Monday, May 11, 2009

The Beautiful Home of a Designer

Every year in May, a volunteer arm of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta has a tour of homes in the Peachtree Battle section of Buckhead, where there are many beautiful houses built in the 1920s-1940s. The homes on the tour are usually newly renovated and decorated, and are real family homes, not staged showhouses (although I do love these too!). This year there were several homes that were just outside of the Peachtree Battle area, in the Peachtree Heights section of Buckhead (often called 'the jewel box of Atlanta'). One of them was my favorite kind of new home: a 'new old house', designed in such a classic style that it looks as if it has been there for years. It was evident from the moment I stepped into the house that the decor was done by an experienced and well trained eye; as it turns out, the home is owned and decorated by Lori Tippins, a talented young interior designer who used to work with a very well known Southern gentleman designer.

Lori and and her husband Clay originally lived in a 1950s ranch house on this site, but soon found that it was too small for their growing family. They considered renovating the original house, but ultimately decided to build a new house on the site with the help of architect Holly Johnson. Lori's goal was a house that was classic, but highly livable. She had long admired the work of Lutyens (considered one of the greatest British architects of all time), as well as the beautiful classic Atlanta homes found in her Buckhead neighborhood. With these as her inspiration, the home was designed and built over an 18 month period, and was completed in January 2009. The result is both classic and unique, and looks right at home in the neighborhood.

(Note: all pictures were taken by me. To see a larger view click on the picture to expand)

The home employs many English Tudor forms, while remaining simple and clean in detail. The front is symmetrical and features a pair of gables; copper awnings crown the French doors that flank the arched entry. Much reclaimed material and antique architectural elements were incorporated into the design of the home.


One of the first things I noticed about the house was the open air garage, which I had never seen before. Lori said that she has a personal preference for not looking at a garage on the front elevation of a home, and the slope of the lot did not allow for the garage to be placed out of sight. So the garage is open, which allows for the kitchen to have more windows, and also provides a great outdoor entertainment area. If you look closely, you can see a table set up in the middle bay of the garage. Each bay also has a lantern, a charming touch.


When entering through the front door, the eye is immediately drawn to the charcoal sketches by famed Atlanta artist Steve Penley. The rich color on the wall is a charcoal tone that was custom blended. Lori knew that she wanted a dramatic entry, and had to repaint several times before she got the right tone of charcoal.


Looking down from the stairs, the antique arched front door can be seen, as well as a pair of contemporary abstracts by Atlanta artist Leanne West. Lori used quite a few antique doors in the design of this home, which can be done when custom building; the door openings were created to suit the shape and style of the antique doors. I love the juxtaposition of the antique and the contemporary art - one of my favorite looks.


A charming bench makes for a nice vignette in the entry. When Lori worked with architect Holly Johnson to design her home, they made sure that there was a good balance of wall space, windows, and doors as Lori wanted her home to have good light, but also have space for beautiful vignettes like this.


On the left, off the entry, is the elegant dining room. There are three sets of French doors, which make it a light and airy space during the day. Because the entry is so richly colored and dramatic, Lori wanted the dining room to have a sense of lightness to it. The charcoal tone is carried through to the curtains (which also have a blue tone to them), but the overall feel is light. The chandelier is an antique from one of Atlanta's finest stores, Jacqueline Adams. Lori is a self-professed lighting aficionado, and all of the lighting in the home is either antique or custom designed by Lori.


A different view of the dining room. The door on the left connects through a small wet bar to the kitchen. The flow in this house is very good - every room connects to another, and every room is truly used. On the right the antique doors to the dining room can be seen, just one of the many details that gives this house character.


Lori fondly pointed out the 'marble man' that she and her husband bought at an estate sale in San Francisco; it has a pedestal, but there are so many young children in and out of the house that Lori feared the marble man would fall and hurt someone. So, the marble man stays in the corner for now!


The living room is to the right of the foyer, and it too has antique doors. The living room also has three sets of French doors, creating a space that is filled with light.


For her own home, Lori likes high tables instead of coffee tables. The antique trumeau was one of her first purchases, and set the tone for the room. Although it is hard to see in these pictures, the wall color is a beautiful tone called appaloosa by Pratt & Lambert. It is readily apparent when seeing the home in person that Lori is masterful with color.


The antique sketches and etchings combined with the crystal lamps and the flowering dogwood branches makes such a beautiful vignette, one of my favorites in the house. To the right of the antique etchings is the opening to the family room. The house really flowed so well, and Lori said she wanted an easy transition from one room to another.


The family room spans much of the back of the house, and the doors flanking the fireplace lead to a covered porch. The room to the right of the sconce is the powder room (more on that later).


When Lori and architect Holly Johnson designed the house, they carefully considered the balance of wall space to windows and doors; so many homes today sacrifice wall space for openness, and end up with few wall spaces to anchor furniture or hang art. Lori particularly wanted to have this wall space in the family room (the stairs are on the other side), and the arrangement here is the focal point of the room.


Lori's mother is also a talented artist, and hand turns wood to make beautiful lamps. The lamps on the antique console were made by Lori's mother, and look great with Lori's collection of Chinese blue and white. When I toured the home last week, I found this vignette to be so striking with its elegant symmetry. I could not put a tablescape together to save my life, so I have such an appreciation for the artistic eye it takes to put together such a beautiful arrangement!


A close up of an antique piece circa 1870, which belonged to an attorney in Belgium and is the home to much of Lori's Chinese blue and white collection. The sconces were custom designed by Lori.


