Inside The Sensitive Transformation Of A 1920s Atlanta Bungalow

March 19, 2024 | by

Hope can take many forms. For a 1925 bungalow in Atlanta’s historic Inman Park neighborhood, it was a stained glass window shining amid the construction rubble. Most of this home’s demolition had already taken place by the time interior designers Lathem Gordon and Cate Dunning first toured the site with their clients. “Even through all the dust and turmoil, there was this glowing window with light shining through it,” Dunning recalls. “It was almost as if it was saying, ‘I’m the tiny heart of this house that’s still beating. Please save me.’ ”

Fortunately, the homeowners—a duo of doctors with a growing young family—were committed to reviving the cottage. Says the wife: “I’ve always been drawn to older homes with interesting architecture, so it was important for us to honor the character of this house.” 

By the time Gordon and Dunning came aboard, the clients had already tapped residential designer Todd Pritchett and architect Craig Dixon to lead the historically sensitive revision and expansion in coordination with general contractor David Childers. Adhering to local preservation requirements, which dictate that rooflines must remain unchanged from the street, Pritchett and Dixon proposed a three-story addition to the rear. Only the living and dining rooms would remain untouched. A new kitchen, family room and screened porch would round out the main level, while the upstairs—including two bedrooms, two bathrooms, the laundry room and playroom—would supplant previously unusable attic space. “Everyone said it was impossible to squeeze all that function out of the attic, but we figured out how to use every square inch,” Pritchett recounts. 

The same spatial wizardry was applied to the bottom floor. Mostly a dirt crawl space, the basement was dug out and expanded into the addition to accommodate a wine-tasting room with bottle storage, a cozy seating area, powder room and guest suite, all fitting neatly within new limestone-clad walls that evoke an old stone cellar. To connect the three levels harmoniously, the two men conjured a staircase with simple yet traditional balusters, orienting it along the dining room wall for maximum impact. “For the stairs, we tried to pick up on the spirit and the details of what you might expect to find in a house of that time period,” Dixon says. 

Bonding over their shared passion for preservation, the team saved all of the existing windows, including that initial stained glass panel, while also repurposing multiple doors. “We were adamant about hanging on to as many original elements as possible,” Gordon says, “and David really came through on that collaboration.” It also meant keeping all seven fireplaces in their original locations, restoring vintage mantel pieces and replacing damaged tile, including that of the primary bathroom—for which the designers scored a one-of-a-kind tile dating from the 1700s. “The plan was to save as much as we could, then to do something that speaks to the vibe of the house in those instances when we couldn’t,” she relays.

At the same time, the designers understood that a house is more than a period set piece and should serve as a reflection of its inhabitants. “The common thread through all of our design work is that you should be unapologetically yourself, and your home should emerge from that,” Dunning says. Craving interiors that would convey comfort, livability and even a little funk, she and Gordon relied on a British aesthetic, favored by the wife, that’s heavy on color, pattern and wit. Take the study, which is enveloped in a “deep and soulful pink,” or the dining room, where wallpaper depicting frolicking monkeys can make any meal a delight. This sense of whimsy continues upstairs to the playroom, where curtain-covered alcoves and a scalloped bookcase form the sweetest setting for sleepovers. It’s a space that will no doubt see lots of action: The clients began the project with two young daughters, and by the time it concluded, they had three. “Now, the girls get to grow up in a house literally surrounded by imagination, creativity and history—and those things will become part of their everyday lives,” Dunning muses.

It’s a sentiment that resonates with the wife, who couldn’t be happier about inhabiting a bungalow where past and future joyfully collide. “There were many times when we wondered what we got ourselves into,” she recalls. “But it immediately felt like home the moment we moved in, and it’s been that way ever since.”


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