I’ve been mulling over the idea of blogging about my own space for years, but there was always one more project I wanted to complete or one more piece of furniture I wanted to buy before I felt like I was ready. Well, the time has finally come. And it only took us listing our condo for sale to make it happen, ha! Even though this is our home for just a few more days (eek!), please indulge me while I write a love letter to the first home we ever owned.
Since this is my blog and normally I ask the home tour questions, I asked myself the questions. We’ll just pretend that’s not sorta weird. I also normally start with a little introduction about the homeowners, so I’ll do that for myself, too:
I’ve known Kenan for just over 29 years and Nick for more than 10 years, and I have to say, they’re pretty great folks. Nick is a lawyer by day and by night, and in his little bit of spare time, he likes to travel with Kenan, play golf, and read books about behavioral economics or something equally challenging that makes Kenan feel guilty for reading novels. Kenan is a little more difficult to pin down in a one-sentence description. Professionally, she’s a photographer, blogger, teacher of cooking classes, painter of vegetables and dogs, and probably 12 other creative pursuits. She feels at home at local farmers markets; loves talking about art, food, agriculture, or what she heard about on NPR this morning; and is always making spreadsheets for her next trip with Nick.
Name: Nicholas Hill
Current job: Associate at King & Spalding
Hometown: Alpharetta, GA
JD, UNC School of Law – Chapel Hill
BA, Journalism (Advertising), University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
Name: Kenan Crawford Hill
Current job: freelance photographer, teacher, painter
Hometown: it’s complicated / the Southeast / North Carolina
BA, Studio Art (Painting), University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
Certificate, Business, Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill
Why did you choose a condo over a detached house? (And spoiler: why are you moving to a house now?)
When we first started looking to buy a home in Atlanta, we looked at houses from Decatur through Buckhead (that’s a large swath of intown Atlanta). This was 2012 and the housing market was a mess. Even still, we couldn’t afford the neighborhoods closest to Nick’s office in Midtown. We knew that he’d be working a lot, and we didn’t want to add to his time away from home with a long commute. Right after Nick’s law school graduation, we took a trip to New York City, which convinced us to consider looking at condos. Our realtor tried to talk us out of buying a condo (because it’s historically not a great investment), but we knew that it was the best way to keep Nick’s commute down and to be in a walkable area of Atlanta. We got super lucky in finding the Brookwood. It was selling new units at foreclosure prices, thanks to the Great Recession. A condo has absolutely been the right choice for our phase of life. When we travel, we literally only have to lock one door, and we have no concerns about security while we’re gone. We’ve had a pool, gym, clubhouse, and concierge at our disposal. The LEED-certified green building has kept our utilities to a minimum, and we’ve had very minimal maintenance.
That said, we’re moving to a house! As we start to think about raising a family (not yet! but we’re planners!), we know that we will one day outgrow our 3-ish bedroom unit (technically 2 bedrooms and a separate den/office). We love condo living, and we would totally consider moving to a larger unit. Unfortunately, the price jump to larger condos in similar areas to ours is outrageous! Honestly, I think condos are better suited for children than a lot of Southerners give them credit for: no stairs, good security, fun amenities, etc. But I digress… We casually look at real estate for fun all the time, and when we found our house online, we knew it was The One. More on that soon! But the moral of the story is that you’ve got to know what your priorities are because every housing budget has to make compromises. While young and childless in our twenties, location, ease of travel, and minimal maintenance were top of our list.
What’s your favorite feature of your condo?
The floor to ceiling windows! I don’t know how I’ll ever live without them, but I’ve gotta figure that out soon. We get so much ambient light during the day that I rarely turn on lights, and it’s ideal for lots of houseplants (#crazyplantlady). Since we face west, we see sunsets in the evening, which really never get old. It’s helped me appreciate the changing of the seasons so much more; watching the way the sun shifts throughout the year and how the tree canopy changes are truly a delight.
My other favorite feature is the Viking range; it’s what really sold me on our condo. I hoped for a gas range in our first home (after years of dreadful electric ranges in our college/grad school apartments), but I had no idea I’d start out with such a great one! I’ve been so fortunate to have a professional stove at my fingertips, and I’ve put it to really good use!!
