Monday, August 11, 2008

Mid-century furnishings perfect fit for 1960's Decatur ranch

For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
photo: Louie Favorite /
Published on: 08/11/08

Mention collectibles, antiques and historically significant structures and many people conjure up images of vintage dishware, 100-year old sideboards and Victorian homes. But some don't go back quite so far to find an appealing style: They find the look they love in furnishings, accessories and houses of the 1950s and '60s.

The living room in J. Gladney and Bo Kersey's Decatur home features art, a low metal and glass coffee table and a deep pink area rug. The couple like Midcentury modern furnishings. more picture here.

Yes, baby boomers, those metal-framed Naugahyde chairs you lolled in and the Formica tables you dined on are making a splash with many younger buyers who find the retro look ideal for their lofts and condos. And some are even going gaga over the houses that older buyers would tear down in a heartbeat.
The mid-century modern look is very hot," said Jim Deadwyler, owner of Deadwyler Antiques in Buckhead, who recently opened a new section dedicated to goods from the Cold War Era and beyond. "People now consider things from the 1970s to be part of this retro look, but to me, it's really all about the 1950s and '60s," he said.

Over in Inman Park, Jennifer Sams, owner of City Issue, has a hard time keeping up with the demand for molded plastic chairs, low-backed sofas and stackable side tables. And sleek buffets or dressers fly out the door as buyers snap them up for their flat-panel TVs.

"We have lots of people who say they grew up with this style and now they like it again," said Sams. "More people are mixing styles; they're nostalgic and don't want to get rid of their grandparents' stuff."

For Bo Kersey and his partner J. Gladney, the mid-century modern look starts at the frosted-glass front door of their 1960s split level and continues throughout. For those driving down their street in Decatur's Leafmore Hills community, the look begins with the soaring two-story triangular window that gives passersby a view straight through to the kitchen. ("People love walking by and staring in," said Kersey with a laugh.)

The 1,940-square-foot house could have been a teardown, making way for a more contemporary, two-story style that Atlantans love. But four years ago, the pair opted to restore and enhance the three-bedroom house, a project that involved refinishing oak floors, replacing windows and doors and having new electric lines run.

"The kitchen was outdated, but the house had great bones," said Gladney. "It had wrought-iron railings up the stairs and everything was painted puce, but it was in livable shape. Hopefully, we've done it with a sense of humor." That sense of fun guided the couple in their choice of furnishings. "It's a unique house," said Kersey. "It just seemed right to put furnishings in it that fit here."

Wow factors

What wowed the two was that wall of glass in the living room and the extensive brick surround of the fireplace, where brick ledges form ideal display shelves for a collection of white pottery. The old fire grate was replaced with dark rocks, and red seat cushions add a dash of color to the hearth ledge.

Ceiling beams were painted white. A coat of pale gray toned down the wall and provided a soft backdrop to the room's collection of retro furniture: a low metal and glass coffee table, found on eBay; a deep pink area rug; a white oblong fabric lamp hanging from the slanted ceiling; two white metal-framed chairs; a yellow vase lamp; a red chair with metal legs; and a low-slung chair with a curved back.

Beyond the living area is a dining area with a view to the kitchen, opened up by taking out a pass-through and creating a breakfast bar. But the laminate counters and the original tongue-and-groove paneling on the walls remain. The old floor was so horrid the pair covered it up with a red carpet. A cabinet was wired for electricity to hide the coffee maker and toaster oven.

Rec room redone

"This is our homage to House Beautiful 1959," said Kersey with a laugh.

The home's lower level, a classic '60s "rec room" a few steps down from the kitchen, is outfitted with a sofa in a hip green, blue and gray pattern, an orange table with black legs, an ashtray stand and two black chairs. A triple window over the sofa and a set of French doors to the deck and backyard provide natural light. A framed poster advertising cigarettes flanks one side of the flat-panel TV that sits in a metal cabinet Gladney built. The paneling was repainted in shades of blue drawn from the sofa. "I like the paneling — it gives the wall textures," said Gladney.

The lower level includes a third bedroom, now a home gym, and tiled bath.

Going up

One of the first things the couple removed were the railings that ran up the stairs and along the length of a gallery between the upstairs bedrooms. They replaced them with white, open-backed bookcases that provide a visual and physical barrier and show off a collection of books. In the hall bath, they tore out the original pink and green color scheme and replaced it with gray and white tiles that climb to the ceiling around the porcelain tub. A black counter holds a rectangular white sink and behind the door, open shelves are lined with linens and towels.

At one end of the gallery is Kersey's home office, where he built cabinetry and shelves into a closet. The other end is the master bedroom, painted a soothing sea foam green around a blond platform bed. Gladney built night stands into the wall and topped them with white fabric lamps. On one wall, a narrow cabinet with a mirrored sliding door was transformed into a hiding place for another flat-panel TV. A fourth bedroom was turned into the master bath.


The home's spacious backyard is graced with a pool and a raised cabana swathed in white drapes. The side-entrance front door is accented by a stone garden with potted plants and water bubbling up out of a ceramic vase.

The exterior, covered in stone and siding, was once dark brown, but a fresh coat of paint turned the stones pale gray and the wood a contrasting shade of taupe. The window panes were outlined in white.

"I think we turned the house into what it should have been," said Kersey. "It's the Jetsons meet Doris Day and Rock Hudson."

Comment from Alan:
more photos of this house here.