Interior design can seem like a purely intuitive affair. A color catches the eye, a fabric feels good, a piece of furniture commands attention. And when executed properly, a space can look as if it evolved naturally, or at least without too much calculation. But whether relaxed or richly layered, rooms that work are the result of equal parts sense and sensibility.
A mastery of that equation was crucial as Seth van den Bergh of The Drawing Room ATL set to work on a traditionally inspired, English style Lew Oliver Atlanta townhouse in the city’s South Tuxedo Park district. His clients – physicians Emile Pinera and Edgar Simard – were both committed to creating a worldly environment, but where Dr. Pinera favored the modern, Dr. Simard leaned more classic. Finding common ground might be a problem for some designers, but the clients’ opposing styles actually dovetailed nicely with van den Bergh’s penchant for juxtaposition. In the dining room, for example, he paired “brutalist, midcentury dining chairs with a more ‘aerodynamic’ table.” In a secondary living room, a limestone Buddha gazes across an iconic, swoosh-shaped, Vladimir Kagan sofa.
The gathering of disparate pieces (which includes Drawing Room-designed sofas, rugs, mirrors and tables) is just the most outward manifestation of the project. Underlying the artful arrangement – the interior vistas, the play of forms in space – was van den Bergh’s determination to invest the residence with something deeper and more difficult to define. “The daily life of individuals is shaped by various things,” observes van den Bergh. “They live near where they work. They eat near where they live. They brush their teeth in the sink that was in the home that they bought because it was in the right school district. When someone begins working with our firm, they are taking steps to guide the inner workings of their daily routines. Each phase of the design process contributes to a road map of how one’s life will be lived once the project is complete. We believe that the nexus of an entire lifestyle can be formed through the design process.”
Merging his experience with his clients’ expectations, van den Bergh strove for an indisputable authenticity, a look that expressed solid design principles, as well as the personalities and lifestyle of the couple who call this townhouse home. Like an artist laying the ground for a painting, he gave the home’s wall surfaces special treatment. In the dining room, he installed Elitis washi-panels and cladded a fireplace with Innovations wallpaper. The walls in the primary bedroom suggest fine suit fabric.
Throughout, van den Bergh populated the rooms with pieces that not only play well together, but more important, “transcend function and could stand alone in a white box.” These include a custom, wall-anchored walnut piece inspired by colors in the Hermès Arpège saddle, a side table that echoes the arches of a Roman aqueduct, a pair of 1930s Paolo Buffa lounge chairs, and a cane and teak bench designed by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret.
The effect is truly singular and utterly cohesive. And while these interiors do telegraph a distinctive design sensibility, it is the wonderful clarity of these rooms that makes them so engaging. Balanced but not conventional, creative but not outrageous, they exist somewhere between understatement and surprise, between what ought to be and what can be.
Photography by Gregory Miller.
For more like this Atlanta townhouse, be sure to check out designer Sébastien Caron’s revived apartment in the Opéra District.
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