How would you describe your style? Do y’all agree on home decor?
We’re lucky to have very aligned senses of style. In general, I’d describe our style as transitional. We like timeless, antique pieces balanced with contemporary elements. Nick’s major rules are: 1) no orange, and 2) stay in budget. That means I (Kenan) get free reign over home decor as long as it stays within our agreed upon budget. Fortunately Nick likes most of what I like, although I do have to be mindful to balance feminine and masculine elements because I love pink! (All of my pink stuff goes in my office/studio!)
How has your space evolved in the 5+ years that you’ve lived there? How did you decide in which furniture pieces to invest?
This space has been through so many iterations! When we first moved in, we were fresh out of grad school living, so we had minimal budget for decorating. Most of that budget went to light fixtures because we bought new and there were no lights or fans anywhere. We wanted to go ahead and choose long-term light fixtures and get them all installed at once so we didn’t have to pay for an electrician multiple times. I had my heart set on our chrome island pendants and the knockoff versions just didn’t do it for me. So that was our splurge, and we balanced it out with a chandelier on clearance and less expensive ceiling fans.
Once upon a time we had a gallery wall in the living room which basically consisted of every framed thing I already owned from our grad school days. I also painted a mural of the words from the hymn “How Great Thou Art” on a bedroom wall (mostly because it was a free way to cover a large wall). I rearrange stuff ALL the time because it feels like getting something new without actually buying anything. We were very fortunate to get lots of hand-me-down furniture from family and friends, most of which we still have. Going the antique route can help you get solid wood furniture built to last, and it’s sometimes less expensive than the stuff at IKEA.
We’ve slowly built a collection of art, so it’s not just my own stuff hanging. We try to select art pieces that have some significance, like the abstract painting by Nick’s high school friend Brittany Bass Turner and the Atlanta skyline painting done by our former pastor, Drew Ditzel. We finally invested in a good sofa last fall after a long search for the perfect comfortable-yet-stylish piece. I think a large part of investing in furniture is patience: either patience to save up money for an awesome thing you can’t live without or patience to wait for a great sale or deal that fits your budget.
Your space is contemporary, yet your furniture is mostly antique. How do you bridge the gap?
It’s all about balance. My taste in ornate, detailed furniture could easily go overboard and leave nowhere for your eyes to rest. But the clean lines of the rooms, windows, and fixtures, in addition to more minimal pieces–like our mid century modern dining table–ease that tension. I think a consistent color palette helps bring varied styles together, too. We have lots of dark woods and our upholstery is in a narrow band of off white, light blues and greens. The white walls throughout are really a product of me being indecisive about paint colors, but I think they also help tie everything together. On the other hand, throwing out the rules about mixing metals helped achieve an eclectic, collected look. One piece of furniture with antique brass knobs might look out of place next to a chrome fan, but we have all sorts of metals playing off of each other instead.
How have your travels inspired your home decor?
Our travel inspirations certainly show up in many different places throughout our home. There’s a large scale print of London facades (by my friend Morgan Blake Beatton) in our hallway because it’s one of our favorite cities to visit and where Nick studied abroad. I hung some prints from our hike in the Italian Riviera in our master bedroom and bathroom because it’s such a happy memory (and who doesn’t want a beautiful shot of water over their bathtub?!). I have a vase of dried lavender on my dresser from the Ferry Building Farmers Market in San Francisco–one of my favorite places on earth! I keep a little glass box of shells, rocks, and coral I’ve collected on coastal trips. I always want to print more travel photos, but a combination of indecision and running out of wall space keep it from happening.
How has your passion for the “Art of Entertaining” affected your home? And how do you delineate different areas of your open floor plan?
Nick and I both grew up in very hospitable homes, so we knew that would play an important role in our housing decisions. Part of why we chose our condo in the first place was because the open floor plan is so conducive to entertaining. Since our dining area isn’t that large, we incorporated a china cabinet and buffet into our living room area. For larger parties, that helps us spread out beyond the kitchen or dining table.
