Atlanta designers immerse themselves in the works of an iconic southern architect to update a classic home
Say the name Neel Reid in Atlanta circles—or at least among people who have a passion for home design—and there will likely be solemn nods of appreciation. Reid was not just an architect, he was the architect in Atlanta, Macon, and other Georgia cities in the early part of the 20th century. Although he died in 1926, the homes he designed—many in Atlanta’s prestigious Buckhead neighborhood—are still coveted and revered for their traditional style, graceful proportions, and classic details. Today’s Southern architects respectfully tread carefully when renovating a Neel Reid home.
In 2006, Nicole and Neil Metzheiser fell in love with a 1918 Reid-designed home in Atlanta and moved in with their three pre-school-age boys. “I grew up in an old house in Michigan, and I’ve always appreciated their charms,” Nicole says. “This house was such a great family home, with a nice flow, great old windows with wavy glass, and wonderful natural light,” she adds.
“We didn’t do a whole lot in the beginning because we wanted to live there first to see what we liked and what needed to be changed,” explains Nicole, who is a professional interior designer.
Photography: Emily Jenkins Followill
Produced by Lisa Mowry
Architect: Tim Adams, T.S. Adams Studio Architects Inc., 2969 Hardman Court N.E., Atlanta, GA 30305-3424; 877/283-3499, tsadamsstudio.com .
Interior design: Nicole Metzheiser, Bella Jupe Designs
The 1918 Atlanta home with clapboard siding was designed by the late Neel Reid.
Family Room Before
Three years later, the Metzheisers were ready to roll. First up: Redoing the family room (a lack of insulation made it too cold to use in the winter) and building a new garage with a guest suite.
In the family room, Nicole and Adams focused on adding charm and warmth to the formerly nondescript room. “We completely gutted it. The proportions were great, but it needed detail,” Adams says.
Before: The family room was poorly insulated, making it too cold to use during the winter.
Family Room After
Insulation, butt-joint wood walls, and a new floor made with salvaged wood were installed. Adams designed a paneled walnut fireplace surround and built-in shelves incorporating brackets and other details found in the original plans. A plastered ceiling with reclaimed wood beams was added to give the space character and boost its cozy factor.
While the room’s old windows were not energy-efficient, Adams and the Metzheisers agreed they shouldn’t be replaced. “They were so gorgeous,” the architect says. “Our goal was to maintain the character of the old home, so we kept the wavy-glass windows and maximized the insulation in other ways-—in the walls and floors, and reworking the HVAC system.”
Nicole warmed the room with plush furnishings and an Oushak rug. “With three boys in the family, we want the room to feel relaxed, not fussy. It’s where we can sit around and watch football games, have hors d’oeuvres, and not worry about spills,” she says.
After: Ceiling beams and beautiful wood paneling charm in the once boring room.
Additions and changes had to be in keeping with the architectural character of the original house, the Metzheisers insisted, and they found a willing partner in architect Tim Adams.
Before: The garage (of a later vintage) was not in line with the style of the rest of the house.
Adams studied books about Reid and his designs, and looked at Reid’s original drawings of the Metzheiser house. “I referenced back to those plans and got into what Neel Reid had done. I then worked to pull details [from the plans] and design a carriage house in keeping with his architecture,” Adams says. Those included wide overhangs with cutouts on the rafter tails and an arbor above the garage doors, a detail included on Reid’s original drawings.
After: The previous structure was replaced with a carriage house that was inspired by the home's classic architecture.
The sun-filled living room is painted Benjamin Moore's "Elephant Tusk." Antique wooden armchairs flank the central window; a one-of-a-kind chandelier dangles above the ottoman.
Living Room Detail
A beautiful custom ottoman topped by a silver tray anchors the living room seating area. Fresh blue hydrangeas complement the color scheme.
The kitchen was the next project, and although it had been remodeled over the years, it was dark and dreary. There were also a few dated features, such as an ominous copper hood over a center island and a stacked stone fireplace. “They had to go,” Adams says.
Before: Dark cabinets and beams overhead made the kitchen feel small.
“One of Nicole’s biggest desires was to get light into the kitchen,” the architect adds. To do that, he bumped out a 15-foot stretch of an exterior wall by about 3 feet, gaining space for a family dining area with a bank of windows.
After: The oak island is topped with Alabama White marble and illuminated by hanging lanterns from Circa Lighting.
Breakfast Room Before
Before: The exisitng kitchen was narrow, making it hard to gather in the space.
Breakfast Room After
“I’m big into protecting the work space,” Adams says. “We created a flow so people naturally congregate outside the island.”
“When I cook, everyone else can be in the kitchen with me and be comfortable,” Nicole says. “I love to entertain at home. It’s so much more fun to have people over here than to go to a restaurant. It’s easier to talk and is just more intimate.”
After: A wall was bumped out 3 feet to create space for a family dining area with a bank of windows.
Adams reconfigured the 16x12-foot kitchen by function: A primary work zone includes the island, range, refrigerator, and sink; a small pantry with a sink works as a breakfast bar with a coffeepot and toaster oven; and a wet bar offers an ideal spot for guests to gather. There’s also a walk-in food pantry and a floor-to-ceiling china closet.
Tucked behind the range wall is a pantry with a square Whitehaus Collection sink and a Rohl faucet. The walk-in food pantry is to the right of the sink.
A mirrored wall lining a dramatic barrel-arch niche creates a focal point and an attractive spot for guests to gather for drinks when the family entertains.
Kitchen Sitting Area Before
The Metzheisers kept the gas fireplace and sitting area because Neil enjoys chatting with Nicole in the evenings as she fixes dinner. But the stacked-stone fireplace hearth and surround were torn out and replaced with a simple wood-and-marble surround.
Before: The stacked-stone fireplace was cozy, but too cumbersome for the dining space.
Kitchen Sitting Area After
A pair of swivel armchairs flank the fireplace. “Those swivel chairs are the best,” Nicole says. “They really allow for conversation because you can turn to talk to someone.” The sitting spot is good for catching the nightly news, too, because a television is housed in an upper cabinet to the right of the range.
After: The swivel chairs covered in a Kravet fabric flank the redesigned raised-hearth fireplace. French doors on each side of the fireplace lead to a screened porch.
French doors to the screened porch were installed on each side of the fireplace. “We often have those doors open so the kitchen and porch feel like one big space,” Nicole says. A stone fireplace on the porch backs the kitchen fireplace, and the Metzheisers often retreat there to relax after dinner.
“I loved everything about this project. Nicole had a clear vision of what she wanted,” Adams explains. “I’m particularly proud of the kitchen and how seamless it is with the house’s architecture. We were able to tie things back together so it does feel like part of the original house.” We’re betting Neel Reid would approve.
On the porch, antique wicker chairs surround a coffee table on the Safavieh area rug.
Cream sofa and chairs from Waterfall Charles of London set a relaxed mood in the glassed-in porch next to the living room. The ceiling is painted “Bird’s Egg” by Benjamin Moore.
In the master bedroom, calming tones prevail. Cool blue Kravet fabric covers a custom headboard; a painting by Amy Dixon hangs above the raised lattice-front chest from Hooker Furniture.
Homeowner and designer Nicole Metzheiser sits with George, a Portuguese water dog, on the stone patio outside of the family room. The French doors with a fan transom replaced ones that had been added years ago. “We wanted doors that looked more original to the house,” Nicole says.