"Yep, this is my first real estate purchase, and I found it, much like people say of true love, when I wasn't looking." —Lucas Mire
is a technological wizard by day, folk singer-songwriter by night, and an art and interior design fan 24/7. He bought his loft, in Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward (right around the corner from the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr.), two years ago and is constantly thinking about how to best arrange everything for maximum comfort and of course, for entertaining. I've been a guest in his home several times and can tell you he has succeeded. But he never stops playing around with different arrangements and editing his art and furniture.
The plan of the loft is like that of a railroad apartment with a hallway. When you enter, the master bedroom is to your right, followed by the bathroom
, then the lounge room, the open galley kitchen and finally, the large open living/dining room. We're going to cruise through in reverse, starting with the large open room.
Please tell us a bit about your building, your neighbors and your neighborhood.
I've been in Atlanta for a decade, and lived in midtown Atlanta for eight of those years, but started to feel like I was perhaps missing out on other parts of our great city. I'm a mid-century modern fan, and there was something about Tribute Lofts' exterior
that appealed to that sensibility as I would pass it on the way to visit friends in Cabbagetown or Lake Claire. Plus, as a part-time folk musician, I really appreciated the concrete walls, floors and ceilings for sound containment. I appreciated that the building abuts the Freedom Trail and is easily accessible for walks and bike rides. Or, if you want to walk to grab a meal, several yummy restaurants are nearby: Across the Street, Highland Bakery, Fritti, Sound Table, Dynamic Dish, Krog Bar...
Don't forget karaoke night at Corner Tavern! It is really fun to see The Old Fourth Ward hopping with so much activity and new shops and restaurants. What was your "first meeting" with the neighborhood and the loft like?
I had spent the night with some friends in East Point and in the morning they were driving me home and we passed Tribute. I said, "Hey, do you mind if we just pull in and look at this place?" They were game and so very, very shortly thereafter I found myself in my future home. I really responded to the amount of space, the concrete construction, the loft touches, the floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room, the garden tub, the balcony. It met all of my requirements except for closet
space, but the price was right. And after living in a 550 sq. ft. studio for 5 years, a completely separate bedroom felt like caviar—so decadent! Also, while I envisioned some changes, I liked everything 'as is' from the builder's paint colors, and choice of tile to the lighting fixtures and cabinetry. It was an inner "Yes" all the way around.
What was the very first step of your remodeling/decorating process?
The first step was getting lighting for the main living space, which had none. I knew I wanted at least 5 points of light for that amount of space, and I added them over the course of a few weeks. I also immediately had my friend Jeff come over and install dimmers and additional closet racks and fixtures, and hang a few curtain rods. The walls are concrete for the most part, so hanging artwork required Jeff's experience and a special drill. He knocked all of that out in about 6 hours, then I took him to Jack's Pizza for dinner.
Tell us about the biggest renovation/decoration challenge you faced.
At first my den looked like a little cave, and I immediately knew I wanted to make it a cozy place for overnight guests that doubled as a lounge/library. But I didn't want to deal with that concrete wall
...so i figured an affordable solution would be to hang window coverings over it, to give the illusion of depth and dimension and also as focal design point. I chose a graphic print from IKEA and called my friend Gina to come hang them (decorating is really all about relationships!) and install some lighted bookshelves that you could see from the hall to immediately tell you before entering what this room is all about. Sort of like when the Barefoot Contessa puts limes on top of a key lime pie so that you know what kind of pie it is before you cut a slice. I still need to paint (Benjamin Moore's Baby Seal Black), get a chandelier or some sort of lighting fixture for the ceiling, and hang a heavier, more substantial curtain at the entryway.
I love lounging in that room. It feels like I'm chilling with musicians right off the studio room or something. The lighting is always groovy and sexy in there. All right, onto the next question, what are your favorite style and colors?
It's easier to say what I don't like... I can definitely appreciate an antique something or other, but it's just not me. I gravitate toward clean lines and a mix of color and texture. There is something about of touch of orange that gets me really excited. I always end up having traditionally neutral colors for my sofas and chairs, and funk it up with a pop of orange. I think of myself as a lover of monochromatic combinations, which is why I love my kitchen...all white dishes
, clear glass, and the slightest taupe/beige—it feels sophisticated to me. But the very next minute I'll find myself fantasizing about putting down FLOR tiles in alternating rectangles of orange, green, gray, blue and black (that hopefully my friend Allyson will help me cut and install. It takes a village!)
Yes it does! But you pay back the village with wine and music, so it's all good! I know my favorite spot in your house, what's yours?