Since our “den” doubles as Nick’s office and a guest bedroom, I tried to incorporate elements that make it feel more welcoming. I covered a filing cabinet to stand in as a bedside table, and I leave out a vase of dried flowers, a cup and jar of water, and a luggage rack.
While we love the openness of the kitchen, dining room, and living room all in one space, we were also intentional to define each area. The long kitchen island is an obvious separation between the kitchen and the rest of the room. The rug under the dining table and the rug in the living area really set apart those spaces. Orienting the sofa with its back to the dining area also helped separate the areas, but the low profile of the sofa keeps plenty of visual flow.
Tell me about some of your favorite pieces in your home.
I love pieces that have a story (even if I don’t know the story). There’s something special about stewarding an object that’s been around for decades! We have an old Singer sewing machine acting as an accent table in our living room. Nick’s childhood dresser became our TV stand–I took out one of the drawers to stow away the cable box and DVD player, and the other drawers provide storage for things like DVDs, games, and table linens. My childhood toy box recently became our coffee table, and it also has lots of storage for blankets. My mom just gave me my childhood piano, which is a great source of stress relief for me! And probably my favorite non-antique piece is the bar cabinet that Nick’s dad and I co-designed (and he built). The dark wood structure conceals our mini drink fridge, provides wine and glassware storage, and serves as a bar. Instead of a marble top, we saved money by using 12x24” marble look alike porcelain tiles. I’m super proud of it!
What are some of your favorite neighborhood spots?
We love having a stretch of the Beltline at the end of our street. It’s such a peaceful retreat in nature (a creek! so many trees! wild blackberries!) right in the heart of the city. We’re lucky to have some fabulous restaurants in our building, including Watershed and Saltyard. I’ve gotten to work with and become friends with Chef Nick Leahy at Saltyard, which is one of our favorite spots in the city. We also love the chicken quesadillas next door at Bell Street Burritos, the 24-hour Californian fare at R. Thomas, the healthy fast-casual bowls at Gusto!, and the Mediterranean kabobs at Fresh 4 U. Our location is a unique combination of residential and urban, which makes it a hard act to follow!
Describe your ideal weekend in Atlanta.
I’d kick off the weekend with friends at Friday night jazz at the High Museum and then dinner out, maybe at Saltyard or somewhere else nearby. First thing Saturday morning, I’d go to Freedom Farmers Market at the Carter Center to stock up on local veggies, meat, and flowers. Nick and I would have brunch at home, inspired by my market finds, of course. Then we’d go on a long walk around the neighborhood and prepare for a dinner party at our place. Sunday would start with a service at First Presbyterian Church in Midtown, then after a lunch at home (probably leftovers from our dinner party), we would go work out and hang out by the pool. A simple dinner on the grill and catching up on TV shows would be the ideal end to the weekend.
Friday night, go to dinner with friends at Saltyard or somewhere in Midtown. On Saturday, play golf in the morning, go home to eat Kenan’s homemade brunch, and then walk the Beltline to Ponce City Market for dinner. Go to church Sunday morning, quick lunch at home, then go to the pool and gym (or get another 9 holes of golf in). Finish the weekend with dinner at home and one of our favorite TV shows.
Most of our furniture is antique, so unfortunately I can’t link it. However, some of my favorite antique places are:
Sofa – Intaglia Home Collection (similar)
Woven plant baskets – Ten Thousand Villages
Arc lamp – Target
Piano lamp – Target
Pride and Prejudice with illustrations – Amazon*
White + gold bud vase – Honeycomb Studio
Desk – IKEA
“It’s a great day to be a Tar Heel” print – Design by Laney
Yellow quilt – Belk (similar)
Abstract painting – Britt Bass Turner
Atlanta skyline painting – Drew Ditzel
Range & oven – Viking
Island pendants – (similar)
KitchenAid stand mixer (gray) – Amazon*
Stay tuned for projects from our new house!
*This page contains affiliate links, which means I earn a few cents if you make a purchase from these links. Thanks for helping support the projects that keep kenanhill.com in business! For more information, see my disclosures page.