My Atlanta Townhouse, Twenty Years Ago in Veranda…

OY. While I’m still in my mess of an apartment in New York, things are coming along. Slogging through old photos the other day, I ran across these of my old Atlanta townhouse, the first project designer and friend John Oetgen and I worked on together. It was published in Veranda, what, nearly 20 years ago. Lord.

I was just starting to feel like a grown-up. That feeling comes and goes, btw.

Atlanta Townhouse. Vignette with dahlias. Photo of photo by Langdon Clay.

Anne Foxley produced the shoot, together with John. They sent me out for sandwiches. Langdon Clay took the pictures and made it look better than it was–which I hasten to add is not a comment on John’s work but on what we could do on my spit-and-shoepolish budget.

Actually with a little imagination you can do a lot on a spit-and-shoepolish budget. It just might take longer. (Hence my jumbled NY apartment five months after moving in. My husband keeps asking me when I will get things off the floor. I tell him in a year.)

Meanwhile I take solace in seeing what John and I did before, and knowing we will do it again. In fact we’re doing it now.

Atlanta Townhouse in Veranda. The living room was arranged as a salon, anchored at either end with sofas and chairs in between that can be easily moved around to suit the occasion. Slipper chair in Scalamandre silk cut velvet, with nailhead trim. Photo of photo by Langdon Clay.

I loved the “salon style” arrangement of the room, anchored at either end with sofas and a variety of chairs that could be moved around to suit the occasion or conversation. Everything was slip-covered with neutral fabrics from the discount fabric store, except I sprang for the Scalamandré cut velvet on the small slipper chair and an ottoman. Both are in East Hampton now and I still love it. Yes, there’s a lesson there.

That funny pastel portrait on the mantle is supposed to be moi, a gift from John, who is also an artist. At the base of the bust is chiseled “Françoiso.” He calls me Francoiso and I call him Juanito. It is silly-o.

Atlanta Townhouse - Living Room - Photo of photo by Langdon Clay.

Another lesson from this room is that the fireplace does not have to be the focal point. We sometimes fixate on the fireplace as center of attention, but it doesn’t have to be, particularly if there is a better, more practical, or prettier way to arrange the room.

Ah, I see we hadn’t gotten that second sofa yet for the other end of the room. That came later. This painted wooden cabinet and chaise are both at Bee Cottage now. I wish I still had that lamp.

Atlanta Townhouse - Living Room

This small hallway connects the living and dining rooms. John turned a non-descript pass-through space into something fun, putting curtains at either end, trimming them in bright blue and painting the ceiling to match, sort of. Later we covered the walls with a jungle foliage wallpaper, and I added my painting of Elvis on velvet in there with the blue and white porcelain. It was fab. Sorry I don’t have a picture handy.

Atlanta Townhouse. Hall. Photo of photo by Langdon Clay.

I loved the dining room with its mix of chairs and art. It was kind of kooky, with an old  and rather prim English breakfast table turned catty-cornered and pictures hung higgledy-piggledy from floor to ceiling, salon style. (There’s that word again.)  We had some mighty good times in this room, and some very loud laughs.

Atlanta Townhouse in Veranda. Dining room. Photo of photo by Langdon Clay.

This is a view from the dining table toward the landing at the entrance. That mixed media work by Todd Murphy is still one of my favorite pieces. It’s in California now. The chandelier, originally gas-lit, came from the old Jefferson Hotel in Richmond.

Gosh looking at these things is like seeing old friends again .

Atlanta Townhouse. "Ivich," in mixed media by Todd Murphy.

I had kept the Brunschwig & Fils linen print from a previous apartment where I’d worked with the tremendously talented Atlanta designer Benji Jones. (See some of Benji’s work on the great blog HonestlyWTF here and Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles here) But this room was bigger than its predecessor, and those solid taupe-y brown walls and ceiling made me feel like I was sleeping in a paper bag.

John O had an idea. Armed with a paintbrush, white paint, and a ladder, he waited impatiently for me to leave the room so he could do his thing. I went to Europe and he went to town. His wonderful wacky free-hand leaves and flowers and curlicues falls somewhere between Dr. Seuss and Zuber, and I could not have been more delighted. It  tickles me to death to this day.

Atlanta Townhouse. Bedroom. Brunschwig & Fils linen print on bed and curtains. Photo of photo by Langdon Clay.

The bedside tables, by the way, are Container Store wire basket units slipcovered in linen with detachable Velcro fronts for easy access. Great for linen and and out of season clothes storage.

Okay I know you’re busy. Run along. Have a wonderful weekend. Oh, just one more thing… a big thank you:

I’ve recently discovered a charming budding blog called Come on in Friend (, here) penned by my old North Carolina friend Peg Hardee. Billed as “Insights into Southern Cuisine & Hospitality.” I’m in! Her recipes are do-able, sound delicious, and are just a little different. I can’t wait to try them. Yesterday Peg gave yours truly the kindest shout-out. I did not have the heart to tell her I think she has me confused with someone else, but I sure do appreciate it. Thank you again, dear Peg. And y’all be sure to take a look at!



  1. Frances, you were born with style.
    I follow your blog hoping some of it will rub off on this country mouse.

  2. I second that – YOU were born with style, long legs and a sense of humor!!!! sooo jealous in a good way!!

  3. OH – I knew I would Love it ! Most especially the “paper bag” transformation by John ! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. Frances, Pictures ARE worth a thousand words and then some when you are the author!!! Keep them coming…I will always “run along” to another enchanting entry!! Happy Fall Y’all!! xoxoxo Mary Mac

    1. That’s ’cause you were working your magic, girl. Love hearing from you, Anne, thanks so much for writing. xox Frances

  5. you will not believe me but I have tear sheets from that exact issue of your townhouse in an old folder. Which means maybe it is time to change my filing system. 20 years? really? Of course i did not know you then but i LOVED it and still do. Great art!!

  6. Frances, such a small world didn’t know you knew Laurette was just with her Friday night. I loved seeing your townhouse in Atlanta and also love where you live now. i bet you will never move back from CA so beautiful out there and love love the weather. I hope to see you sometime!!!!xMJ

  7. Just looking around my home and realizing I DO have Salon style and it works. Thank you for always reminding us what is important. You are a true gem!

  8. Oh my goodness I still have that issue!! I was crazy for your townhouse and kept it!! So interesting to now know that it was yours! I do wish I could have seen the velvet Elvis though : )

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