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Grand estate in Alpharetta with fountain, solarium for $5.1M

Looking to upgrade to a dreamy estate? This Alpharetta mansion with a scenic garden and fountain could be your next home.

The beautiful mansion in Alpharetta has seven beds, 12 bathrooms and a bevy of amenities. Those amenities include a total home automation system, gold leaf-adorned features, a solarium, home theater, spa, wine cellar and “spectacular pool.”

There’s even a tennis court and master on main for the retiree family that wants to stay active but also needs a three-car garage and a two-story foyer.

The home is listed for $5.1 million on Zillow.com.

See the full listing on Zillow or take the virtual tour

Southern Made: For that always on vacation vibe

Wall of frames

Like many parents, Natasha Lehnert McRee wanted a way to frame her children’s artwork that was both stylish and super easy to change. After teaming up with Morgan Kimble Doherty, a professional muralist, the design duo came up with a simple and elegant solution.

The company: Wexel Art Displays started in 2010 in Austin. The Texas company designs and makes acrylic frames, which come in various colors, shapes and sizes and work in two styles: a single panel of acrylic that uses strong magnets to hold the art in place and a double-panel frame that sandwiches the art between two pieces of plexiglass.

The founders/designers: A Houston native, McRee graduated from Louisiana State University and worked at GSD&M, a Texas ad agency, before going out on her own. Doherty grew up in Vineland, N.J., and earned her degree in printmaking and painting from Rowan University (N.J.). She worked as a custom framer before meeting McRee and collaborating on several design projects prior to starting Wexel Art.

The materials: Acrylic and rare earth magnets that it has a patented design on, plus hardware in silver, bronze, black or (new) brushed gold.

What’s popular: Mondrian Set of Wallscapes ($800-$1,800). Sizes include 60 inches, 90 inches or 123 inches in 18 different colors.

Other favorites: Eva Zeisel Collection of three frames ($165.95).

Fun requests: Wall frames shaped like states, including Texas, Tennessee and Oregon; acrylic kennel doors with puppy paw prints; and snowflake ornaments made from leftover acrylic scrap materials.

Claim to fame: Made frames for CNN when the media company wanted to frame 30 of its most pivotal broadcast images.

Where to buy: wexelart.com, and in Atlanta, at Nandina Home and Design, 245 N. Highland Ave. (nandinahome.com).

Cuffs & claws

New Orleans jewelry designer Sarah Killen likes to say that owning a piece of Saint Claude jewelry, such as an oyster shell necklace, is a rite of passage for anyone who has moved to Louisiana or the South. Or, who is from the South.

The artist/owner: Killen grew up on a farm in Bossier City, La., and studied jewelry making under various mentors through the years. She has lived and worked in New Orleans for more than 10 years.

The company: Saint Claude started in 2008 in New Orleans. Killen’s company was named after a Bywater street where her first studio was located. The company creates jewelry using the lost wax technique. Her often bold and edgy collections range from pieces inspired by the culture of southern Louisiana to the ornamentation found on 18th- and 19th-century furniture.

What’s popular: Crawfish claw ($55-$98); oyster shell ($98-$210); okra ($55-$115); and La Colombe ($120-$240) pendants. Also the best-selling barnacle ring ($98-$210).

Other favorites: The Secret Garden cuff ($180-$350) and the Wonder Woman cuff ($225-$550).

What’s new: Killen’s version of the classic choker ($65-$120). The simple, open-collar design accentuates the décolletage.

Where to buy: saintclaudenola.com and the new Saint Claude store, 1933 Sophie B. Wright Place, in New Orleans.

Tile one on

As a native Floridian, scuba diver and longtime potter, Glenda Taylor creates address plaques that are inspired by her love of the ocean, beach and the state’s colorful, sunny style.

The artist: Taylor received her fine arts degree in ceramics from the University of Florida. After graduation, she began making pottery (mostly decorative vessels) and selling it at outdoor art fairs. In 1986, Taylor was asked to establish a ceramics program at the Vero Beach Museum of Art and taught there for 10 years. During that time, she teamed with two other female potters and created Tiger Lily Art Studios and Gallery. Known for her one-of-a-kind decorative vessels, Taylor wanted to create artwork that was more accessible.

The company: Launched in 2015 in Vero Beach, Taylor Tiles offers custom house number plaques, which are made of individual tiles handcrafted by Taylor. Prices range from $160 to $190, depending on the size and number of tiles.

Top themes: Sea turtles and orchids.

Other favorites: Sailboats; mermaids; tree frogs; pineapple; hibiscus; beach chair and umbrella; tropical fish; dolphins; palm trees; and banana trees.

Fun request: A customer in Cape Cod wanted specific lighthouses featured on her side tiles and flying seagulls on the crown tile of her address plaque.

