Ride-by: A Charming Italian City House

September 20, 2010 | 33 comments

A house nestled somewhere in the rustic Italian countryside?

Given the lush landscaping in the photo above, it would be easy to arrive at that conclusion; the photo is the ultimate illusion. Don't be fooled, however. This Italian stunner rests at the corner of a busy intersection just off of Peachtree Road near Phipps Plaza in Atlanta. I've known about the house for a couple of years and even had the fortune to see the inside of it when it was on the market in the recent past. I was quite enamored with the house then and am even more so now.

My re-introduction, if you will, to the house was driven by a mild kick for Italian architecture that I've been on lately. I've been seeking out Italian-style houses in Atlanta and studying them, trying to decide which details I love and which I loathe. This house proved to be a great case study for soaking in the details of, particularly now that my eye is much better trained than when I last visited it during its time on the market.

I told you it was situated near a busy intersection. Don't let that disappoint you though. The ample landscaping envelopes the house on all sides, yielding just the right balance between privacy and views of the Atlanta skyline. Behind the shorter cypress trees and below the row of transomed windows lies a hidden patio.

A close up photo reveals the architectural detail that abounds on this house. Notice how the windows and doors are surrounded by inset bricks. I especially like that detail and the visual effect it lends to the facade. It's ostensibly an inexpensive touch that really makes all the difference. Also notice the X-motif on the transom windows that is mirrored on the iron balcony railing. Again, a perfect detail. And the lanterns flanking the door, sold.

The house is a long, narrow rectangular structure; simple, but just right. Seen here is the left side of the house. The excellent brick work stands out here too. Notice the various bandings. The top banding is achieved by four rows of graduated steps, the top step having a bull-nose edge.

Under the 3rd story balcony on the left is the main entrance. It's not readily apparent, but the house is three stories on this side. The first level is below grade and houses the drive-under garage. There is an elevator from the garage to the 2nd and 3rd stories in case you're wondering.

This photo also highlights the excellent metal railing. If you click the photo to enlarge it, you can see that there is a round "bullet tip" detail at the center of where the bands of metal cross to form the X pattern. I really like that and the "squiggle" points atop every other post in the railing. The simplest details always do it for me.

Along with the front and rear facades of the house, the right side is two stories. Notice that the balcony wraps around from the left side, across the front and then around to the right side shown here. The balcony is perfect for entertaining a large crowd and I'm sure everyone leaves with a lasting impression of the view of the Atlanta skyline.

Remember the hidden patio I mentioned? Here is the exterior entrance to it from the side lawn. You can see that the excellent metal work design was carried over to the gate. The landscaping is fantastic, from the pavers  to the ivy growing on the house to the boxwoods.

And the landscaping keeps getting better as you enter the patio. A welcoming pea gravel lined sitting area centers the patio. I spy white hydrangeas in the background - another favorite of mine.

I do have pictures of the interior of this house and can share them in a later post. Because my current interest is with the exterior architectural details, I wanted to focus on that. I will tell you about a few salient features of the interior, though. The 2nd story (or ground level) has the bedrooms. The 3rd story is broken into two rooms: a library/study sits at the far left and a long, large room comprised of the living area, dining area and kitchen occupies the rest. The ceilings are 14 feet on that level - grand, but scaled properly.

A summary of the details that I love about this house follows:
  • The barrel tile roof. It sits in perfect color harmony with the brick. I really have quite a penchant for antique barrel-tiled roofs. Like their cousins slate and cedar, barrel-tiled roofs give houses that certain feel of authenticity that just can't be recreated with an asphalt roof.
  • The iron work railing with its subtle details.
  • The ivy growing all over the house.
  • The rectangular copper lanterns spread around the exterior.
  • The wraparound balcony.
  • The dark color of the window trim and eaves.
  • The detail in the brick. I have a love-hate relationship with brick. I love when it's done right with special details like on this house and hate it when it's otherwise bland.
Architecture by Lew Oliver of Serenbe and other planned community fame. All photos by me.

Fellow Atlanta-based architecture enthusiast Terry (Architecture Tourist) reminded me of a similar post he did on this house almost two years ago. Visit Terry's post to see the landscape evolution this house has undergone. His pictures are pre-ivy and highlight the difference that ivy makes.

One last thing, I wanted to thank everyone that has sent me emails of encouragement to keep this blog going. I'm flattered and amazed by the continued interest despite my lack of posts. Hopefully I can gain some momentum again and pickup where I left off, writing about the things I find interesting and inspiring.

** Don't forget that you can click the photos to enlarge them. Most of the photos I include in my posts are much larger in size than they are displayed in the post.

This post is part of a series titled Ride-by Architecture that is dedicated to interesting architecture that I find while riding my bicycle throughout Atlanta. Visit the original post for more information on the series. You can also view all posts in the series by following this link.