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In Good Faith
By Kate Abney | Photo: Patrick Heagney | February 3, 2017
A Midtown resident goes big with his first home, expertly turned out by friends Jennifer Reiner and Robert White of Reiner White Design Studio.
Rolling the dice on a bold design for a Midtown condo channels sexiness and assuredness for its scholarly owner.
Confidence is sexy. We know that instinctively. We say it often. But how many of us are hesitant to live it—especially when it comes to our, well, living spaces?
Not Franco Dispenza. A licensed psychologist, counselor, advocate, Georgia State University professor and frequent contributor to academic journals—addressing such topics as gender identity, multicultural studies and social justice—the New York native (and first generation Italian-American) rented in the Atlanta market for nine years before deciding to take the plunge on a place all his own.
Midtown contained so many of his favorite haunts—Escorpion, Livingston, Midtown Art Cinema, even Starbucks—so when his real estate hunt led him to 805 Peachtree, it seemed the perfect fit. Built in 1951, the onetime IBM building was converted into condominiums in 2000, retaining many of its midcentury hallmarks, but now boasting a beautiful rooftop pool with cabanas and 117 uniquely laid-out residential units. Dispenza’s particular find was a 1,080-square-foot, open-concept one-bedroom that he immediately beseeched close friends Jennifer Reiner and Robert White to come see for themselves.
Interior-design partners in the eight-year firm Reiner White Design Studio, they’d known Dispenza for years, and so welcomed the opportunity to share their wisdom on his potential purchase. When they walked in, what they saw was possibility.
“I knew [it was the right place] the moment I saw Jenn’s and Robert’s faces,” Dispenza says. “There was an intrigue and a curiosity that hit both of them at the same time.” The duo struck a deal to relax one of their cardinal rules—keep friends and business separate—and signed on to design the condo’s cool interiors.
“It was important to work with someone who really understood my personality and what I needed in terms of comfort, lifestyle and aesthetic. And who better than people who know you?” Dispenza posits. Despite the dynamics that can happen when mixing business and friends, this was a fantastic designer-client relationship—thanks in no small part to Dispenza’s psychological background.
“In my work, there’s a great deal of unknown, and you cannot be afraid of it,” he explains. “Fear-based decisions stifle, create barriers to positive outcomes.”
Trusting that he’d chosen his designers wisely, Dispenza gave Reiner and White basic ideas, a budget… and his full confidence. Beyond that, he maintained a good sense of boundaries between the personal and the professional.
And, yet, “there’s still an inherent pressure to get things just right when it’s one of your best friends buying his very first place, and you’re on a tight time frame,” Reiner says. “There’s an emotional component, especially since you’re going to hear how the design is working for them six months down the road.”
“We do drink there on weekends. We hang out by the pool,” White interjects. “We intentionally put a lot of thought into the energy of Franco’s place—making sure it was bold and confident, but also ‘nerdy and sexy,’ like he requested from the beginning.”
That translated to a symphony of French gray and soft ochre, mingling with unfinished high-gloss maple, caramel-colored leather, mod light fixtures, atmospheric art pieces and loads of intricate textures to soften the space’s masculine angles.
The most prominent geometric pattern is undoubtedly that of the floors; the existing maple was painted to remedy extensive sun damage—at the same cost of replacing the boards completely. That unorthodox design moment was a sticking point—not so much for Dispenza, but for his friends.
“I knew I wanted unique, and Jenn and Robert’s idea was one of the most amazing things I’d ever encountered… but no one could imagine why we would paint wood floors.” All said and done, the scale of the directional, David Hicks-esque pattern provides the perfect foundation for all of the residence’s other motifs. And, it turns out, it’s the component guests say they love most.
Dispenza was traveling the week before the big reveal, but White notes what a rarity it is for a client to see a project after complete installation. Seeing it all at once was truly a “wow!” moment. Sheers have been mounted to separate the sleeping quarters from the living space, establishing a boundary, but giving the filtered impression of the boudoir beyond. Meanwhile, the condo’s conversation pieces range from metallic bear head—a gift White gave Dispenza years ago—to a gold-and-gray plaid wallcovering, to sexy pillows from Reiner White’s in-house soft goods collection, White Rhino.
Up for tenure in April, Dispenza is especially fond of having a serene space to complete work tasks—especially with stunning views of the Midtown skyline. And since his designers knew his dining table would do double duty, they commissioned a custom piece by local craftsmen at Horizon Home, delivering equal parts sturdiness and style. But don’t think for a second that Dispenza isn’t eating and entertaining at this spot too.
“I’m Italian. The thing I like best is cooking,” he confesses. When he isn’t whipping up a delectable spread of antipasti, he’s poring over one of the numerous tomes stacked on his reclaimed wood-and-steel bookcase. “There’s the full gamut of subjects, and what that says about Franco is that he’s open-minded,” explains Reiner. “It was incredible how he allowed us to take an idea—without pushback—and run with it.”
Isn’t it amazing what a little trust can do?
Reiner White Design Studio reinerwhitedesignstudio.com
Custom floor painting
Brass diamond pendant lights and brass Taranto chandelier
Custom dining table
Aloft caramel dining chairs
Abstract artwork in living space
Mercury velvet sleeper sofa
Harris Plaid wallcovering in living space
Tufted Palazzo swivel chair
Pietro gray wing chair
Ochre Ellie lamps
Lamps and large art pieces in bedroom
Donna Karan Home
Custom toss pillows