I really like being out on my balcony's super comfy outdoor sofa
with a big pillow and a throw reading, talking on the phone, or having a soul-satisfying conversation with a friend in person. Inside, as it gets dark, the feeling of the whole place totally changes, and if I get the lighting exactly right, I can create a feeling that makes me feel completely proud and happy that I get to live in a place that really reflects who I am at this moment. I love it when someone comes over and says my space feels like me. That is the biggest happy moment because I've somehow managed to externalize a feeling of comfort and livability for my guests.
That daybed is my favorite spot too! I never want to seem like I'm hogging it too much, but then I get too comfortable and decide I don't care about anyone else! Lucas, you have such a wonderful art collection. Besides pets and photos, what would you grab in a fire?
A box in the closet that has letters and notes from my late mother, artwork created by special people in my life, a few special books and my computer hard drive with my music collection on it. Hmmm, now that think of it, I should keep an off-site back-up of the music.
I think the same thing every time I ask that question, then I get busy doing other things and forget. So, other than backing up your music, what is your next project?
Aside from the aforementioned den painting and lighting fixture, I really want to redo my kitchen counter. Right now it is a split level bar, and I want to have one large island
and really connect the living/kitchen area in a more fulfilling way. The high bar is not working for me or my guests.
We'd love to benefit from what else you've learned. Please give us your best tip for the remodeling/decorating beginner.
I have a few...
1. Install dimmers on literally every light in your living space, and if you have lamps get the dimmer switches from IKEA. It can have quite an impact and help you set a multitude of moods.
2. Let it evolve. Don't feel like you have to do everything at once. I still don't have an overhead lighting fixture for my bedroom. I'm not sure what I want to do yet, and I know one day I'll spot the thing
that will be perfect. I want to redo my kitchen island and install real drapes in the living room, but trust me, it will all happen when it's supposed to and when it's right. And one of the fun things about decorating on a budget is you can experiment, wait, and be really zen
about it all. I think building a home that reflects your idiosyncratic tastes and aesthetic—which is what we all want—can take a while, and that's OK.
3. Trust Yourself. Everyday you can read about how large artwork can make a small space feel small; dark colors make a room feel claustrophobic. Then the next you can see or read about some design expert saying the exact opposite. I personally dislike symmetry in
general, but in my bedroom, it just feels balanced and right to have two of the exact same lamps on each bedside. Break your own rules if you feel like it. I heard once that the only thing we have to offer
the world is our take on it. So, try not to overanalyze and live out your internal design instinct. It may take trial and error, but eventually that voice will get clearer if you keep listening. If you like something, some crazy combo of colors, go with it. You might be
the next Kelly Wearstler...and if no one likes it, at least the most important person in your life does: YOU!
4. Don't buy prefabbed artwork. I once purchased some lovely print of a famous piece of art from a chain retailer because I did really like the piece. But when I hung it in my house, I couldn't walk by it without feeling kind of gross for some reason. I brought it back and learned a big lesson: Either date an artist/painter, or find local artists you love and get something completely original that just makes you excited when you see it. One of my recent faves is local Atlanta artist, Alex Leopold
collages give me the chills and speak to me on an emotional level I don't quite understand. But I know I love having his pieces in my home, and I also love supporting local artists when possible.
5. Build relationships... with your favorite artists, managers at your favorite home stores, and with people who can install dimmers, bookshelves and floor tiles. (Sorta kidding about that last one, as I
really do love my friends!) Everything in life is about relationships. For instance, once local shopkeepers know who you are and what you might be looking for, they can call you with new items or things that are going on sale that might work for you. Enroll them in your plan for your home and haven and, in general, they will be happy to help. I let the folks at a local home goods store know I was looking for a sofa for my den, and a ballpark style and budget I was
hoping for, and a few months later when one style was discontinued, they rang me up with a brand-new in-box sofa for only $300. It was the last one and they wanted to get rid of it.
That's an amazing score! Besides local stores, what are some of your favorite sources for home decor?
My place is mostly a mix of Crate & Barrel, CB2, IKEA, Vessel, and West Elm. Affordable and casual, with a light modern skew.
What is your biggest design pet peeve?
Sets of furniture, leather or pleather poufy couches, and, please don't hate on me, but the compact-flourescent lightbulbs that are great for the environment but horrible for YOUR living environment and don't work well with dimmers.
Oh I know, I use them out of guilt, but I really hate them. They are improving though. Lucas, thank you so much for touring us around today. It was such a pleasure to share your house with our readers!