Chai Style Homes: Intown Designer’s Wabi-Sabi Refuge Takes Shape
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Chai Style Homes: Intown Designer’s Wabi-Sabi Refuge Takes Shape

Caryn Grossman's "voracious curiosity" defies the limits of formulaic design.

Marcia Caller Jaffe

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

The powder room pays homage to Andy Warhol. The shocking paint color is Benjamin Moore’s Simply Red. The autograph on the David Bowie photograph is addressed to Buxbaum — “Thanks for the use of your gaffe (and the sounds)” — after Bowie spent the day at his apartment. The mirror is a Venetian replica. (Photo by Duane Stork)
The powder room pays homage to Andy Warhol. The shocking paint color is Benjamin Moore’s Simply Red. The autograph on the David Bowie photograph is addressed to Buxbaum — “Thanks for the use of your gaffe (and the sounds)” — after Bowie spent the day at his apartment. The mirror is a Venetian replica. (Photo by Duane Stork)

Interior designer Caryn Grossman is transforming her own multilevel modern home in Home Park near Georgia Tech. Known for her chic style, the talented Grossman’s mantra could be “the more unconventional, the better.”

“I’m driven by a voracious curiosity — fashion, music, a myriad of artistic styles, all inform my work,” she said. “Well-designed spaces have a rhythm, a way your eye and your body travel through. There’s a Japanese concept of three views: You see and want to explore what you first encounter, then move on to the experience beyond, and then what’s beyond that. It’s a beautiful, relational, rhythmic transition.

“I am also a firm believer in wabi-sabi, which embraces imperfection. When you look through my house, you’ll see a lot of that. I save broken china, chandelier parts, vintage clothing. My eye loves to wander, and I never know what I might do with it next.”

In British fashion, Caryn Grossman and Chris Buxbaum enjoy a spot of tea in cups from her great-grandmother. The black-and-white photo of a Lotus flower, “Om Mani Padme Hum,” is by Buxbaum. The aqua vases in the background are antiques from The End of History in New York. (Photo by Duane Stork)

Fiancé Chris Buxbaum is a photographer who calls their new home Moonbase Alpha after a British TV series. We recognize Chris as the literary event specialist for A Cappella Books, who can often be seen in the lobby of the Marcus JCC during the Book Festival.

Caryn Grossman believes that art should be an unexpected encounter and can be found in vintage hats, purses, old tuxedo shirts and well-arranged objects. The accent wall color in the master bedroom is Amethyst Cream by Benjamin Moore. The art over the bed is “Wish” by Alex Leopold. The dressed mannequin jumping off the wall is by Clint Zeagler, a Georgia Tech professor who is an expert in wearable electronics. The amethyst glass chandelier is a rare original Venini from Italy. (Photo by Duane Stork)

“I was born in England and lived there until age 27. … Growing up, I was involved in the London club scene (Bowie, punk, club kids), and that has informed everything I have done,” Buxbaum said. “I currently split my time between A Cappella Books and editing my latest photography series, ‘Deities,’ my third collaboration with the incredibly talented performance artist David Richardson.”

The baroque amethyst chandelier took four men five days to install in the bedroom. The white graphics are original to the house. (Photo by Duane Stork)

Jaffe: Share the house’s history.
Buxbaum: The original owner/architect (1996) was Nicholas Storck, who now lives in France. Without counting the rooftop patio (700 square feet), we have 1,400 square feet. We love the expansive windows — it’s like being in a tree house — and Nicholas’ original design flows like poetry.

Jaffe: Fill us in on your design firm and how your professional ideas transfer here.
Grossman: After an initial career as a writer of architectural and design reviews, I studied interior architecture at Atlanta College of Art, now SCAD. I started my own design firm, CG Interiors Group, in 2000 for both residential and commercial interiors, from the bones up to simply decorative. I’ve designed projects in South Florida, Chicago, San Francisco and Atlanta. I also teach design, which exposes me to new passions, methods and ideas. Each home I live in reflects an ever-expanding imagination.