Where to buy: For now, Taylor Tiles are sold exclusively through El Prado in Vero Beach (www.elpradoverobeach.com).

Fabulous $619K Roswell home carries graceful interiors on a gorgeous property

Now this is a good-looking house. 

We see a lot of interior pictures meant to advertise Atlanta homes for sale, but the ones for this house are even more impressive than usual. If the stuff in these photos does not come with the house, get the owners' interior decorator. 

Right now the owners are asking $619,000 for their Roswell beauty. It's got four beds, four baths and 3,357 square feet. The house includes everything you'd want in a new home, including stainless steel appliances, a wine bar, "massive" island and oversized master bedroom with a walk-in closet. 

The outdoor-inclined should really look through the gallery for this house to see the picture that captures the view from one of the house's three decks overlooking the trees. The current owners are pretty enthused with the vista- they have that part of the Zillow listing written in all caps. 

The Hedgewood home is inside a gated community and is steps from the tennis courts and pool. The only downside listed is a large but unfinished basement. See the full listing for more. 

The late Ryan Gainey to be honored at History Center tribute

Ryan Gainey, the renowned Atlanta garden designer who died in a house fire July 29, will be remembered in a memorial tribute Aug. 31 at the Atlanta History Center.

The gathering, to be held from 6:30 to 7:30 in the Woodruff Auditorium at McElreath Hall, is open to the public. A reception will follow in the Grand Overlook ballroom.

Gainey, 72, died after rushing into his burning home in Lexington, Ga., to rescue his beloved Jack Russell terriers, Jelly Bean, Leo and Baby Ruth. The dogs also perished in the blaze.

Gainey had moved to his Lexington home temporarily after a massive white oak fell on his Decatur home in March, according to Staci Catron, director of the Cherokee Garden Library at the History Center and a friend of Gainey’s.

“I’ve been studying his design and his work for years, and he changed the face of garden design in the South and in America,” said Catron. “I’ve only known two geniuses in my life and Ryan was one of the two.”

Gainey created designs for influential Georgians and others, including “elaborate full scale theater-style floral designs” for the yearly Swan House Ball, said Catron. “It was mind boggling what he was able to achieve.”

There will be seven speakers at the History Center tribute and appearances by two music ensembles, including Jeff, Johnny and Angie Mosier and the Seed & Feed Marching Abominables.

A roster of four well-known chefs will provide food for the reception.

Jim Landon served as a trustee of the History Center and of the Cherokee Garden Library, and became friends with Gainey, asking him to do some design work on his own garden in Highlands, N.C.

Landon said Gainey was legendarily generous in lending his home for garden tours, and that he was just as well known for his irrepressible personality as he was for his green thumb.

Landon wrote in the program for the tribute: “Ryan was tough as nails and yet the consummate Old World gentleman, who referred to patrons and friends of decades as Mr. or Mrs. or Miss.”

He told a story about a visit from Frank Cabot, former chair of the New York Botanical Garden and one of North America’s most noted gardeners, who once spent an afternoon at Gainey’s Decatur garden, before flying back north to his homes in New York and Quebec.

As Landon gave him a ride back to the airport, Cabot asked, “do you think Atlanta understands what a genius this man is?” and Landon replied, “I think it does, because he reminds us so frequently.”

Organizers ask those who attend to bring a single flower to add to a wreath they will create in Gainey’s honor.

Woodruff Auditorium at the History Center has room for about 400. The center is prepared to accommodate a spillover crowd in an adjacent members room, and possibly more, who will be able to gather in the atrium.

Celebrants can park in the History Center’s parking deck, and once that fills up shuttles will be available to pick up guests who park along Andrews Drive. Those with questions can call 404-814-4046.

Airbnb probably isn’t driving up Atlanta rents a lot, at least not yet

Airbnb has faced controversy since its creation for allegedly driving up rent prices in cities where it operates. But does it really?

The case critics make is simple. Some landlords think they can make more money renting a given set of units to Airbnb customers than they can make renting that same set to long-term residents who live in the area. This reduces the supply of available apartments, driving up housing prices for locals.

If you ask Airbnb, their supporters will say most rentals on its platform would normally be vacant or unoccupied. They might point to a spare bedroom in someone’s house and say that renting a space like that, one that’s not part of the normal housing supply, doesn’t reduce the number of available rentals.  

Is any of it true, though? What about in Atlanta?

The statistics-happy website FiveThirtyEight analyzed Airbnb rental data provided by consulting firm Airdna and found right now, Airbnb isn’t having a huge effect on most cities’ housing supplies.

According to their data, Atlanta has 1,300 Airbnb listings during the year. Of those, 8.9 percent are “commercial” units rented for more than 180 days per year. New York uses this definition, which is considered conservative. The average across cities surveyed is 9.7 percent.

