See How This Couple's Atlanta Home Went From an Empty Lot to a 'Dream Come True'
A decade ago, anyone who strolled past Dawn and Ronnie Mabra Jr.'s property in Atlanta simply saw a bare plot of land. Everyone except Dawn and Ronnie, that is. The young couple—Dawn, a future doctor, and Ronnie, an attorney—very clearly saw a classically inspired home filled with fresh energy rising from the city soil.
"Dawn and I bought what I think is the best lot in Atlanta," Ronnie says. Located not far from downtown in an old streetcar suburb, the plot sits just steps away from the new BeltLine, a rail corridor being reimagined as a multiuse trail that links urban neighborhoods to nature, shopping, and more. "It's the Atlanta equivalent of beachfront property," Ronnie says with a smile. He was ready to create a city oasis. All he needed was the right team.
"As fate would have it, I met Manhattan architect Andre Tchelistcheff at a wedding," Ronnie says. "We started chatting, and I told him I had this fabulous lot. I just needed an architect."
After learning about the history and character of the neighborhood, Tchelistcheff quickly signed on to design the home that the Mabras had envisioned. "We wanted timeless, classic architecture and character that fit the neighborhood—something that would never go out of style," Ronnie says. "We also wanted to maximize the space we had on this tight city lot but not overbuild. We wanted an elegant home but not a big bulldog in a tight cage." Architect Andre Tchelistcheff built a new home with classical character that fits the historic neighborhood of Atlanta.
With Tchelistcheff's plans in hand, the Mabras turned to an Atlanta luxury home power couple, builder Stan Benecki and interior designer Melanie Turner, to achieve the dream. "When you put a team of all-stars together, you get great results," Ronnie says.
"For the interiors, we wanted something classical but also youthful and energetic to fit our young family," Ronnie says. "Melanie really put her magic on it."
Turner balanced elegant and timeless with fun and fresh to give the Mabras the sophisticated yet family-friendly rooms they craved. "They also wanted pops of color, so we brought in blues in different shades throughout the house," Turner says. "It's a traditional color that we used in fresh ways."
In the living room, blue becomes almost architectural when set in bold vertical swaths of draperies against steel-mullioned windows. Complementing the blue, mustard fabric graces throw pillows. Art by Paige Follmann furthers the hits of blue and mustard that energize the home. A comfy sectional encourages hangout time. "Ronnie played football for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, so I loved adding the mustard color for him. It gives a cozy mood, like a warm embrace. It encourages hanging out in the space."
The family does just that, spilling from the living area into the adjacent kitchen. "We spend a lot of time there cooking and being together as a family," Ronnie says. "Having grown up in the South, breaking bread together means so much to me."
While the kitchen delivers the function that Ronnie, a devoted foodie, expects, it also earns style points for eye-catching color. "I like using deeper colors in a city house," Turner says. "Here, the deep blue cabinetry adds drama to the more neutral living area and contrasts its aqua hues."
Cabinets coated in Benjamin Moore "Admiral Blue" bring a happy attitude to the kitchen, which puts a contemporary twist on the classic combination of blue and white. A strategically placed island provides storage space, work surface, and an inviting spot for casual family meals. Hand-glazed subway tile keeps things light with a touch of reflectivity. A Dutch door injects a whimsical note.
Multiple shades of blue—and multiple fabrics—appear in the dining room, a more formal space designed for entertaining. Turner called on easy-care vinyl to cover the seat of a long, inviting banquette, then upholstered the back in luxurious velvet. "They wanted some drama here," she says. "The draperies give drama and sensuousness, and the layered look of drapes, art, and banquette feels enticing. I like that paired with classic elements like the Doric columns used as the table base." Layers of fabric and hues of blue imbue the formal dining spot with elegance. Mirrors work with abundant windows to visually expand living areas.
In the powder room, custom wallpaper by Penshaw Hill adds midnight blue to designer Melanie Turner's mix of shades. The star motif pays tribute to Ronnie's late father.
Blue recedes in the primary suite, where serene neutrals take center stage. Just off the stair landing, Ronnie and Dawn's sanctuary sounds a restful tone, thanks to a primarily neutral envelope accented by navy on the bed and rays of gold from a sunburst mirror. Grass-cloth-covered walls give a shimmery effect in the bedroom while a mirrored surface on the freestanding tub imbues the bath with sophisticated glamour. Gray-veined marble tile infuses subtle pattern.
In the primary closet, a vanity area and racks for shoe and handbag organization allow Dawn to savor a few moments of luxury each morning. Turner added lavender to her blue, white, and neutral mix for a softer vibe. Expanses of marble tile and a freestanding tub in the primary bathroom make the bath a sumptuous retreat.
"I didn't use a lot of pattern throughout the house because it's more about them living in it," Turner says. "Honestly, my favorite thing about the entire house is the people."
Terra-cotta hues warm Remiii's playful room, where a contemporary take on a midcentury light fixture and a menagerie of stuffed animals contribute appropriate youthful energy.
A welcoming guest room is always at the ready for the boys' grandmother. It exemplifies Turner's strategy of using blue as an envelope for the home. "It becomes almost a neutral," she says. "It's very livable, and the different shades provide a calming thread without being matchy."
Sharing life in the new home is special for the Mabras, who love its openness, its hits of color, and most of all, the stage it sets for a life well-lived. "Our house just feels good," Ronnie says. "It's not too big, not too small. It's like the story of the three bears—just right. It's our dream come true."