Talk of the Town - Urban Nomad May 04 2005

Moving from house to house is all in a day's work for Michaela Graham

Michaela Graham has been buying and renovating houses for the last 13 years, living in each while working on it and then moving once a sale is complete. Her current project is an Adair Park Craftsman home listed on the historic register.

Furniture used in unexpected ways - like an old cast-iron stove converted into a heavy planter - is Graham's trademark. In the current home, Graham also used end tables, beds, and even jaggedly cut cowhide rugs to replace the 90-degree angles, transforming harsh lines into gentle curves. But there's more to it than just a flair for decorating. Walls have literally been torn down to facilitate conversation and open up the heart of the house, while old moldings remain unpainted, allowing the next owners to make the decision of whether to preserve the historic character of the charmingly cracked paint or repair it.

Creative Loafing: Why is everything angled?

Graham: Maybe it's feng shui? The balance of hard and soft? The truth is I don't like corners, I can't tell you why.

What was this house like when you bought it?

It was boarded up and condemned.

Why did you buy it?

I buy and renovate old houses. I like to keep the historic character and add some of my own. It takes a special person to buy an old house and I love to decorate. Years ago I saw a late-night commercial for decorating books. I bought the books and learned how to use both sides of my brain, the left and right, both business and creative.

What was the biggest challenge in renovating this house?

The personality thing. As a woman, well, men don't like to take direction from a woman. I had a carpenter walk off - it happens every time.

What's with all the old books?

I inherited them from my father, it was the only thing I wanted when he died. They are old German books by Karl May. Every German kid read them. The stories are about an Apache warrior named Winnetou. You know the whole pride and honor, your-word-is-your-word thing.

What is your favorite thing in the house?

The island in the kitchen made with baby grand piano legs. A dealer at Lakewood [Antiques Market] named Jeff Headley [of Vintage Recyclers in Ohio] made it for me.

It looks very large. How did you get it through the front door?

Jeff made it 40 inches wide and my front door is 36 inches wide, which created a problem. Luckily, the house had previously been used as a duplex and had a second front door that I had planned to take out - just not that Sunday morning when none of my carpenters were on-site. So I ended up spending about an hour with a hammer and saw cutting out the whole door frame to make a big enough opening for the island to get in the house.

cityhomes@creativeloafing.comFor more information on Graham's home, visit www.historicatlantahome.com.