By Marcia Caller Jaffe | firstname.lastname@example.org
Suzanne Hanein and Joel Eisenberg are a confident, industrious couple who knew what they wanted and were willing to be their own contractors to supervise the construction of their 10,000- square-foot home. Their love of antique furnishings, cooking and entertaining led them to undertake the task of building, including waiting a year to secure a building permit from the newly formed city of Sandy Springs in 2008.
Suzanne mused, “When we were designing the house, we wanted something more casual than our current Tudor house. We envisioned stone, beams and expansive windows, as we love Colorado and the West, plus lots of natural light. We really weren’t seeking big and grandiose, but our architect convinced us to upsize. Ultimately, we strove for function, flow and openness.”
Jaffe: Exactly what does being your own builder entail?
Eisenberg: One of the keys is a good architect. But the most critical thing is to have reliable and competent contractors and subcontractors. Developing relationships with contractors takes years. Suzanne and I bought our first investment property 20 years ago with government-subsidized Section 8 homes. Over the years, we upgraded neighborhoods, and instead of renovations, we now build new homes in the 3,500-square-foot range.
Jaffe: This front entrance is very dramatic. How high are these ceilings?
Eisenberg: The ceilings are 22 feet high. The front door is custom-made from solid mahogany and wrought iron. The first thing you see when you walk into the foyer is a 150-year-old Persian silk Heriz Serapi rug and a baby grand piano nestled between two bronze sconces. The front hallway stretches 70 feet from end to end and showcases a stained-glass floral window purchased at an auction.
Jaffe: Maybe we can jog laps in this hallway. I’d be curious to see your power bills.
Eisenberg: On the contrary, during construction we sprayed closed-cell foam insulation on all exterior walls and open cells in all of the ceilings. Although it costs more than regular insulation, it is extremely energy-efficient.
Jaffe: You are both chefs. Describe the special touches in your kitchen.
Hanein: It was designed to accommodate all levels of entertaining. We both have large families, so we entertain and host events. The main kitchen has four ovens plus a warming drawer. We also have a Five Star commercial stove with six burners and a griddle/grill. To accommodate easy cleanup, we installed two dishwashers and sinks. In the middle is a large island (9 by 5 feet). Above is a bronze chandelier from Argentina (Art Deco, 1940s). It’s so heavy that it took three electricians to install, and the beams had to be rebolstered. There are three stone surfaces: marble for baking and rolling out dough, textured granite for easier cleanup, and polished granite.
Jaffe: What are your gourmet specialties? I recall a party here where you both spent days preparing.
Hanein: Mine is ethnic cuisines. Middle Eastern (Sephardic) dishes, which I learned from my mom, plus Italian, French, Indian and Thai. I really like trying new, interesting recipes. I also collect cookbooks. Right off the kitchen is an alcove holding my collection … probably close to a 100 cookbooks.
Eisenberg: I love to bake. My favorite preparations are tres leches cake and Oreo cheesecake. I’m very detail-oriented, so baking agrees with me because it is so precise. I also like to make homemade pasta dishes such as artichoke-pecorino ravioli.
Jaffe: How does all this translate into entertaining?
Eisenberg: The butler’s pantry is set up as a buffet to flow into the dining room with cooled wine storage and ice machine. Because of the openness, we can accommodate 100-plus people. One special area that I designed for Suzanne is the platter room. She used to complain about how platters would chip when stored on top of each other in cabinet drawers. We created this room with vertical spaces for large shapes and numerous sets of dishes.
Jaffe: The dining/living area reminds me of a Colorado mountain lodge gone post-Victorian.
Hanein: Over the years we went to many auctions. The piece in the dining room is one of Joel’s favorite antique finds. He sat at Red Baron for an entire weekend to make sure he won the bid. It’s from the early American Renaissance Revival period and is made of walnut and hickory — almost 12 feet long by 8 feet high. We had to literally reconfigure the architectural plans so that it would fit into a winged wall. On top of that breakfront are two brass candelabras from an old Italian church.
Jaffe: What is this Louis XV setting?
Eisenberg: The French bombe commode chest is from the 1870s. I think it fits in nicely in our great room, even with all of the beams and stone.
Jaffe: Your art is an eclectic mix. What are some of your favorites?
Hanein: I like the Henri Matisse (lithograph “Themes et Variations,” 1943). Joel is most proud of this signed Keith Haring poster. We met him in 1985 at a SoHo gallery. He is one of the most famous graffiti artists and claimed subway stations as his canvas. He tragically died of AIDS at 31. His larger bronze pieces are in museums. We also treasure the “Fiddler on the Roof” watercolor (Movshin Shon) from Safed, Israel, and this scarlet chalk done by local portrait artist Mitzi Rothman (of our young family).
Jaffe: What are you enjoying most about your master suite?
Hanein: Having my own makeup area in the bathroom. Joel would say that he likes having separate closets because he thinks I’m too messy.
Jaffe: So what’s next?
Hanein: I have a terrible fear that Joel will wake up one day and want to sell this house — just so we can be creative and start all over!
Suzanne Hanein and Joel Eisenberg Chai-Style Interiors – Photos by Duane Stork