Donna and Joel Freedman bought a 1950s ranch that had been redone and was featured on the cover of Country Home magazine, and they took off with interior designer Susan Kolowich.
“We kept the original flooring but changed most everything else to achieve a transitional country French feel,” Joel said.
The house is tastefully stylish but does not shy away from making a statement. It is curated with confident Parisian flourishes and a lush backyard scene.
Designer Kolowich, former owner of C’est Moi, said: “The Freedmans were great to work with because they had traveled and collected so much and were open to ideas. We flip-flopped the dining room with the living room and opened up the kitchen space. My job was to come up with creative solutions and coordinate the drapes, lighting, colors and furnishings. Joel drives the bus, and
Donna reads the road map. They are just wonderful people.”
Take the tour with us.
[Photos by Duane Stork]
Jaffe: Why did you choose to put this clock in the entrance?
Joel: It has an interesting story. It’s a Mora longcase clock, circa 1850, from a province in Sweden, acquired at A. Tyner Antiques in Peachtree Hills. The clocks were made by farmers in this particular region during a period of drought, so they adapted to clock making to supplement their income.
Jaffe: You are world travelers. How does that fit into your decor?
Donna: That’s a grand question. The seltzer bottles are from Buenos Aires, the water pitcher from Istanbul. We have traveled extensively — Europe, China, India, South America, Israel, Russia — and we pick up something from each trip. Interestingly, we just returned from Rivne, Ukraine, where my mother was honored as a child in hiding during the Holocaust. In her town, 17,000 Jews, including her family, were killed in a three-day massacre.
Jaffe: What pieces do you treasure that were passed down from family?
Donna: The American oak dining breakfront was my grandmother’s. Joel tends to detail, and the 1912 wind-up phonograph has his grandmother’s records ready to play.
Jaffe: These giant vintage French posters pop with olive and crimson with a bold Parisian flair.
Joel: I love this Cappiello where the woman is offering breath mints since she is an ever-so-delicate smoker. The one going upstairs we found in Cannes, France, promoting liquor. So lighthearted and original.
Jaffe: The kitchen is reminiscent of something out of the French Laundry, the California mecca of cuisine. Do you do a lot of entertaining?
Donna: Yes, our kids came home for Thanksgiving, and we hosted 30. This is the heart of the house. We knocked out walls and opened up the expanse in here. The kitchen cabinet is actually a bookcase from a Connecticut schoolhouse circa 1910. We love to cook. I make a flavorful paella.
Jaffe: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a chandelier quite like this. What were you thoughts in the breakfast room?
Joel: It is centered around a 19th-century oak fireplace from a North Georgia farmhouse, but it’s really an eclectic blend in here. This painting by Shen Hai, a Chinese art student, is opposite the folk-art “Chicken” by Madison Latimer from the Piedmont Arts Festival and a painting on barnwood by Penny Dobson. The Hungarian chandelier is from the Big Chandelier, but I personally added these touches of glass beads and strawberries, grapes and leaves.
Jaffe: How would you describe the art in the family room?
Joel: Donna surprised me with this Rena Chastain many years ago after I was enchanted by the artist’s use of color. We found the large painting at an arts festival and were both immediately taken in by the unusual inspiration of vintage photos from the ’30s and ’40s as a starting point to craft the pastel silhouetted images.
Jaffe: You added this screened porch? The fountain has the feel of an intimate Italian courtyard.
Joel: Yes, we started with a slate floor, and the ceiling was constructed by a Russian craftsman in the tongue-and-groove technique where each individual slat is hand-wedged.
The table is custom-made out of galvanized steel by a Scott Antique Market vendor. The basket tray on the wall is from a North Carolina tobacco leaf farm. It is my favorite space in the house, a place to totally unwind.
Jaffe: Your pool area is nothing short of spectacular.
Joel: We wanted a retreat in the middle of the city, an enclave in these old trees. It’s like a private park. The pool has a dark finish to provide a lake effect. The salt water retains heat, and the water is relatively warm. We hosted the 30-year Emory Law School reunion back here, and it was a perfect event space. That reveals my age, I guess. The courtyard with the koi pond is hidden off to the
Jaffe: It must be fun to have such a hands-on artistic spouse.
Donna: Yes, he comes in handy. He designed this jigsaw wall of family portraits in the hall and most recently hand-painted my antique mahjong tiles where the characters had faded.
Jaffe: I’ve heard just about everything. But the truth is my mahjong tiles need brushing up too, Joel. How about it?