When looking for a place to call home, Atlanta designer Kevin Francis O’Gara came across an unusual option: the condo developer’s office. “My house used to be the sales office for Hedgewood Homes while they were building the neighborhood, so it had a conference room, office and sitting area for prospective buyers,” says founder of Kevin Francis Design.
Although it might not have been the first choice for less imaginative homeowners, Francis saw the potential: “It was such a blank slate when I moved in, but all the finishes were fantastic, from the alabaster walls to the cream tiles in the kitchen,” he grumbled. Plus, with his experience selling handmade rugs and curated decor, O’Gara had all the tools at hand to reimagine it.
However, converting a corporate space to a residential one had its challenges: “There were no closets in the house,” O’Gara recalls, meaning he had to get creative with storage in unexpected places. The emphasis on the living and kitchen areas facing the public meant that the bedroom and study lacked windows and therefore precious light. Moreover, the space’s past life left somewhat of a sterile quality.
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“I wanted it to feel like an escape from the world.”
O’Gara solved the latter two conundrums by adding depth and texture—both literally and figuratively. He leaned into the back spaces with moody palettes and layered antiques and art to give the white box a homely feel. “It meant a lot to me to be able to use antiques from my mother and grandparents, especially pieces I grew up with, which really elevate the design and make it feel extra personal,” says the designer. “I really believe that every room benefits from one piece of old brown wood furniture to ground the design, so I’m happy to see these types of pieces making a comeback.”
“I was completely spoiled by my fabulous kitchen, which has bleached oak cabinetry and a built-in espresso maker, and was designed by Hedgewood co-founder Pam Sessions,” says O’Gara. He added bar stools from his own collection and antique lithographs to make it his own.
The area rug, gray walker and alabaster lamp are all from Kevin Francis Design. “My sources really run the gamut, from Home Depot to the antique store down the street,” says the designer.
Section: Article. Mirror: Ballard Designs. Coffee table: Antique/Parc Monceau. Portrait Art: Josh Young. Embroidered pillows: West Elm. Blue Ikat pillows: Vintage/Antiques & Beyond. Queen Anne Dining Chairs: Antique with China Seas fabric. Round Pedestal Table: Anthropology. Campaign Desk: Antique. Rattan chairs: Mainly Baskets Home.
Since the study—in contrast to the bright, open living room and kitchen—gets little to no light, O’Gara worked hard to make it feel moody and inviting. “The wallpaper in my study is definitely a favorite moment of mine because it’s such a visual surprise that unfolds as you walk into the room,” says the designer. “It was such a conversation starter and people are always so intrigued by the pattern when they peek through the door; I love how it draws you into the room.”
O’Gara framed architectural plans of his childhood home to hang over his desk, an antique campaign-style piece whose drawers offer plenty of storage. The constantly changing notice board on top of it also serves as a kind of rotating art piece. “With each vignette, I tried to add one old thing that would elevate the design and give a story-collected look, even if it was just a small accessory,” says the designer.
“I try to place a mirror somewhere in every room to give the space more dimension,” says O’Gara. The technique is especially valuable in a small space like O’Gara’s bedroom. Since the room offered little wall space, he hung dark curtains over the windows to serve as a backdrop for the bed.
Selendi area rug: Kevin Francis Design. Chest of drawers: Antique. Mirror: Vintage. Chapter: Wayfair. Nightstand: AllModern. Quilt and shams: West Elm. Drapery: West Elm. Throw Pillows: Williams-Sonoma Home Abstract Painting: Kevin Francis Design Lamps: Kevin Francis Design
Beautiful house: What was the inspiration for the new design?
Kevin Francis O’Gara: With the wall of windows in my living room, I wanted to emphasize the airiness of this space, so I filled in cream shades to create a light foundation for this room. I pulled in pops of blue in the accent (my favorite color) that ties in my Cairene rug and complements the warm wood tones on my dining table and antique desk. This color palette also reflects the kitchen, creating a beautiful mix that is light and inviting during the day but glows at night.
To contrast the bright living space, I went dark and moody in my bedroom and study. I draped gray velvet curtains across the entire bedroom wall to add depth and contrast to the space (which actually helps pull back the back wall, making it feel bigger!). I painted the study a rich dark brown and hung a bold faucet wallpaper to make this room feel extra special. It’s where I watch movies and TV and also serves as a guest room, so I wanted it to feel like an escape from the world.
HB: What was the most difficult part of the project?
KFO: One of the biggest challenges of this space was the lack of natural light in the bedroom and study. These rooms only have one smaller window, but instead of fighting this limitation, I embraced the dark and moody look in these rooms to create cozy spaces that actually feel much larger. My apartment also doesn’t have a closet since it was designed as a sales office, so I maximized the storage furniture in each room by using closets and wardrobes to store my clothes!
HB: Where did the majority of the budget go?
KFO: Most of my budget went towards upholstered pieces like my living room area that I knew would get a lot of use, provide the perfect environment for entertaining friends and be used for a very long time. I also invested in a large custom rug from my new Iconium collection for the living room to really give the sitting area a beautiful foundation. I really designed that rug with my living room in mind, using a sun-drenched palette and cream background that feels light but still practical!
HB: How did you save money/DIY/get smart?
KFO: I love a mix of high and low, and my sources really run the gamut, from Home Depot to the antique store down the street. I also scored the pedestal dining table at an Anthropologie store in Augusta—it was so worth the five hour drive! I painted a lot of the artwork myself and got creative with found pieces, like framing old architectural plans from my childhood home that I had hanging above my desk.
HB: Any other memorable details?
KFO: My poodle Leopold probably spends about 90% of his time on average in my living room—it’s like his little runway. He loves to walk down the section and look out every window to watch every passerby!
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