Narissa and Dan Bonnet are a hands-on productive duo. Both Georgia Tech graduates, they made the small and big things materialize with trained eyes. The house is about 8,200 square feet in California Prairie Modern style.
“We definitely did not ‘wing’ it,” Dan said. “We are in-depth planners.”
Narissa said, “My experience has always been residential architecture and design with a flair for creating practical and functional spaces. Many architects draw lines on a page and forget about the experience within the space. I like to believe my particular talent is visualizing the space and designing it with the end result in mind.”
Dan echoed, “Our former house was predominately in brown tones. Here we used all stark white walls and let the art speak in a minimalist way. We didn’t want a lot of clutter. Narissa might say that COVID has hampered our shopping. Narissa designed the front door, for example, taking four months to be constructed in Mexico from heavy iron.”
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Marcia: You are both methodical Tech grads. How did the construction go?
Narissa: We started building June 2018 and completed November 2019. We hit no snags along the way; everything ran smoothly from permitting to completion.
I drew and conceived of the plans. We used Tommy Webb of Carriage Partners, LLC. While we considered a flat roof contemporary house, we just couldn’t get over the tree debris and heavy rains to move forward confidently knowing we wouldn’t have a host of problems.
I incorporated niches and lighting to accentuate both art and the architecture with some hideaway spaces for the kids.
We used strategic lighting in certain spaces and were intentional in some spaces not to over-accessorize, allowing the spaces to transform. Fundamentally, the house is bathed in natural light. Window design and placement was paramount.
Most of our lighting is Wi-Fi-controlled. My favorite lighting is in the basement bar, which resembles a jewelry display.
My favorite aspects are the laundry room, which leads directly into the master, and an abundance of linen closets and oversized closets.
Marcia: How specifically did you design for family life?
Narissa: I really wanted our home to feel like a reflection of our family as we like to entertain. Many of the spaces are open and can accommodate our family and circle of friends.
I was conscious of our hobbies and habits like cooking, with a huge pantry as an extension of the kitchen. The basement features a large playroom with an art room that we all use alongside the exercise room.
Dan specifically wanted an upstairs patio where he can relax and unwind.
Marcia: What goes on in this snazzy kitchen?
Narissa: I designed the kitchen in its entirety; the cabinets and the hood were all custom designed. Several cabinets have pocket doors to allow for appliance garages. Then oversized cabinets, large platters storage, and huge drawers allow for easy access to everyday essentials. The oversized walk-in pantry is where you might find someone “hanging out.”
The black backsplash tiles have gold inserts that “travel” as you pass by.
Dan: Our kitchen is the epicenter where both of our offices extend.
Even when working, we are not apart from the action. Narissa bakes wonderful homemade challah, and I create chicken marsala.
Marcia: Describe your furnishings.
Dan: We collect art that “speaks to us,” and have bought several pieces while traveling. We recently acquired an Esteban Patino collage. We love its color and mystery.
Janet O’Neil did the colorful mixed media “Changing Energies.”
We commissioned a piece by Fekadu Mekasha, whose technique of layering metal mesh to create depth and shadow is just astounding.
Our unique bracelet chairs are Barbara Barry for Henredon. I created the viscous ebony piece in the Dutch Pour technique. Narissa crafted many of our hamsas and mezuzot.
Marcia: Any family heirlooms?
Narissa: I literally only have two items, each from my grandmothers. I asked my “Bobba” at the age of 16 for one of her “red” glass ornaments, where she said, “Take it now” … Had I not, I would have nothing. It’s a sad aspect representing the finality of immigration from Johannesburg, in this case.
From my paternal grandmother, I have an art nouveau white and gold glass ashtray.
Marcia: Explain your role in the new far north Chabad.
Narissa: My sister Candice Keilin and I were engaged to be the interior designers for the new Chabad in Forsyth. We are responsible for picking all materials and design of interior spaces, including all religious furnishings, such as the mechitzah, bimah, ark etc. We are working closely with the architect for the project to bring the walls to life.
Marcia: Dan, last word on being married to your house’s architect and interior designer.
Dan: First and foremost, the house was built exceptionally well. We over-emphasized structural components to ensure the home would last and have limited issues once complete. My father, who is a brilliant engineer and architect, consulted prior to getting started with advice on land optimization as well as offering 11 pages of “notes” for us to incorporate to ensure we got a great end product.
The spaces and flow are exceptional and everything just “feels right.” We’ve been able to accommodate all that we need to live, work and play, indoors and outdoors with variety. At night, when the house is quiet, I find myself walking around smiling and thinking how much I enjoy being here. We’re fortunate to have had Narissa lead this project. I’m just happy I didn’t have to pay her for this job (laughing). I’d love for her to design our next house, … but I just don’t want to move!