The chandelier in the family room was one of my favorite lighting fixtures in the house.


The French doors flanking the fireplace lead out to the covered terrace, which is a highly desirable feature in an Atlanta home. I should have taken a wider shot of the terrace as the fireplace can't be seen.


The kitchen and the family room span the back of the house, and an antique French table is centered in the middle of the two (in lieu of a separate breakfast area). Lori says that this is one of the best decisions she made in designing the home; the table is a real gathering place for friends and family, and keeps the kitchen and family room very open.


Overhead cabinet space was kept to a minimum in the kitchen in order to make it feel more like a comfortable room; the kitchen was designed with extra drawer space for storage. Lori used crema delacato marble on the countertops, in keeping with the European feel of the house, and looks forward to the patina that the counters will gain with age and use. The lanterns over the island were custom designed by Lori, and the barstools are antique.


A space was custom made for Lori's prized antique French vaisselier. Lori said that when she pulls into her driveway at night, she can see through the French doors of the dining room to the vaisselier in the back of the kitchen, a view that she enjoys every time.


There is a small wing off the family room that contains the powder room and the guest bedroom and bathroom. Since the powder room is visible from the family room, Lori wanted to give the sense that it is a decorated room. She used an antique chest for the sink, a Louis Philippe mirror, and two Simon Pearce lamps with silk shades. On the right wall, not seen in this picture, is an antique painting that hung in the Royal Academy of Arts, and the small chandelier was designed by Lori.


At the end of the small hall next to the powder room is the guest bedroom. It is quite light and airy because of the windows and the soft tones used in the decor, and is possibly the most beautiful guest room I have ever seen! The color on the walls is Farrow & Ball light blue. This color is also used in the master bathroom, and it translates more as green upstairs. Lori enjoys using Farrow & Ball colors as they change colors based on the light and the environment they are in.


A view of the room from the other side - the antique panels were too pretty not to show.


Another beautiful vignette, and the bedside table is so unique.


The guest bathroom. Lori used Restoration Hardware sconces in the guest bathroom and her daughter's bathroom; she loved them, and once she found them, felt no need to look any further. Farrow and Ball light blue is also used in the bathroom, and it is interesting to see how the green comes through in this room.


A close-up of the honed marble tiles used on the floor.


Back to the entry, and up the stairs. Lori uses a lot of sisal in her house, which has a natural beauty and is quite durable.


The upstairs is comprised of three bedrooms and a laundry room. A small hall connects one side of the upstairs to the other; the master/master bathroom/master closet spans the back of the house, and the children's rooms are on either side of the front. A sisal runner is in the hall, and the art above the bench is by the same artist who painted the abstracts in the entry, Leanne West. Look at the reflection of the lanterns on the ceiling - it is small details like this that make a home interesting.


As a mother of girls, I have full appreciation for the beauty of this room! The bed was Lori's as a child, and she had it repaired and refinished for her daughter. The color on the walls is half strength pewter mug by Porter Paints; Lori's daughter wanted purple, and Lori wanted gray, so pewter mug was the perfect middle ground. The pink and white of the fabric and the light in the room cast quite a bit of a pink hue on the wall, making the purple tone in the paint come through. I had mentioned earlier that Lori has a wonderful way with color; usually I like walls that are neutral, but after seeing Lori's house I was tempted to go home and paint several rooms in my house!


The side of the room, which has an antique bureau and a pair of Queen Anne mirrors. The beauty of this room is that it is ageless; it is as suitable for a young child as it is for a teenager (and beyond).


The daughter's bathroom is a vision in pink and white.


The room of Lori's son is classic and timeless as well. At Scott's antique market, Lori found a series of soldier engravings from an antique book, and the theme for the room was determined. This is particularly meaningful given Lori's husband's years of military service.


The lamps on the bedside table were hand crafted by Lori's mother, and the antique sabers were found at Scott's antique market. Notice the beautiful Greek key trim on the curtains.


The bathroom is painted in Ralph Lauren true blue. This blue took a while to select, as so many blues are either too purple or too gray.


The master bedroom is a lovely oasis.


Another view of the bedroom. The lamps on the bedside table were also made by Lori's mother, and custom painted.


The master bathroom, painted in the same Farrow and Ball light blue as the guest bedroom, yet the color reads in its own unique way in this room. Lori selected polished marble for the floor of the master bathroom. The antique chair is a charming touch.

The vanity area of the master bathroom. I found this master bathroom to be the perfect size and scale - not too big, not too small.


The office on the third floor - called 'the man's room' by Lori. The home also has a full basement that can be finished in a few years when the children grow older.

I hope you enjoyed the tour of Clay and Lori Tippins' beautiful home! When I asked Lori about her design philosophy, her first thought was 'soulful, livable elegance', and she acknowledged that she prefers fresh and carefully edited, classic and timeless. Although the decor reflects her own personal taste and love for antiques and the patina that only time and age can give, for her clients she believes in fiercely personal design that truly reflects a person's style.

What struck me about Lori was that she seemed to be very in touch with the varied needs and requirements of her clients, particularly in these challenging economic times. Although Lori has a trained eye for fine antiques, beautiful lighting, and elegant materials, she can also mix it up with well selected items from places like Restoration Hardware and little known secret sources that cut out the middleman and save her clients time and money.

For more information on Lori Tippins Interiors, you can contact her at Her website,, is being launched in the near future, so check it soon for updates.