“Turn at this flag onto an unmarked driveway and keep going until you reach a gate.” These are the guidelines that designers Kate Hayes and Krista Sharif of Hayes Little Studio received for their client’s new getaway in northeast Georgia. So it’s no surprise that they missed a turn – and that was just the first visit. “We walk past it every time,” Hayes recalled with a laugh. The pair regularly had to return to the nearest town to consult locals for a better route, a tactic even delivery truck drivers had to adopt when struggling to find the way (poor cell service certainly did). not helped either).
That middle of nowhere feeling was pretty much the point. Atlanta-based neurologists Amy and Tyler Harrison had chosen the wooded location, accessible only by dirt road, with the disconnect in mind. They wanted no distractions – not a single screen – in their off-the-beaten-track, family-friendly getaway on the banks of the Soque River. Their mantra? “More outside, less inside.”
Hayes refers to the Harrisons as friends— customer friends, so to speak. The foursome worked together on revamping the family home in downtown Atlanta a few years prior, and she was the first person they called after buying the nearly 2,000-square-foot waterfront home. from the river. “It was a classic pandemic situation,” the designer shares. “They were like: we have to go out here, but it has to be possible to drive.”
The property, located just steps from the water, is near one of the best fishing spots in the Southeast – and since Tyler is an avid fly-fisherman, something in the area was a choice. natural. But the structure was a total 1970s joint, with wall-to-wall carpeting (the scruffy kind, even in the bathroom). At first, Amy was just looking for partial treatment, enough to make it nice to be there. “I remember we walked around and she told us they might not even be guarding the house,” Sharif says. “They originally planned to tear it down, but do it right for a few years.”
While plans were being drawn up and one cosmetic issue after another being uncovered, particularly in the three bathrooms and bedrooms, the light refresh slowly turned into a complete renovation. And at some point along the way (perhaps when a fresh coat of paint breathed new life into outdated kitchen cabinets), they all realized it was good enough to keep.
Letting in the light also helped. With the carpeting—bonus: fuzzy toilet covers—and the frilly blue curtains removed, all that remained was to open the main area. (Initially, the greatest source of natural light came from an old-fashioned curved veranda, but it was blocked by a pair of doors.) “It was incredibly dark in the front rooms,” Sharif notes of the constant presence of shade. . “The widening of openings has changed the situation. It was a bit oppressive with all the wood; it felt like it was all falling a bit on you.
With the ceilings popping up, Hayes asked for something to fill in the extra space. An oversized light fixture was the perfect solution for anchoring the living room — where you could post yourself by the fire with a glass of bourbon — and connecting it to the entryway, side music room, and glassed-in porch.
“As a big house, we didn’t just need ample lighting, but warm lighting on a larger scale,” Hayes points out, and hanging the 45-inch Noguchi Round Paper Lantern was actually more compelling than retaining the original cedar panel walls. . Knowing that the couple definitely wanted to keep all of the original wood and stone fireplace, the designers had to brighten up everything else.
They removed the dangerous-looking (as in, scary near your head) fans in the sunroom and recolored the floors a saturated forest green recommended by their contractor, Jeffrey Thompson. They placed comfy leather chairs from Anthropologie across from a wooden brasserie-style table and matching benches long enough to seat several kids (including their own 9- and 10-year-olds). “The house is very indoor-outdoor; the atrium is the stepping stone between the two,” explains Hayes.
In fact, the natural elements were the main inspiration for almost all the furniture or fabrics purchased by the pair, and they eventually highlighted all the wooden details with rattan sconces, a leather sofa and a reduced paint palette. “She’s kinda cool, transitional, historic,” Sharif says of Amy’s style, noting that it took a few tries to find the right look. Designers ultimately opted for a modern hideaway and cozy mountain lodge look, selecting plaids and leathers that wear well over time; a wood-burning stove; stone wall hooks; and a farmhouse sink in the mustard yellow bathroom. Living comfort was really what Hayes and Sharif were looking for – and with groups of fishermen walking around the house in waders, or children returning from a day in ancient woods and swinging above the water , that is what the quiet refuge demanded .
Follies that were worth it: The Emmy sofa designed by Egg Collective in the family room and covering the adjacent ottoman with a Holland and Sherry throw.
Biggest save: The kitchen – they bought new appliances but kept everything else as is. There’s that amazing scalloped detail above the window that we highlighted with the same soft black paint (Farrow & Ball Off Black No. 57) that we applied to the cabinetry.
Where we buy locally: For this project, we purchased many pieces from the Nicholson Gallery, Highland Row Antiques, and Antiques and Beyond in Atlanta.
Paint color that took the exterior from old to modern: Sherwin-Williams Iron Ore.
Who to know
Most meticulous entrepreneur: Jeffrey Thompson, also owner of the Batesville General Store.
Other artisans we love: Brenda Thompson (drapery), Ryan Hancock (custom breakfast table), and Tim Romano (fly fishing photos).