Atlanta, never the first destination for tourists, offers a far lower percentage of rental units than Honolulu. The Hawaiian capital has a stunning 21 percent of Airbnb units used commercially. Other cities with more tourism like Los Angeles and Las Vegas had higher percentages than Atlanta as well.

FiveThirtyEight also noted the absolute number of Airbnb rentals in most cities is too low to have a significant effect on rent prices.

The data becomes more worrying when it’s broken down by revenue. Airbnb hosts make a third (31.3 percent) of their $12 million revenue from the 8.9 percent of listings that are commercial properties. This ties the profits of Airbnb to commercial operators who rent year round and could take housing units off the market.

The last thing to remember is rent is affected by a number of factors. For example, Atlanta is suffering from a housing shortage that is worst in the nation. The cost of living is only going up as workers’ pay isn’t.

Airbnb disputed FiveThirtyEight’s “commercial unit” definition, saying it did not provide a “complete and accurate picture of our community.” 

See a one-of-a-kind textile loft penthouse at the 2016 Serenbe Designer ShowHouse

Why just look at pictures of beautiful homes? Why not explore them?

The Third Annual Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles Serenbe Designer ShowHouse will be open Friday, Sept. 9, through Sunday, Oct. 2. It will feature beautiful work from 15 designers in “luxurious indoor and outdoor rooms including playful porches and garden rooms with a copper outdoor spa.”

The website lists the full hours of the open house. The event takes place at 10625 Serenbe Lane in Chattahoochee Hills (full directions and map). Admission is $20.

Net proceeds from the event will support the next Art Farm artist cottage. The Art Farm is a complex at Serenbe that houses artists aligned with the Serenbe Institute. The first cottage in this line opened in January with the collaboration of Auburn University’s Rural Studio.

To see previous showhouses, check out the gallery above or see the full site.

$1.4M Marietta stunner offers ‘casual luxury’ in East Cobb

Call this the luxurious side of Marietta.

This Stonecroft Way house wants $1.4 million for a home with almost 6,000 square feet of living space. The house includes strategically placed gas lights, ivy-coated stone columns, hardwood floors and a combination library-office with built-in bookcases.

The six full bathrooms, two half baths and six bedrooms mean there’s plenty of room for your family to stretch out with this suburban delight. The “comfy media room,” butler’s pantry and hot tub also ensures you’ll never lack food or something to do.

Check out the full listing on Zillow

5 easy apartment upgrades to make your rental feel like home

The place you call home should feel like home, even if it's an apartment rental. That's why interior designer Blake Padgett Wilkie of Canton recommends apartment dwellers make some easy upgrades as soon as they move in. "If you surround yourself with things you love, you'll be happier," she said. "Adding your own touches makes you want to be at home."

In general, the upgrades don't have to be top of the line materials. "And they don't have to be small scale, either!" said Wilkie. "One of the best upgrades you could make, for example, are drop panels that run almost ceiling to floor. They can really pull together a wall or liven up your living space." Here are five other upgrades she suggests for personalizing any rental apartment:

1) Paint: Even if you have to pay for it yourself, you want your walls to be a color you love and enjoy. "Paint a nice neutral color, particularly if you don't have a lot of natural light," said Wilkie, who owns Magnolia Interiors. "Even a wall or two helps." She specifically recommends the currently popular shades of gray, especially Sherwin Williams' Agreeable Gray 7029.

2) Decorate with a functional wall shelf: A cubby or shelf with hooks below can help you make a space more cozy and get more organized at the same time. "Display a few of your favorite books on top or an eclectic mix of china finds," said Wilkie.

3) Splash some color around: Strategic dashes of a color that pops makes an apartment more cheerful, particularly against neutral walls or furnishings. Wilkie likes the idea of painting the backside of an inexpensive bookcase with a lively color and setting it up as a separator in a living space. "That's an easy way to punch up your decor," she said.

One good color to use is Sherwin Williams' Lagoon 6480. "It will go with khakis or grays, and you can pop pillows in to the design from the blue family or that are coral or yellow," she said.

4) Display family photos: You'll feel more at home surrounded by tastefully framed or matted family photos. Wilkie suggests hanging them on the wall, down a hallway or up a staircase. "That way you can start with a few and add to the length of the display as your schedule and budget allow." If you're concerned that a landlord would object, display the photos on an anchor piece of furniture, like a side table or chest.

5) Change up the cabinet hardware: You can personalize your kitchen simply by changing out the dull pulls and knobs that come with the standard apartment. Wilkie suggests Top Knobs as a go-to for up-to-date and fun hardware, or ferreting out vintage knobs at a flea market or antique store. The hardware you purchase doesn't have to be pricey, just something you would like to look at when you come home to fix dinner. "And the nice thing is, if you really like it, you can take it along to your next place," said Wilkie.

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