Florida natives transform a traditional Buckhead home into their modern dream.
Ron Yung loves ultra-modern homes. But when he and his wife, Ann, couldn’t find the ideal Buckhead lot on which to build a contemporary abode, they did the next best thing. They found a home on a well-sized property and made it as modern as possible—without sacrificing the integrity of its traditional beginnings.
“When we came in here, it was unpleasantly traditional, but it had good bones. It was built well,” Ron says. “We wanted to make it as modern as we could without it looking ridiculous, so we kept some of the crown molding and things like that. We wanted modern but didn’t want it to look completely out of place.”
To help complete the transformation, the Yungs hired Jeffrey Bruce Baker of Jeffrey Bruce Baker Designs. They’d seen his name advertised on a yard sign near a recently built modern home they loved, and before even putting in an offer, they asked him to assess the home for its potential.
“I loved the house, but it had lots of small rooms and no views to the rear. Those were the two major items I first wanted to change,” Baker says.
The Yungs closed on the three-story, 7,500-square-foot house in March 2019. They moved into the downstairs basement and lived through more than a year of renovations, facing unforeseen delays exacerbated by the pandemic.
“We thought, worst case scenario, we’d be in by Thanksgiving, and we just forgot to ask what Thanksgiving,” Ron chuckles. “We had a lot of stuff that came out of Italy, so with the shutdown, there were a lot of things we were waiting on that couldn’t get brought into the country.”
In addition to modernizing the home, Ann had several items on her wish list. An avid cook, she wanted both an updated indoor kitchen and a fully equipped outdoor kitchen. She also envisioned a floor plan that opened up to the large backyard and a customized walk-in closet in the master bedroom. Once complete, the home checked all the boxes.
The kitchen, completely redone and relocated, was flipped 180 degrees to offer a view of the vast backyard through a wall of new sliding glass doors. Anchored by a waterfall island topped with Antolini’s Bianco Lasa Fantastico marble from Pietra, the kitchen features zebra wood, an oversized Dacor refrigerator and— a nod to Ann’s favorite color—lacquered yellow cabinets that hang above the Gaggenau range. Its casual dining area is furnished in a dark gray Century table and matching chairs upholstered in super-soft Pollack fabric.
Off the kitchen, a spacious lounge area features a gas fireplace backed by striking floor-to-ceiling tiles of Antolini’s Black Cosmic leathered granite. The opposite side of the kitchen offers a more formal dining area where another pop of yellow comes from the custom square table created by a local artist. Nearby, two silently refrigerated custom glass columns showcase wine bottles as floating art.
“The whole thing was a ying-yang effect of blending traditional and modern, but where it looked like there were intentional decisions,” Baker says. “It’s sophisticated.”
The home’s main level also houses a TV room with a vintage jukebox and junior suite (large bedroom and ensuite bathroom) hidden behind leather pocket doors made of sheepskin embossed to look like shark’s skin. In the adjacent art gallery-inspired foyer is one of Ron’s favorite works of art: an acrylic painting called Behind the Mask by British artist Lincoln Townley.
The sleek space, with the entry through a mahogany pivot front door, also showcases two furnishings custom made by Baker: a narrow chrome and glass table and central bench of long-hair angora shearling on a base of burl wood. Arguably the most eye-catching design highlight of the main level, however, is the glass and steel staircase. Thick wood treads float between artistically cut panels of glass to create a statement-making ascent to the top floor.
“The stairs are my very favorite thing in the house. I would never have done the remodel if I couldn’t have done floating stairs,” Ron says. “It’s art, and I love art. I think it’s fantastic.”
At the top of the stairs is the couple’s master bedroom retreat with Ann’s wow worthy walk-in closet. Surrounding a glowing onyx-topped center dresser island, the room features lacquered gray cabinetry and glass doors that enclose an impressive collection of purses, shoes and designer fashions. “Her closet turned out pretty nice, I must say,” Ron says.
Around the corner, the couple’s bedroom is sleek and minimalist, but offers controlled color through the yellow leather bed from Italy and night stands designed and made by Baker. Behind a wall of gold-leafed crystal prisms is the Yungs’ white and gray master bathroom with upscale Kohler fixtures and a walk-in shower done in tiles of lilac marble.
“We cut and laid the tile in the damier pattern that Louis Vuitton does to give it a little hint of fashion Ann loves,” Baker says. The transformation of the Yungs’ striking Buckhead abode was all about high-end details. From the fabrics—Loro Piana, Holland & Sherry and Pollack—that came from some of the oldest mill houses in the world to the custom furnishings and handpicked cuts of stone, no design elements were chosen casually.
“We started with hand sketches and created it. The only downfall is it takes patience and time when it comes to innovation and true custom details” Baker admits.
The finished product offers the “wow” effect of many upscale modern homes, with a warmer undertone. Ron says guests are often blown away by the unexpected interior.
Ron loves modern design, but acknowledges that some uber-modern environments can be artful to the point of being uncomfortable. “I don’t think this is like that. I think this is very inviting,” he says of the couple’s new home.
JEFFREY BRUCE BAKER’S TOP TIPS FOR INFUSING MODERN TOUCHES INTO A TRADITIONAL HOME
1. Do not worry about needing to replace everything. Large quantity items such as moldings look great when painted the same color as the walls, doors and ceiling.
2. Where possible make all major floor surfaces the same material so the spaces flow together.
3. Pick a few areas to make features, such as the fireplace or staircase. For example, stair railing design alone or paired with the stair materials and trimming or an entire new stair can make a major impact on the style of the space.
4. Big items such as kitchen and bath designs will definitely make a huge impact, but do not overlook small details such as updating all the door hinges and handles to a modern or transitional option.
5. Small accents go a long way, too. For example, covering a key doorway leading to a powder room or the guest suite with materials such as leather or wallpaper will create a unique element and emphasize the importance of the passage.
PHOTOS: Brad Mitchell
Contributing home editor and design columnist at Simply Buckhead. Travel & Business Writer. Mother of Two.