Talk of the Town - Sweet dreams October 09 2003

Four-story, vertical home in South Atlanta

Robbie Rhymer had no intentions of buying a house.

Then, he saw floor plans for a home designed and built by Scott Ball and Eric Speakman in the McDonough/Guice neighborhood south of Ormewood Park. The four-story house is vertically oriented — it goes up, instead of out. Another innovative touch: There’s a human-scale birdhouse on top, which contains a master suite. (Yep, even the designer calls it a birdhouse).

The home is a striking blend of loft and traditional residential architecture. The vertical emphasis creates distinct public and private spaces, with remote hideaways on different floors. Match that with a massive second-floor great room, with 16-foot ceilings and colossal glass doors that open onto a spectacular deck. Perfect for parties.

Rhymer was fascinated. He visited the house about 20 times while it was under construction.

Two years later, Ball and Rhymer are fast friends and neighbors.

Creative Loafing: Why so fascinated with this house?

Rhymer: The attraction was the getaway spaces. I deal with people a great deal. I actually find that who I’m on the phone with, or what kind of conference call, determines what part of the house I go to. If it’s a really loud conference call, where people are irritable, I’ll go nest in [the loft], where I find it very quiet, peaceful and soothing, with good energy. If it’s a more formal setting, I’ll go to the [kitchen] bar, so I can pay attention.

Explain this “birdhouse” bedroom.

Rhymer: Particularly in the summertime, when the tree is in full bloom with all the foliage, you feel like you are in a birdhouse up there.

Ball: I always thought of it as a birdhouse. I like that idea of sleeping and dreaming and sort of being up high.

How do you decorate a vertical house? These curvy banners really set off the 16-foot walls.

Rhymer: I saw some banners as I was flipping through magazines at the airport. When Dekor went out of business in Buckhead, they had these hanging and they were just straight at the bottom and the top. So I found a seamstress and hired her to help me create some stuff. They are silk taffeta.

Why design vertically?

Ball: If you are on the top or bottom floor, you have no real perception that the rest of the house exists. That kind of separation, we felt, offered a lot more ways of inhabiting the space. You can rent out part and not know the other person was there. Or have your office.

The great room looks fabulous for entertaining.

Ball: You know when you have a party and the first few people arrive? Everyone congregates in the kitchen. We designed it so only one person could fit into the kitchen, but as people came in, they could group around [the kitchen bar]. And as more people came in, they would get claustrophobic and start moving into the big space. And then as more people came in, they would move outside.

Rhymer: Which is really what they do.

It’s very loft-y, but I so envy your suburban-style mammoth closets.

Rhymer: The storage closet runs the length of the bedroom.

When my nieces and nephews visit, they take their sleeping bags and sleep in there, pretending they’re camping.