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Balancing Act

A Virginia-Highland home is a master class in juxtaposing light and dark, thanks to Lee Kleinhelter.

“We hunted down eight vintage dining chairs and reupholstered them in a vibrant turquoise fabric with the soft hand of mohair,” says designer Lee Kleinhelter of the steel-framed numbers. 

The kitchen’s gleaming industrial pendants tout a polished nickel finish and illuminate an island topped with a gray-veined white marble slab. 

A live-edge wood desk represents one of the only furniture items the homeowners retained from their original look.

In the family room, clear glass and Lucite impart lightness, while a white-painted root coffee table introduces a balancing bit of rusticity.


“We love the living room’s nontraditional setup, which comprises an octagonal metal-frame coffee table surrounded by four natural-fiber armchairs featuring soft faux-fur cushions,” says Kleinhelter.


Sprinkled throughout the home are touches of floral accents to brighten each space.

This Vistosi chandelier is formed from discs of Venetian Murano glass.


At the wet bar, marble shelves with brass brackets provide an airy solution to storing glassware. 

A second view of the family room reveals a feminine armchair formed from loops of rattan.

In the master bedroom, a custom-made completely upholstered bed displays the results of countless hours of design deliberation. 

When you live a fast-paced lifestyle, sometimes it’s hard to find time to simply water the plants, much less give your entire home a top-to-bottom face-lift. In which case, leaving the task to a pro is not only wise; it’s all but essential. Such was the story with a stylish young local couple who both boast high-level corporate careers that have them traveling as often for work as they do for fun.

“It was important to create a place where they could unwind and relax when in Atlanta,” says Lee Kleinhelter, the designer whom the couple tapped to create their dream nest in the City of Trees. Having ventured into her vintage-chic Roswell Road boutique, Pieces, a time or two in the past, the homeowners knew with certainty that they could trust Kleinhelter’s aesthetic sensibilities.

In choosing to live in the relatively low-key, albeit bohemian Atlanta neighborhood of Virginia-Highland, the pair is surrounded by unassuming Arts and Crafts bungalows not traditionally known for their glamour. But that didn’t impede their high-impact design vision.

“What we went with was a mood—chic, edgy and comfortable,” Kleinhelter explains. “After getting to know [the homeowners], their sense of style became clear, so we developed a design plan customized just for them.”

Kleinhelter says the No. 1 request was for a jewel-tone palette—stemming from the homeowner’s love for a particular fabric (featuring an abstract navy, gray, plum and turquoise pattern) that eventually made its way onto pillows for the family room sofa. “These are colors we don’t typically work with, so it was fun to experiment with them,” Kleinhelter notes.

She and design associate Mallory Hatcher began by painting nearly the entire residence an ultrapale gray—Benjamin Moore’s Graytint—establishing a clean slate on which to layer the rich color palette. Even crisp whites took on the countenance of a color when injected in strategic, high-contrast moments.

Ever the organized professional, Kleinhelter worked in three clean design phases over the course of a year, knocking out priorities first and foremost, but installing each phase in its entirety within designated windows of time. “They wanted a finished look, so they were smart to divide things up to make this happen,” says Hatcher. “Seeing each phase completed and installed at once was both exciting and rewarding.”

Maintaining confidence in Kleinhelter and her original design plan also minimized back-and-forth stress, for final results that felt polished—creating a sense of completion that couldn’t have been accomplished with a host of interruptions and substitutions.

“We work with clients to pull a cohesive story together, and we determine how that unfolds. [The process] encompasses everything, and you can see that in our end results,” says Kleinhelter.

To that end, the family room features an unexpected splash of pink from toss pillows, a femme hue pulled from a pair of abstract paintings that the homeowner adored. And since this room is situated in proximity to the comparatively dark dining room—done up in a deep shade of Benjamin Moore gray—the contrast seems even more appealing.

Nearby, a wet bar with marble and brass shelves serves as a display for the homeowner’s collection of entertaining accoutrements, “rather than keeping them tucked away in a traditional china cabinet,” says Kleinhelter.

In this room and others, lighting (including a couple fixtures from Kleinhelter favorite Kelly Wearstler) acts as standalone sculpture, making perhaps the strongest aesthetic impact of any one component of the home’s design.)

Despite the drama, the home’s overall effect is minimalist and well-edited—truly striking the ideal balance. But all its clean lines are tempered by yummy textures seen on a live-edge wood desk, painted root coffee table, nubby woven rugs, natural-fiber seating and rich textural fabrics that are superdurable while remaining soft to the touch—“fluffy,” as the homeowner likes to describe them. Case in point? The sumptuous navy velvet used to upholster vintage lounge chairs in the living room—the perfect foil for their angular silhouettes. And what au courant cottage could be complete without a touch of luscious fur? A faux version was used for the family room’s seat cushions, while authentic Tibetan lambswool was applied to the seat of a brass bench in the master bedroom.

But brass was by no means the only modern metal in Kleinhelter’s arsenal. These days, “It’s more interesting to mix it up,” the designer affirms. Selections like blackened steel and polished nickel appear just as proudly as this on-trend warm metal tone.

In a sense, it’s like a house wearing a tailored gray T-shirt, but adorned with a beautiful jeweled necklace. Certainly: It’s a house that’s the shining sapphire—and amethyst, and turquoise, and moonstone—of its street.

Single-family home


Lee Kleinhelter, Pieces Inc.

Pieces Inc.