See How This Gorgeous Atlanta Home Stays In This Family
Some people inherit a piece of furniture, maybe an antique watch or engagement ring, from their grandparents. Beau Allen inherited a house—one that was in such a state of disrepair that several family members thought it was a teardown. In fact, when Beau and his wife, Allison, held their wedding in the meadow behind the home in 2015, they threw the after-party in the mold-infested living room. "We filled it with a bunch of balloons and a disco ball. We didn't have to worry about anyone breaking anything," says Allison.
Beau's grandfather Ivan Allen, Jr., was the mayor of Atlanta and a champion of desegregation in the 1960s. He and his wife, Louise, loved to travel and filled the ranch-style, mid-century house with Asian- and African-inspired wallpapers and furniture. But after Louise died in 2008, the house sat unattended for years. Where some saw a lost cause, Allison—who had trained with designers J.D. Bell and Ashley Whittaker in New York—saw a treasure. Sort of. "We thought we'd come in to fix a few things, like a 10-year Band-Aid," she says. Their plan was to make it habitable—good-bye, mold and asbestos—and freshen it up without any major construction. "You don't want to put a ton of money into a house you might tear down one day," she says.
Spoiler: There are no plans to tear it down now. "I had to get creative, but we ended up having a lot of fun," Allison says. "There are so many unique details that I grew to love, like the crazy inlaid designs on the floors and even the old-fashioned hardware. It's such an interesting house." She helmed a furiously quick transformation that took just two months, and that time included a kitchen redo. "I was the general contractor for the project, and my handyman, William "T-bone" Bryant, basically lived here," she says. Color was one of her major changes. "I'm convinced people decorate in the shades that look good on them. Louise was an autumn, so there were a lot of reds and deep yellows," says Allison, who chose a classic blue-and-white palette. But she made sure to include chinoiserie accents as a nod to Louise's love of Asian antiques. Read on to see how Allison updated the 67-year-old home without knocking down a single wall.
The large entry was designed to maximize views from the front door straight to the backyard. Louise was a dedicated gardener, and "the entry was her favorite place in the house to sit," says Allison, who swapped out the old, peeling wallpaper panels for a modern, bonsai-like pattern (Arbour by Meg Braff Designs). She also replaced wall-to-wall carpeting with new hardwood floors.
The Living Room
One of Allison's favorite rooms in the house, this sunken space has a 13-foot ceiling and grand scale, which made filling it tricky. "Many antiques looked like doll furniture in here," she says. "Originally, the room had been oriented around a piano, and a couch blocked the windows." After a lot of trial and error, Allison devised two seating areas that fit the room's scale. Allison toned down a fanciful antique gold mirror with white paint.
The large living room needed ample furniture. Allison mixed thrift store finds with neutral upholstery and pops of animal prints for additional definition.
Lots of Layers
Allison made sure this antique-filled room felt comfortable and defined. Starting from the floors up, she layered oriental rugs on a larger sisal rug to define the two separate sitting areas. The built-in shelves are decorated with found objects and books, all in neutral tones that compliment the palette of the room. Her blue-and-white ginger jars add pops of the homes blue color scheme.
The family needed a casual hangout, and this is it. Allison made this buttoned-up, wood-paneled room reflect their tastes by going all out in various shades of blue. She painted the walls in Farrow & Ball's Hague Blue, and she also re-covered the furniture passed down from her mom. The patterned chairs (in Pierre Frey's Toile de Nantes), a cachepot, and a pair of ginger-jar lamps give life to the blue-and-white room. Many of the Allens' old books were lost to mold. Allison's solution: searching online for antique marbleized or leather books on eBay and LiveAuctioneers.
The Dining Room
Allison paid homage to the home's roots by keeping Louise's dining table and adding colorful Asian-inspired wallpaper panels (Schumacher's Madame de Pompadour) that echoed the original hand-painted Japanese murals, which were damaged over time. But the space is delightfully unfussy, thanks to a canvas palm tree and a skirted sideboard. "It feels so much younger than a traditional wooden piece, and the skirt is simple to change out if I want to create a different look," says Allison.
Like her mother and grandmother, Allison collects blue-and-white transferware and ginger jars, which provide continuity through the house.
Allison and Beau were A-OK with the kitchen's original layout—a relatively open floor plan that worked well for entertaining. While they didn't move any walls, the couple did bring the room into the modern era by removing soffits, upper cabinets, and asbestos-contaminated linoleum floors. Allison kept the decor simple and white. (Having fewer choices helped her stick to the strict timetable of the renovation.) What was her best time-saving move? Ordering a readymade island from Wayfair that looked similar to her cabinets and topping it with Carrara marble. Overhead, she added interest to the ceiling with beaded board.
The Breakfast Room
Subtle chinoiserie elements such as the set of Chippendale chairs—and, of course, the blue-and-white wallpaper (Quadrille's Arbre de Matisse)—help keep the breakfast room consistent with the rest of the house. "It's where my husband grew up eating with his grandparents, and I can picture them sitting there. Now, it's where we sit and eat," says Allison. Because the ceilings are high, I wanted a large, modern light fixture." She found this one for under $20 at paperlanternstore.com
The Good Times
Allison found this picture of Louise making a cocktail. "I had the photo blown up and gave it to Beau as a Christmas gift last year," she says. It fits perfectly with decor and is a reminder of the loved-ones who used to live there.
The Master Bedroom
The master bedroom serves as a nice pause in the home's blue-and-white color scheme with quiet, serene tones and animal prints that add texture. "These prints are neutrals, but I have to restrain myself from using too many," she notes. The spotted carpet camouflages stains, and the fur-covered bench at the foot of the bed offers an unexpected yet welcoming touch. "The room has lots of windows, and I needed so much fabric," says Allison, who used simple drapes to highlight the views of her backyard. "I needed something tall and eye-catching to balance out the big windows on the other walls," Allison explains about the pleated valance hanging over her bed.
When Allison found out she was having a boy, friends asked if the nursery would be all blue. "No! I'd done enough in the rest of the house," she says. Her goals were to keep the room calm, sophisticated, and adaptable as her son grows. The walls are covered in a striped linen that she had backed with paper and stain treated (to protect from sticky fingers). "Fabric-covered walls feel so cozy and inviting," she says. Allison got the classic Jenny Lind crib from The Land of Nod.