The upstairs hall reflects the friendships Caryn Grossman made with many artists when she had a space at the 1930s Telephone Factory, an art community on the BeltLine. In addition to the Sister Louisa piece, the work on the top right, “Reasons I Love Secrets,” is by Squeak Carnwath. The vintage mannequin is from Belgium. (Photo by Duane Stork)

Jaffe: How do you describe your own taste?
Grossman: Expansive. I like surprises, or designs that don’t necessarily fit, like total opulence in an industrial warehouse or slightly baroque furnishings in a modern home. Form, function and scale are extremely important to me, but I don’t ascribe to any one particular style. I appreciate good design wherever I see it. It’s almost easier to describe what I don’t like, which is formulaic design, where nothing imparts individuality.
Buxbaum: Eclectic, edgy. I’m attracted to outrage and glamour, but there must always be an element of beauty. I am also very interested in art that makes political and social justice statements without being preachy, like Atlanta artist Michi Meko, whose works are sumptuous but contain deep messages.

Jaffe: What is your advice about collecting?
Grossman: I rarely choose artwork for my residential clients. I’ll point them in a direction by taking them to galleries and art openings that fit their style. I advise as to the size of the piece and where in the home it might best fit, but I don’t specify artwork the way I might commission something for a commercial space. Having a designer’s guidance is excellent, but choosing art should be a personal decision.

This diptych of a nude silhouette is by famed 1960s pop/fetish artist Allen Jones. (Photo by Duane Stork)

Jaffe: Who are your favorite artists?
Buxbaum: They are a disparate group: Allen Jones (’60s pop art/fetishism), Egon Schiele (what that man could do with a few pencil lines), Tony Oursler (personally challenging video art), Robert Frank (the greatest living photographer). Recently, I am seeing a local artist, Lars WB, do great work. Like Michi, he started in the street art scene but has the talent to cross over. The two overriding influences on my life are David Bowie (brilliantly encompassing almost all artistic genres) and the Beat Generation, which is largely responsible for me landing on these shores from England.
Grossman: Locally, I’m a fan of Masud Olufani, Sarah Emerson and some who have left Atlanta, like Gyun Hur and Christopher Moulder, a lighting designer with whom I collaborated. On a wider scale, I’m drawn to experiential art, where the designed experience is part of the body of work. Artists like Olafur Eliasson, Song Dong, Ai Weiwei. I love street art and interventions, where the art disrupts the urban streetscape or utilizes urban objects in a thought-provoking way. I love the surprise of the encounter.

The large black-and-white graphic in the living room is “Fractured” by Lars WB, an up-and-coming Atlanta artist. (Photo by Duane Stork)

Jaffe: How do you use the house’s flow?
Buxbaum: The moon base is almost a totally open plan and quite small, but it is designed to accommodate almost everything: Caryn’s studio, my photography shoots, entertaining. After a hard day in the literary world, I’m on the porch with bourbon, and the speaker’s blasting some Coltrane or Rollins. We had the blue velvet sofa made especially long to enable chilling with the greyhounds. I love waking up in the master bedroom, where my first view of the world is a panorama of birds, trees and open sky.

Jaffe: Last word?
Buxbaum: I’d love to see more neon. An Aladdin Sane lightning bolt would do me fine.

The couple rescued greyhound Mingus, as well as Italian greyhound Vinnie and three roaming cats. (Photo by Duane Stork)

Grossman: I have lots of plans! I’d like to commission a street artist to paint the living room wall. A gilded antique chair with purple velvet fabric to throw a curve into our décor would be fantastic. I’ve been nagging Chris to get a Philippe Starck gold-edition gnome, mostly because they are ridiculous.

Bottom line: This is a hot bed of creativity.

Chris Buxbaum’s fantastical, detailed photography series of drag queen Babydoll Schultz (aka David Richardson, his longtime creative partner) has hand-painted frames with Cadillac body paint to achieve a glossy azure effect. The photos, all taken by Buxbaum, were featured in the Museum of Design Atlanta and at a recent exhibition, “Schizophrenic Photogenic.” The wood ball is from a Belgian import container. The mushroom light fixture is by artist Christopher Moulder. The wood figure on the zebra rug is a saint from a Belgian church. (Photo by Duane Stork)
Dennis Coburn from Boomerang custom-made the 1950s leopard lounge bar. The ghost barstools are by Philippe Starck for Kartell. The alcove is quite the conversation piece for entertaining. (Photo by Duane Stork)
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