While most couples spend weeks, months, even years poring through pages of real estate listings and hunting down the perfect agent, all to come face to-front-steps with the home of their dreams, Atlanta transplants Brent and Derek Johnson-Gage—a hairstylist who hails from Alabama and a Texas-born attorney, respectively—had a different idea in mind after coming across a quaint abode in Westview: design their own. “When we first saw the house, we knew immediately it could be an amazing home,” says Brent. “We saw it as a forever home and wanted both form and function to reflect our tastes and needs. After speaking with Derek’s sister, Leslie [Ellsworth], an architect and owner of Studio SoGo [studiosogo.com] who wanted to take on the project, we knew we could make it something really special.” And so they did—clearing out the interior, extending the structure and starting from scratch. The 4,200-square-foot home transforms from a historical American Foursquare-style abode to a modern masterpiece as you step from the front porch into the grand foyer, where deep-blue paneled walls give an immediate wow factor.
As you move toward the back of the two-story house—passing a family room, home once, dining room, guest bedroom and half-bath—rich, masculine hues are swapped out in favor of softer grays and whites for the kitchen and adjoining living room. “For the grand foyer and half-bath, we went for a very moody, dramatic color scheme,” explains Brent. “We wanted those areas to really make a statement. The other areas of the house we kept airy and simple.” Hosts by nature, the homeowners honed in on the kitchen, paying extra attention to the area they knew would become the heart of the home. “We are definitely homebodies, and Derek loves to cook, so we entertain at our house as often as we can,” says Brent. “During the design process, our architect, Leslie, developed a floor plan with an open kitchen and den area to accommodate guests when we are entertaining so everyone could be involved in conversations.”
Of course, what’s an entertainment worthy kitchen without enviable, professional-grade appliances—and the pair’s main gathering spot has plenty. Think a stainless steel Frigidaire refrigerator/freezer combo, NXR 48-inch pro-style gas range with six sealed burners, and Bosch built-in oven/microwave combo (the couple’s biggest splurge). “It was very expensive for a microwave, but it conserves energy and gives out less heat by letting us use the small oven on weeknights when it’s just the two of us,” explains Brent. Custom cabinetry accented by brass hardware, durable 3-inch granite countertops and stylish acrylic seating round out the kitchen’s clean aesthetic—not to mention, steel windows lining the back wall bring in a bevy of natural lighting and give guests a peek at the couple’s next project: the backyard. “We want the interior to flow to the outside for entertaining, and to have an outdoor kitchen and dining area and garden for that purpose,” notes Brent.
Though striking elements throughout (think a pair of navy-blue suede chairs in the family room, a gold France & Son swan chandelier in the adjacent dining room and an oversize brass chandelier above the staircase) add to the allure, the home’s true tour de force is its harmony of old and new. “We wanted the house to work for us and have a modern feel, but we didn’t want to take away the historical character of the old house,” explains Brent. So antiquated coffee table books, whimsical rugs, and vintage artwork intermingle with modern lighting and furniture to create an interior that both stands the test of time (and pets—the couple chose leather upholstery for the sofas throughout to accommodate their three dogs) and allows for functional living. “I don’t like going to homes where it feels like a showroom, and you feel like you can’t sit somewhere because it’s for looks,” says Brent. “I want people to feel like they are at their own home and can lounge around and actually use the furniture.” Though the home was renovated by previous owners who removed the original millwork in the ’70s, Brent and Derek worked with architect Ellsworth to install framework that was most likely a part of the home’s original framework from when it was built in 1922 to further their desired “lived in” feel, including the brick replace and bookcases in the family room, as well as the entryway windows. “We kept most aspects of the home original to how it may have been when it was first built, but we modernized it,” says Brent.
Wander up the hardwood staircase, and you’ll find three more bedrooms and bathrooms—but the master, naturally, is the real showstopper of the second floor. French doors open to reveal a clean, bright space, perfect for taking refuge from a long day in court, for Derek, or the salon, for Brent. The design itself is a lesson in pattern and texture—more specifically, how to expertly merge the two. From the light-wood beams that line the ceiling to the rich dark-wood bed frame to the steel windows that set off the master bathroom clad in white marble, the couple’s vision of a lavish yet livable bedroom was brought to life—with a private backyard-facing balcony to boot.
From the Restoration Hardware sconces on the front porch to the polished white Carrara marble tile dotting the door of the master bathroom, each element and every accouterment was thoughtfully curated by the duo over the course of a year, culminating in the home of their dreams. And the best part? Says Brent, “the most fun was knowing that every single thing in the house was selected by us.”