Mother Nature found soulmates in Susie and Arnie Zweig. Overlooking a panorama of the snaking Chattahoochee River, their Sandy Springs home is enveloped in lush indigenous flora. Susie, an architecturally trained interior designer said, “When I first saw this house and site, it reminded me of a Frank Lloyd Wright. Fascinated by the shale outcroppings lining the street as well as the privacy and park-like surroundings with views of the river, I knew that it had potential. With its post and beam construction, moving walls would be easy and the structural 3-inch-thick heart pine ceilings were lovely.
Arnie, a retired plastic surgeon, concurred. “I liked the idea of living in a forest within a major city with healthy air and no traffic or noise other than birds. Daily I am overcome by the beauty of the house. … When I first saw it, I thought it was a disaster. With Susie’s talent, it’s now nothing short of spectacular. Imagine showering while looking through the trees to the winding river from over 125 feet high.”
Marcia: What happened architecturally?
Susie: Architect Jay Waronker and I worked together; the finished project took a full year. We only kept the roof structure, the slab, two fireplaces and a few walls.
The floor plan, all mechanical systems, all finished surfaces, and the landscaping/hardscape were redesigned, modernized and chosen to be ageless.
It was exciting watching a crane lift the metal structure for the bar/river room extension over the 30-foot pool skylight and drop it into place. New proper-scaled windows and doors replaced ones sized for Lilliputians. A new entry façade in mahogany, designed by Jay, is perfect.
The original driveway was built like a superhighway with 18 inches of concrete. In the 70s the original owner supposedly spent $1 million on the engineering for the retaining walls, driveway, foundation and pool.
Marcia: How would you describe this masterpiece fireplace?
Susie: The stone top is original. Echoing the elliptical shapes of the front entrance and the kitchen clerestory, amazingly it is proportional at 11 feet high. I found a wooden ornament purported to be from the developer of Sea Pines in Hilton Head. The compass rose became the center. I found a great carpenter, master stone mason and craftsmen who did restoration finishing at the Biltmore House in Asheville.
Yes, it does radiate heat.
Marcia: The indoor pool is an important element.
Arnie: I used to operate at 7:30, so I would swim at 5 a.m. and exit through a secret door without waking Susie A special heating/cooling unit removes moisture and returns it to the pool, allowing me to swim laps comfortably all year. Since we get no leaves or debris, maintenance is minimal.
All the glass walls and ceilings make you feel outdoors. New operable windows and fixed glass were installed to replace the sliding doors opening to the cliff. The 42-foot pool was resurfaced with natural looking Pebble Tec.
Marcia: Where did you get your design sense and love of outdoors?
Susie: Both my parents were artistic and loved plants. We lived on a Stone Mountain farm until I was 9. My father was a “gentleman farmer” and a jewelry designer with an eye for unusual things. He bought me a brass church alter rail at auction. It became a sink base for the powder room and a coffee table in the bar/river room.
My mother, Peggy Ellman Greenbaum, was an award-winning artist. We especially love her female figure paintings displayed here.
The Chattahoochee River creates a mini ecosystem like the mountains, allowing plants to thrive that can’t grow in other Atlanta locations. Our Tuscan-like landscaping and hardscape, designed by Jeremy Smearman (Planters), includes indigenous plants. The native mountain laurels are spectacular in May.
Marcia: What’s unusual about your master suite?
Susie: The bedroom has a 15-foot wall of glass looking out to the woods and the garden and concrete statues my grandparents brought from Europe in the 50s.
My mother’s Baccarat crystal chandelier and her embroidered Brazilian-cutwork pillow covers are special to me.
We share a tub and shower but have double everything else, including the enviable closets in our luxurious bathroom. It has expansive views of the river forests and my newest project, a moss garden.
Marcia: What art do you most treasure here?
Susie: My favorite, after my mother’s work, is a 7-by-8-foot oil painting, “Capriole” by James Way (2004) of a real horse, beautifully executed, suspended whimsically by a string like that of a jumper on a carousel. It captures the space.
In the foyer, Patrick McGannon’s painting (2002) features a female figure overlooking the Tuscan countryside. Flanking the front door are a pair of life-sized carved wood statues … from a once-important building, purchased in 1974.
Arnie: Susie incorporated pieces I really like from my former home and office – some pieces by Salvador Dali, a piece by California artist [Christina] De Musée and a three-dimensional relief sculpture by Bill Mack.
Marcia: What is special about your kitchen?
Susie: Its timelessness.
White Georgia marble and quartz (for durability) countertops sit on contemporary mahogany cabinets with quirky pulls. The interesting microwave cabinet is different from the rest. A white hex floor, seen in 1920s drugstore fountains, has black shapes spaced minimally. The reverse pattern, black with white shapes, is used in some toe kicks. The kitchen works nicely, including the new Wolf appliances.
My fussy orchids love the generous natural light.
Arnie: Susie bought some junky turquoise metal pieces from the Lakewood Antiques Market. Refinished with added white glass, they are amazing light fixtures.
Marcia: After putting so much into this fabulous home, why now sell it?
Susie: While we love it, Arnie is retired; we want to simplify things and travel more.
This contemporary home is a breathtaking response to the site, a private gateway to nature that is comfortable, functional, unusual and stunning. (FMLS# 6522152).
Dali said, “Have no fear of perfection, as you will never reach it.” In this instance, he may be dead wrong.