Having it All

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It all started innocently enough. The owners of this Ansley Park home needed an architect’s expertise to help rethink a window in their too-dark kitchen. They contacted Atlanta’s Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects who, in turn, recommended two of their former employees—Brian Bell and David Yocum, formerly senior project architects with the firm, whom had since moved on to start their own company, bldgs.

“The original kitchen was four feet below the exterior grade,” recalls Yocum. “Also, there was an addition done in the ’80s—which was the footprint for our work—but there wasn’t a clear path from the back of the house on the lower level up to the back of the house on the upper level. The staircase [in the original house] was the only way; it didn’t make any sense. But the reason the kitchen felt ‘buried’ was that, after the addition was done, someone came along and put the pool in, and they backed it right up against the house. It blocked a lot of light.

“The owners said they had some ideas, but wanted to see what we could come up with, too. And we decided the problem was the whole back half of the house.”

The homeowners knew that the architects’ work was consistently contemporary; Bell and Yocum typically use a lot of glass and non-standard materials, things common in commercial settings but not necessarily residential. But even though the clients had always lived in old houses, the complete departure in terms of style was a non-issue. “They were very interested in contemporary art and contemporary architecture and contemporary furnishings,” says Yocum, “so it wasn’t like we were pushing against a door that wasn’t already open.”