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Grand Revival

Interior designer Stuart Pliner uses his versatile style to convert a dimly lit 1980s house into a sophisticated retreat.

Right off of the foyer, the formal sitting room offers a comfortable place to relax and entertain. The sofa is upholstered in onyx- and-topaz-colored Montrose velvet from Lee Jofa, while the drapery is Melody Blue Block and Stripe by Décor de Paris.

In the world of interior design, the best projects are often the least expected. Those words certainly rang true for designer Stuart Pliner, who, while at a dinner party, met a busy executive couple who were feeling unenthusiastic about the master bedroom in their 1980s-style home. Pliner made an appointment to take a look and discovered that the entire house was in need of a facelift. Fast-forward one year and many meetings later, and he’d redecorated almost every room.

Part of what made the project so enjoyable was that “the couple [who prefer not to be named] was open to something new and different,” says the Atlanta designer. “They have a great sense of style, love working in their gardens and enjoy the finer things in life.” The couple was completely open to change, giving Pliner an open canvas to work with. It was a designer’s dream come true.

Pliner’s clients, patrons of the Atlanta art world who are deeply involved with the High Museum of Art and MOCA, did, of course, have a few ideas in mind for the 6,000-square-foot, Italian Romanesque-style home. Frequent entertainers, they wanted “a space that they’d be proud of showing,” says the designer. “It was important that it feel totally comfortable, usable, timeless and sophisticated.”

Pliner immediately recognized that the grand, beautifully scaled space, which boasted top-quality woodwork and molding, had good bones and would need mostly cosmetic changes. One of the biggest challenges was that the couple had built their furniture collection around the existing yellow wall color, which dominated almost the entire house. In a word, Pliner says, it was uninteresting.

To that end, the first order of business was changing the color scheme. He began by presenting the clients with five color palettes, which they narrowed to one that featured relaxing shades of blue. To combat the dark atmosphere, he added an abundance of mirrors and switched out nearly all the light fixtures, inserting cove, picture and tape lighting throughout. Ceilings were repainted with an eggshell finish to give them a reflective quality, and 10,000 square feet of wall space was refinished in Venetian plaster. Pliner also added wallpaper—a decor element he adores and uses often to add dimension—to many of the rooms. Additionally, he commissioned craftsmen to hand-finish surfaces throughout the house, from hand-rubbing the foyer’s barrel ceiling with shimmering silver tones to stripping and glazing the kitchen island to giving the polished travertine floor a subtler matte texture.

The homeowners had strong sentimental feelings about their furniture, so most of what they owned was reupholstered or refinished—even their heirloom 1930s piano was taken apart and refinished piece by piece. The end result was so stunning, it became the anchor for the design of the living room, with swivel chairs on both sides that can be turned to face it during a concert.

A few new pieces were custom-made, including a desk Pliner designed for the home office. Using only plywood and particleboard from Home Depot, local fine furniture-maker Doug Honabach spent 20 weeks hand-cutting, laminating, sanding and rendering its puzzle-like pieces and compartments into a one-of-a-kind, museum-quality piece. “It was wonderful working with such grateful clients,” says Pliner. “[They] were beyond thrilled with the tranformation of their home.”




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