Atlantan Amy Spanier is known for her interior design work and art consultancy. After establishing SNOB (Slightly North of Buckhead) in 1991, she scours warehouses, antique shops, the Merchandise Mart and wholesalers, buys direct from artists, and outbids at auctions to acquire just the right pieces for her clients.
Spanier recently gutted and redesigned a 1929 Georgian house in Morningside with details down to the antique pavers. Another 12,000-square-foot house she designed in eight layers, starting with gutting the interior and finishing with flourishes of art and accessories.
Spanier is the daughter of Jack and Harriet Spanier. Jack is one of the founding doctors of Northside Hospital and, in a renowned 50-plus-year career as an OB/GYN, has delivered close to 13,000 Atlanta babies. Harriet is well known for her career in fashion.
At the first glance into Spanier’s Brookhaven home, she said, “I’m forever a collector and have bought and sold over a lifetime to build the collection in my house, my cave, where I come to be still. I live with what I love.”
Spanier is not finished. In her hunt for fabulous objects for clients, she occasionally comes across something that has to come home, especially when it is art.
About the role of art in designing interiors, she said: “No project is complete until the art is installed. It may come first, and we design around it, or art can be the finish that pulls everything together. For me, design is about curating to the client’s vision and taking it sufficiently further to completely delight them.”
Since 2014, Spanier has progressively reinvented the interiors of the Galloway School in Chastain Park around the principles of Third Teacher design.
“Galloway was the place that invented me. I was one of the first graduates, and it was an honor to be commissioned to de-beige it,” she said. “Today, the school sings with color and shapes that engage the students. There’s only a speck of institutional beige left, but I’m not done yet.”
Spanier’s latest venture converges two of her passions: design and art. IDEA is an unconventional gallery in one of Atlanta’s hottest areas, downtown Chamblee. IDEA is a living, breathing exhibit space, hung salon style, with curated works by brilliant artists who are flying under the radar.
Jaffe: How would you describe what you are most fond of in your own home?
Spanier: Exceptional Old Paris porcelain, circa 1700 through late 1800s, ornate and hand-painted. My collection of inkwells is from all over the world. They represent the inkwell evolution. I especially like traveling inkwells, for someone who might have been adventuring across the world by ship or train.
Jaffe: How would you describe your dining room?
Spanier: The Danish parquetry china cabinet is from a local auction. The hand-painted Chinoiserie dining room table was custom-made in 1996 by Edith and Anna Cesar at ADAC West. This delicate Hungarian basket was carried by children in wedding processions.
I adore my two French mirrors: one shell-shaped from the 17th century and the other from Parc Monceau at the Galleries of Peachtree Hills.
This collection of 18th century prints depicts tools, jewelry and armor from the Roman Empire.
Jaffe: Who are some of the artists you collect at home?
Spanier: I have a number of Tom Everhart lithographs, the only artist legally allowed to reproduce Charles Schulz. Daphne Covington is a favorite, along with Jean Becette. The living room is overlooked by the gigantic Robert Jessup oil “Bueno Dias, Senor Cuervo.” The sculpture in my mirrored niche is by Przemyslaw Kordys, an IDEA artist. Upstairs you’ll see works by Jean Becette, known for mixed-media works on paper. I love my Victor Vasarely. Sometimes the frames are as important as the art. In my foyer is a pair of watercolors with frames by William Mailes Power, a carver, gilder and fashioner to the British royal family.
Jaffe: Share your vision of Chamblee and the new gallery you have opened.
Spanier: The gallery, which I co-founded with Peter Dyer, an art entrepreneur, is called IDEA for Innovate, Design, Exhibit Art. We exhibit exceptional local works in many different media. IDEA currently represents 20 artists, and, as word of mouth spreads, so we are attracting a bigger following. Through our nonprofit IDEAChamblee, we are working on a series of city-driven community projects. We were recently featured in the Atlanta Business Chronicle for helping make Chamblee a go-to art destination. IDEA hosted a competition to design the Peachtree Road Gateway Mural. With the city and MARTA’s collaboration, mural artist Michael Jones was chosen and is painting as we speak. Chamblee will be the next intown adventure for Atlantans.
Jaffe: What is your charitable involvement in giving back to the community?
Spanier: In redesigning the Galloway School, I coordinated a gift of their surplus school furniture to the Cumberland Academy and to the Atlanta Furniture Bank. Through the Furniture Bank, over the years I have furnished many residences, through donation, for families moving out of homelessness and fleeing domestic violence.
Jaffe: What are some of the most unusual things you have?
Spanier: A four-paneled screen of Victorian-era famous leaders in decoupage; a life-sized birdhouse in the kitchen. I treasure my grandpa Louie Spanier’s metal mixing bowls and tools. He was a baker and sold restaurant equipment. I have antique posters from Belgium and Staffordshire elephants. I bought a vibrant aquarium sculpture from the Art Show at the Breman Jewish Home. It’s all pretty eclectic.
Jaffe: You have the last word as the designer.
Spanier: It’s fun to collect from all around the world, but Atlanta has the best of everything. It’s all right here.