Traditional Building Portfolio



Modest Additions

A 1920s Tudor-style cottage in Atlanta is renovated by a local firm.

Project: Harris-Oakley House, Atlanta, GA

Architect: Harrison Design Associates, Atlanta, GA; Gregory L. Palmer, AIA, principal; Derek Hopkins, Associate AIA; Karen Ferguson, ASID, associate

Building Contractor: Bildon Construction & Development, Atlanta, GA

By Annabel Hsin

Peachtree Heights West, a neighborhood within the upscale district of Buckhead in Atlanta, GA, is home to a 1920s Tudor-style cottage designed by New York-based C.C. Wendehack and built for Joel Chandler Harris Jr. (son of well-known writer and folklorist Joel Chandler Harris). Wendehack's design was carried out by local firm Ivey and Crook, which designed much of the interior as well as a nearby carriage house on the property. In contrast to its large neighboring residences – an eclectic mix of various Revival styles as well as others with Mediterranean, European and American precedents – the modest cottage was built at just under 3,900 sq.ft.; details included textured stucco rendered over a masonry backing, a steep sloping gabled roof in slate and brick quoining that surrounds narrow casement windows. Throughout the interior, the walls and rolled corners were a unique three-coat plaster finish accompanied with white-oak trim and flooring.

In 2000, a family from Louisiana purchased the cottage and lived there for several months before determining what renovations were needed. With the exception of the kitchen, which had been updated by the previous owners, the interior remained true to its original design with many of the ornaments and finishes still intact. Nonetheless, the layout wasn't suited for a modern lifestyle and the house was too small for the family of four. The main level lacked a family room and formal powder room; the breakfast room was sectioned off from the kitchen; the dining room couldn't accommodate large gatherings; and on the upper level, the bedrooms were small and needed larger storage areas.

Shortly after determining their design goals, the owners approached Harrison Design Associates (HDA), of Atlanta, GA. They also enlisted the help of Rick Fierer and Bob Batterton of Bildon Construction (also based in Atlanta), who shared their appreciation and respect of the home's traditional design. In addition to expanding the home, the family also required guest accommodations and a courtyard with outdoor living areas. However, regardless of the programmatic goals, it was crucial that the design plan preserve the cottage's original character and intimate atmosphere. "One of the first things the clients said was that contrary to government regulations on preservation, they wanted the additions and the renovations to be seamless so that as you walk through the house you don't have a sense of going from the old structure to the new," says Gregory L. Palmer, principal at HDA.

Accommodating all of the initial programmatic goals resulted in a floor plan that included an L-shaped addition, which housed guest accommodations and framed a courtyard; adjacent to the addition, the carriage house would enclose the space. "As we got into the design, the house became too large," says Palmer. "While it could accompany far more people in an elegant manner, the house lost some of its spirit. It was becoming a Tudor manor and that's not what the clients were about. We scaled back some of the upstairs bedrooms, the family room became smaller and the carriage house contained some of the guest facilities. This was a case of editing the program to what is essential for living in this house."

The family room addition replaced a covered porch at the rear elevation. It was extended with an intersecting gable to lead directly to the living room. The two rooms are separated with leaded glass doors and sidelites, the latter of which are monogrammed and original, to pay homage to the original owner. In contrast to the living room's formal details – heart-pine ceiling beams and a Gothic-style fireplace with a copper hood – the family room evokes a casual atmosphere with a vaulted ceiling, a simple antique French limestone mantel and several French doors for ample light exposure. "The living room is a wonderfully scaled room but when you have a large group, there was nowhere for them to land, so the house became congested because of all the dead-end rooms," says Palmer. "The family room allowed us to have structural flow through the rooms."

Across the stair hall, the dining room was also expanded. A large fireplace with subtle Gothic details serves as the room's focal point and is flanked by Tudor-arched French doors. New windows on the south side were supplied by Crittall of Birmingham, England, and match seamlessly with originals throughout the house. Beyond the dining room, a covered terrace houses an outdoor kitchen with a rustic stone fireplace, bluestone floors, cypress cabinets, columns and ceilings as well as a custom-designed copper hood fabricated by Zirkon, Inc., of Cumming, GA.

A butler's pantry separates the dining room from the kitchen and breakfast areas. The existing kitchen was gutted for the breakfast room addition (its cabinetry and appliances were salvaged and installed in the guest facilities of the carriage house). The kitchen features a maple countertop island and custom designed cabinetry manufactured by Atlanta Custom Cabinetry.

The gable on the south side of the breakfast room, which was part of the existing front façade, was preserved to maintain the original form of the house. French-oak ceiling trusses mirroring those found on the existing gable façade reflect a sense of generational growth. Bricks extracted for the opening between the kitchen and breakfast room were salvaged to build a pizza oven and brick flooring latticed with white oak unites the two spaces.

On the upper level, the master bedroom was converted into a nursery with a new bathroom addition. The new master suite includes a sitting area, dressing room, additional closets and a master bath. A third bedroom was renovated as a study room paneled with heart pine and complementing ceiling beams. Upon completion, the house had gained an additional 2,100 sq.ft.

The nearby carriage house, formerly awkwardly located in the middle of the lot, was relocated to the southern edge of the property. "There had been an attempt to renovate the carriage house so the half timbering was concealed by cement boards with one-by-twos nailed on top. Going back to the original drawings this had very little semblance of what Ivey and Crook produced. There was a two-car garage and a small living area with a small loft-type guest space above so we took that exact footprint and modified it slightly," says Palmer. After stripping the exterior materials, a pergola, period-friendly garage doors and dormers were installed on the front façade. The west elevation consists of granite covered with ivy to resemble a garden wall, and frames the courtyard space. Reclaimed slate was used on the roofs of the carriage house and additions to match the existing roof on the home.

"The major challenge here was being considerate of the house," says Palmer. "You have to be deferential to what came before you. As an architect it's not about your idea being the essence of the house but taking the essence as it exists and being respectful of what was done by another architect to deliver what is right for the house. If the previous architect was alive it would be something they would be comfortable with. I can always hope that future architects will accord my work with the same respect."  

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