within the original footprint, focusing on opening up views and capitalizing on the house's natural setting. Inspired by nature's palette, he infused the room with green-in the fabrics, paint colors, and accessories. "I love green, and that's why there's so much green in the house. It plays up the outdoors," Bill says. "It's calm and easy to live with."
Double front entry doors open to the spacious foyer. To add drama and create comfortable transitions to other adjoining rooms, Bill lifted the foyer ceiling from 8 feet to 101⁄2 feet. “I wanted the foyer to be taller so when you look into the dining room and the study, those rooms with their 8-foot ceilings would feel more intimate,” he explains. He had the foyer’s gray slate floor with white grout stained a soft green to minimize the distracting patterns created by the grout lines. An antique bronze chandelier and round pedestal table make an elegant statement.
Architectural engravings in matching frames hang in a grid arrangement in the foyer, repeating the grid patterns on sidelights at the living room entry and flanking the front doors.
Metal sliding doors in the living room were replaced with floor-to-ceiling windows with glass doors on either end that open to a balcony overlooking the backyard. “I wanted to open up the whole back of the house with glass. That wall between the doors just stopped the eye,” Bill says. “Now people walk in and say, oh my gosh, what a view.” The disconcertingly slanted ceiling in the living room was lowered to a uniform 12-foot height.
BEFORE: The living room with sliding glass doors that Bill replaced with floor-to-ceiling windows (see previous slide).
A new gas fireplace with an elegantly carved antique pine mantel adds character to the living room. Bumping out the wall to accommodate the firebox helped break up what had been a monotonous 28-foot stretch of blank space. Mirrors on either side of the fireplace were custom made using antique Swedish door panels. The base of twin console tables beneath the mirrors were made from salvaged wrought-iron balcony railings from Italy.
In the dining room, a door to the kitchen was walled over, eliminating an undesirable view of the stove from the dining room and foyer. Now there’s wall space for an antique Regency sideboard and an arrangement of 17th-century botanical prints. Walls are upholstered in a celery-green cheetah fabric, also used for the draperies. A metal slider that previously stepped out into shrubs was replaced with two tall narrow windows flanking a single glass door. The door now opens to a small terrace with an iron railing edged with azaleas.
BEFORE: The pre-renovation dining room area.
A homegrown centerpiece and Copeland Spode antique china await luncheon guests.
A guest bedroom is warmed by brown ticking fabric on the walls and brown toile draperies. English transferware hangs above the bamboo headboard. A bronze Chinese incense burner floats on an acrylic stand in the corner, and an antique magnifying glass sits on a side table.
The study was lightened with new windows and a decorative paint technique that gives the previously dark mahogany paneled walls the look of warm antique pine. The paneling was stripped, bleached, painted a mustard gold, and then striéd with an umber glaze to create a graining effect, Bill explains. A television and sound system are concealed in built-in cabinets and Bill often reads at his desk or watches TV in the study.
The U-shaped configuration of the kitchen remains the same, but cabinets, appliances, sink, and a cushy cork floor are sharp updates. “The cork is soft and never shows anything,” Bill says. “It has a grayish cast that is nice with the stainless finishes.” The swirling grain of the brown marble countertops complements the variegated coloring of the cork floor. Mirrored backsplashes and a stainless-steel panel behind the range hood reflect the light and make the room feel open. “It’s a little, skinny galley kitchen, and I thought about making it larger,” Bill says, “but it’s really a perfect size for me.”
BEFORE: The configuration of the kitchen did not change during the update.
At one end of the kitchen, Bill tucked in an upholstered banquette with a space-saving half-round table. Floor-to-ceiling pantries on either side provide ample storage space within steps of the dining room. An oil painting that hangs above the banquette was a perfect discovery. “It looks like I did the whole room around the painting, but I saw it in a gallery after I had finished the room,” Bill says. “It has the lime green and the orange, so I had to take it home.”