A BUCKHEAD DESIGNER HELPS A WORLD TRAVELING ENTREPRENEUR SET UP HIS MEDELLIN HOME BASE.
Douglas Barron fell in love with Latin culture while spending time in Miami, so much so that when he visited Medellin, Colombia, he decided he had to have a home there. The serial entrepreneur whose companies include BizEnablement, Bristol Rentals, The Ai Filter and more, enlisted his trusted interior designer, Buckhead-based Amy Odeneal of Amy Rebekah Interiors, to create an international abode that showcased its location. Odeneal, who’d worked with Barron to design his condos in Miami and Atlanta, sat in on virtual home tours to help him select a sprawling 4,218-square-foot unit on the 21st floor. Overlooking Medellin’s El Poblado neighborhood, Barron’s new dwelling, purchased in 2022, is two stories of concrete, brick and glass with four spacious rooms and five bathrooms.
“We loved the two-story windows in the main living area; that was a huge selling point for him,” Odeneal says. “It was important to me to take this giant space—those ceilings are two stories high—and turn it into something that is cozy and warm with a scale that works.”
Barron also wanted his Colombian home to showcase its location, a place vibrant with local artisans and a stunning landscape. “I wanted a home that was able to mix the local cultures of Medellin with a modern flair that also fit into the mountains and jungle of Colombia. I also wanted to make sure that the space was bright and full of natural light,” Barron says. “My favorite part is how Amy was able to bring in so many plants and mix them throughout the home. When I open the wall-to-wall windows, it truly feels like I am outside.”
To counteract the cool gray concrete, Odeneal brought in soft velvet tones, warmer grays and wood tones. She was inspired by Medellin’s art scene and used graffiti and street art to bring in additional color.
“Doug wanted the home not to feel like a U.S. home; he wanted it to feel like it had some of that local culture,” Odeneal says. “I had a local artist graffiti an entire wall and designed the rest of the art in the house around that concept and trying to find things that felt like street art.”
The blue graffiti mural by Santiago Cortés Mazo livens up the media room that Barron considers his nonwork, relaxation space. A painting by Odeneal with a repeating Ja, Ja, Ja (Ha, Ha, Ha in English) adds pops of color to the living room, where a gray sectional and other custom furnishings face a wall of windows. The nearby dining room, Barron’s favorite space, boasts a custom 12-foot-long, live-edge table made from a slab of wood Odeneal found at a local wood shop. At nearly 1,000 pounds, the piece had to be carried up 21 flights of stairs by 20 men for the installation.
“It’s a statement piece that wows everyone who comes through the door. The table is so unique and beautiful. It’s not overwhelming, but it can seat 10 comfortably. And, as someone who works from home most of the time, I feel comfortable working and taking meetings in this dining room, as well as hosting parties/dinners,” Barron says.
Many of the condo’s upholstered furnishings were custom made because the scale required to fill the large rooms wasn’t easily available in Medellin, where many of the living spaces are smaller.
Odeneal also had most of the rugs cut from a carpet and bound at the edges, since a lot of what she found was, at most, 8-by-10 feet in size.
“There were lots of challenges, but it was fun to get to do that and work with some of the local folks down there to make furniture,” she says.
One of the most challenging areas to plan was Barron’s primary bedroom, an oversized space with two balconies on each side. Odeneal had to figure out how to fill it without cluttering it. She opted for a massive custom headboard that spans most of the wall with nightstands in front.
“Doug is pretty simple; he doesn’t like a lot of stuff everywhere,” Odeneal says. “When you walk into the space, it doesn’t feel like you are in a gigantic bedroom. It feels good and really warm. I chose a giant area rug so the bed could be anchored in the space.”
For the outdoors, Odeneal converted one balcony into a gym with a faux wall of greenery backing a large mirror. The other outdoor space became an open-air lounge with expansive views.
“The balcony surprised me. Amy decided to not crowd it with lots of furniture, even though I was pushing her to,” Barron says. “I thought, just like the master bedroom, that it needed to be full for it to feel warm because it was so cold, concrete and large. Turns out, I was wrong! It’s classy and simple, and really captures the picturesque views of the city.”
The condo has several other intentional niche areas throughout, from a dog lounging space under the floating stairs where Barron’s two doodles, Ellie and Tucker, like to hang out on large bean bags to a secondary work space upstairs that overlooks the two-story windows.
“I have owned my own businesses for almost a decade now and always worked from home. It’s really important for me to be able to move throughout the house during my day and not feel like I’m in an abandoned or unthought-of spot,” Barron says. “In order for a space to feel like home to me, everything needs to always feel good, like it was a purposeful choice and attention was given to it. Now I have a ton of spots to move through the house during the day to take calls.”
What’s more, when Barron looks around his Colombian home, he is reminded of the vibrant culture that surrounds it.
Amy Odeneal’s tips for working on an interior design project abroad
1. Start networking immediately. Join groups on Facebook. Ask friends of friends. Search LinkedIn. Reach out to vendors on Instagram. You’re going to run into conflicting information, but using various networking groups will help you validate the information you’re getting. You’ll also get great recommendations on reputable people to work with.
2. Have a calculator handy. Centimeters and meters are like a new language. Being able to quickly convert the dimensions of a piece of furniture or artwork is important, or you’ll end up with items that are the wrong scale for your project.
3. Hire a local assistant. Having someone on-site is extremely helpful to talk with vendors and do some local research for you. Plus they speak the language!
4. Watch those assumptions. Remember, you’re in a different culture. Things will be different. It’s a fact. Assuming things will be easy, like back home, will get you in trouble. For example, after realizing I couldn’t find a rug larger than 8-by-10, I knew I needed to switch gears to a custom carpet for my client.
5. Download WhatsApp. You’re going to need it! What I’ve learned is that email isn’t as successful as a quick WhatsApp message. Need to get a quote on a piece of artwork? Want to find out more about a store? WhatsApp.
6. Book your visit. In order to truly understand the culture and tap into some great design ideas, take a trip to the site and experience what the city has to offer. Use this initial trip to immerse yourself in the culture.
PHOTOS: Carlos Velez
Giannina S. Bedford is multi-faceted writer and editor. Her work covers design, travel, food and business. She’s penned Simply Buckhead’s home feature since inception and held a variety of editorial roles at the magazine. Her freelance work has appeared in Condé Nast Traveler, USA Today, Virtuoso Life, Hemispheres and TravelandLeisure.com. She also contributes regularly Atlanta Business Chronicle. Fluent in Spanish, Giannina was born in Miami and grew up in Brazil, Chile, Hawaii and Australia. She currently lives in Dunwoody with her two kids and husband.