Carie Davis, a one-time industrial designer and current investor, must have seen something in the hundred year-old bungalow in Atlanta’s historic Grant Park neighborhood that she bought a few years ago. The compact Craftsman-style abode had been battered by time and the elements—including a fire—and was on the verge of collapse. But Davis’s design instinct tingled. She called up an old friend from school, the architect Adam Ruffin, for help salvaging the mess.
Together, they completely overhauled the property, first stabilizing it, then increasing the size by several hundred square feet. Little of the transformation is evident from the exterior, however, which is not to say changes weren’t made. The street-facing facade, perched several steps above the sidewalk behind a rolling garden, went from a smattering of earth tones to a uniform black that pleasantly contrasts the dense foliage. The large front porch, a signature Craftsman feature and a staple of southern living, received the same monochrome treatment in the round, as did the house’s three other exposures.
But the boldness of the renovation can only be appreciated from the inside. The airy, all-white interiors are marked by a generous sense of spaciousness, the result of targeted teardowns. “We opened up one-half of the plan and took down walls between the living room, dining room, and kitchen, while leaving most of the other half in place,” explained Ruffin, a principal at the New York office of ARCHITECTUREFIRM. The kitchen, which was once a dark and cloistered utilitarian space, is now a marble-lined breezeway linking the living/dining room to a backyard patio.
By far the canniest play was removing the attic and vaulting the ceilings, which accounts for that spacious feeling. It also allowed Ruffin and his team to build a large and usable loft space underneath the new roof they had to put in. Skylights ensure an even level of brightness throughout the day. Lumber cross braces draw the eye upward, providing one of a handful of textural counterpoints found inside. “We could have buried them in Sheetrock or used a different structural detail,” said Ruffin of the roof supports, “but since we didn’t want to make the entire ceiling wood and knew it would be white, we preferred exposing them as natural wood.”
Three bedrooms and a storage closet are slotted beneath the gangway, which is supported by a ceiling framework that is left exposed in the rooms. The decision, said Ruffin, came from a desire to inscribe a “structural honesty” in the domestic architecture. Less honestly, Davis retained the two remnant ends of a dismantled chimney, wrapping both fireplaces in wood trim. In a project driven by logical, if inspired, choices, they are non sequiturs that nonetheless feel somehow essential.
Header Image: A remnant fireplace from a dismantled chimney is one of a handful of compelling touches in this Atlanta revamping. The fireplace adds texture to one of the house’s three bedrooms, while a salvaged hanging lamp adds color and character. (Garey Gomez)