Renovation & Adaptation to Historic Home designed by Leila Ross Wilburn, Candler Park
Leila Ross Wilburn, Georgia’s first woman architect, originally designed and built this home in Candler Park as a duplex for a prominent businessman, for his two daughters. Each daughter had a separate flat on each floor, and the basement contained servants quarters. Construction was finished in 1920. Over the years the house became run-down and neglected. By the time our clients bought it, the house was uninhabitable.
We found a construction photo of the house from 1920 in records of The Kenan Research Center at The Atlanta History Center.
To begin the project’s design, we carefully took measurements, then created plans and elevations of the existing house in our Pre-Design Phase. Led by our Principal Architect, Greg Mix, RA, AIA, we began work with the owner to lay out new floor plans and elevations in the Schematic Design Phase, which were then refined many times through our Design Development Phase, before producing Construction Documents.
The house is located in the Historic Candler Park neighborhood on the edge of Historic Druid Hills. Due to site restrictions in the City of Atlanta, much coordination with the Department of Planning and Zoning was required.
The main entrance leads into the first floor living room of the original first floor duplex unit. The second floor unit had been accessed from a single door on the left end of the front porch. (Scroll down to see the BEFORE photos.) To convert the duplex into a single-family residence, we replaced the former entry door to the upper duplex with a window matching those nearby, and we altered the stairway to be open to the new living room. This connected the first floor of the home and made the living room as grand as other homes of its era.
The original carpentry on the existing front porch must have been done by an expert. All of the exterior trim and porch work was built from Florida cypress, a wood that is naturally very resistant to rot and decay. That is probably why it is so well preserved.
The coffered ceiling carries through from the Formal Dining, over the hidden structural beam above the open partition, and across the seating Foyer (aka “Living”), to the edge of the Staircase to the Upper Level.
Notice, here, a couple of understated details. One is the subtle curvature of the first two stair treads, indicating a welcome to those invited to the Upper Level, yet also enhancing the specialness of the Piano Nook to the right of the Stairway Landing. The second detail to consider is the bench below the window; not only does it contain a bit of storage below its hinged seat, but it also conceals some essential utilities beneath, which come from the Mechanical Room in the Lower Level, below this space.
The view to the east from the Balcony off of the Master Sitting, across Freedom Park, is difficult to match!
From the Mail Level, the view from the Rear Porch across the green areas between houses is most soothing. Screening has not yet been installed in this view, although labeled “Screen Porch” in the plans.
The next view is the rear view of the home from the back yard motor court. The Screen Porch is well elevated above, to allow greener views, further to the rear, yet allows a pleasant aspect when seen from this vantage.
Much work was required to strip away, sand down, and repair eighty-five years of old paint, dirt and neglect. Once the craftsmen had removed the heavy layers of old paint from the cantilevered porch and two-story columns and repainted them, they looked like new. Only rarely do we recommend painting brick, but due to the significantly deteriorated condition of the brick and mortar, it was decided with the owner to seal and protect it with paint. Click on the BEFORE views to see a bit more detail.
This is a comparatively small area for all of the accommodations, yet on a remarkably tight, urban lot with many restrictions. It required a great deal of interaction with local planning and zoning authorities, who were very helpful. It encloses a total of 4,257 square feet of conditioned area under roof, plus the Front Entry Porch, the Balcony off the Master Sitting (under the same Porch), the open rear Deck off the Master Bath, the Screen Porch on the rear Main Level, Deck off that Screen Porch, and the Patio on the Lower Level. Click on the Floor Plans to see how we arranged the spaces and managed to include the needed functions in such tight areas!