Talk of the Town - deco delight March 16 2005

The Wigwam's art deco details suit Eric and Nicole Carsten to a T

Even on a drizzly Sunday afternoon, the Wigwam is hard to miss. The compact, boxy condominium complex could have been plucked straight from South Beach and dropped, fully intact, on Auburn Avenue, just a few blocks from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthplace.

It's an arresting scene: relentlessly cheery shades of yellow, green, blue and coral cover the Wigwam's stucco exterior. Curved awnings and rails provide the only contrast to the predominantly rectangular shapes and perpendicular angles of the square, multilevel building.

The Wigwam was built in the 1940s but gradually fell into disrepair, until it was recently bought by Judi Knight, who rescued it from its crack house status and completely refurbished it.

Eric and Nicole Carsten, along with their cats Oreo and Oscar, are the proud owners of one of the Wigwam's eight units. Eric is a web developer by day and a DJ by night, while Nicole works for Cobb County government. Their airy little two-bedroom condo brings the Wigwam's exterior colors inside with pastel green, blue and yellow-walled rooms, and brightly patterned curtains.

Creative Loafing: How did this building come about?

Nicole: Originally, Cornelius King (no relation to the Civil Rights leader) built this building for his family.

Why is a South Beach-looking condo complex called the Wigwam?

Nicole: The building was originally concrete, and they eventually put stucco on it, so it wasn't originally King's interpretation of how it would look with the pastel colors. He wanted to go with a Native American look, hence the Wigwam.

Eric: I think he was half Cree Indian.

After Judi Knight bought the building, what was her role in refurbishing it?

Nicole: When she bought it, it was pastel. She just updated the colors. For the historic code, the original windows had to stay, and the outside had to remain the same. But she gutted it and put in all the cabinetry, the bamboo floors, the AC unit, the washer and dryer and rewired it. She put in the fountain and all the lights, and of course the landscaping and all the little palm trees.

Has your decor been influenced by living here?

Nicole: I don't think we'd have a mint green wall -

Eric: mint truffle ...

Nicole: - if we lived in a more traditional place. I think we're very eclectic, anyway, but it allows us to have everything really colorful. So it is very inspiring. You walk outside and it's coral and green and yellow!

What attracted you to the Wigwam?

Nicole: We were getting married and were looking for a place. We just happened to be driving by, and we both walked in and were like, "Oh, we love it!" It was so cute and unique. The units are all a little bit different. Like we're the only ones that have a square window in the door. All the other ones have a little portal.

Eric: It's not the cookie-cutter condo. One key element for us is that it was basically like an apartment that we could just move into, hands down. It had all the appliances already included. It's a great starter home.


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