The story of how the catalogue Ballard Designs started is a well known one. In 1982, Helen Ballard Weeks, from Atlanta, entered a decorating contest in the then popular design magazine, Metropolitan Home. After Helen won and her house was featured in the magazine, over 500 readers called the magazine wanting to know how they could order items from Helen’s condo, especially her dolphin table:
Her dolphin table had its own back story. When Helen was looking to furnish her condo, she went searching for a table base and eventually found one – this dolphin – made by an artist, one at a time, in his garage.
All the calls asking about her dolphin table and other furnishings made Helen think that perhaps she had something unique to contribute to design, perhaps she could sell the dolphin tables herself. A year after she won that contest, she sold her condo and started Ballard Designs. Her first catalogue consisted of just two black and white pages – with the famous dolphin table on its cover.
Needless to say, the catalogue was a huge hit.
Early catalogue covers.
Ballard Designs became one of the most successful catalogues, thanks to Helen’s aesthetic. She favored a bright chartreuse velvet and black accents, with lots of animal skin and gilt mixed in. Additionally, there were the plaster architectural pieces, like brackets and columns, that were based on the classical shapes that Helen loved. Many of the decor items sold at Ballards were modeled after European, especially French, antiques Helen collected on her travels.
Eventually, Helen sold the company and later retired in 2002; today Ballard Designs is owned by a subsidiary of HSN.
An early Helen office with her famous mannequins and architectural element above the door.
Helen’s contribution to design is huge. She helped make fine design available to the masses through her affordable merchandise. And she forever changed the way we shopped for home decor. Additionally, with Ballard’s fabric by the yard and their upholstered furniture, people were able to achieve their dreams of having a “House Beautiful” home without having to hire a decorator.
Helen’s former office featured many early Ballard Designs items. Notice the two green velvet French chairs – they will show up again much later in this story!
Helen seemed to juggle it all, a husband, children, and a hugely successful business. I was surprised to discover that Helen is actually my age – 61. Wow. I had no idea that while I was out and about wasting my youth, she was heading up a conglomerate! Talk about giving someone a complex!
The mirrored screen reflects the columns Helen loved. The back of the green chairs is too cute!
Once Helen left Ballard, she seemed to disappear from the public eye beyond Atlanta. I still love the catalogue, and along with Wisteria, those two are, without a doubt, my favorites. But, I do miss her touch. The chartreuse is no longer prevalent, nor is the animal skin; but then…Ballards gave us Suzanne Kasler and Bunny Williams, so who could complain?
Mannequins were popular back then, as were the architectural relics, like the one sitting on the books. The large gilt framed bulletin boards are still a staple at Ballards.
So, after many years of missing Helen’s aesthetic, I was thrilled to happen upon a gorgeous house for sale in Atlanta, filled with antiques and looking like someone with fabulous taste had decorated it. They had.
The house being sold belonged to Helen Ballard Weeks and her husband. It took over three years to build and was completed in 2011. It’s large, filled with custom finishes and the architectural elements Helen found in Europe. Even better for those in Atlanta, Helen held a huge estate sale before she moved out and I’m so sorry I wasn’t there! A few special items were later auctioned off.
The architect that designed this house is the uber talented William Litchfield HERE. Interior Design by Carolyn Malone of CM Antiques & Interiors, (404) 264-9509
Located on a private street, a tree lined, gravel lane leads up to the stone house, called “The Mill.”
To the left of the house is a large garage with an apartment above it. The real estate brochure says the house was built both in 1979 and in 2011. My guess is that either the original house was torn down in order to build The Mill, or the renovation done in 2011 was extensive enough to call it newly built. Not sure! Helen? Call me!
To enter the garage, you drive through the opening and pull into it from the back of the structure. The French doors with shutters actually look into the car bays.
French blue shutters, stone, gravel, and boxwoods gives the house its Provencal look. Twin concrete dogs great visitors.
An earlier view of the house from the architect’s web site shows the entrance before the dogs were placed here. I love the dogs! Also, there were turquoise planters with box that are no longer there.
Let’s look at the exterior views first.
A large covered porch out back has a stone fireplace and is furnished with French antiques and accents. Through the doors is the library.
An aerial view gives you an idea of how the estate is laid out. The covered porch is located at the back, left side of the house. There is a large expanse of grass on that side of the back yard. At the right is the pool, tower and greenhouse, and firepit. At the side of the house off the kitchen is the parterre garden and chicken coop. Hidden in the trees is a tennis court.
Here is another view of the covered porch. Love the lantern hanging on the side of the house.
At the opposite end of the covered porch is the outdoor dining room that sits under the pergola. These French doors enter into the Family Room in the house.
The pool and tower – here you can see the opening through the hedge that leads to the large grass expanse at the left side of the backyard.
From the pool looking up to the house. You can really see the hilly nature of the lot from this view. The Juliet balconies are so pretty.
Past the pool and the tower are the stairs that lead down to one of the the parterre gardens.
Inside the tower, or the pool house: the bathroom with the trough sink, ladder, tile floor, and twig chandelier. Notice there is also a shower in there!! WOW. I could live here! Helen…call me!
Behind the pool and tower is the firepit and greenhouse. Too charming!!!!!
Of course, it’s another place to decorate! Who doesn’t decorate their fire pit with antique French bird cages? I would, if only I had a fire pit like this!!!!
At the side of the house, off the kitchen, are these beautiful green arched doors that keep the parterre vegetable garden off limits to critters.
The parterre garden, with vegetables growing. Love this!!!!
The chicken coop. Every chic person grows fancy chickens these days. Thank you Martha Stewart!
An instagram photograph of the right side of the estate with the large, manicured lawn. Notice the railing is glass, which leaves the view unblocked. At the left, is the break in the hedge that leads to the swimming pool. I do wonder if this might be a grass tennis court? That would be a great idea if is! A more natural looking court without all the concrete? The real estate brochure says there is a court, but because of the dense tree cover, you can’t see it on the aerial view.
Ready to go inside the front door? Instead of a solid door, the French door acts as the entry, designated from the others by the blue shutters.
Inside the foyer, stone stairs lead to the second level. The foyer, with its stone floors and stucco walls, is filled with antiques, some quirky like the mannequin. The touch of chartreuse and black and white pillows is vintage Ballard. Through the open doors in the back are the stairs that lead to the lower level.
From Litchfield’s web site: Another view of the French antique settee and the screen. Through the door are the stairs to the basement.
To the left of the foyer is the dining room with limed paneled walls. There is an assortment of chairs and benches to sit around the table, draped in linen. Contemporary art work and twin mirrors fit in with the Sputnik fixture. After the Estate Sale, this Jean De Merry chandelier was sold at auction. I love the way Helen decorated this room – a mix of new and old that looks so fresh and on trend.
The dining room from the other view. Here looking through the doors to the butler’s pantry and onto the kitchen. The door on the right leads to the living room. Love this room!
Between the dining room and kitchen is the butler’s pantry. Filled with a lifetime’s collection of ironstone and creamware and pots from France, it has to be one of the prettiest pantries ever! Instead of built ins and closets, Weeks added limed cabinets to fill in with her ironstone and plates.
Notice the round window above the painting – Helen & Litchfield put these round windows in all the rooms; many are placed on top of doors or are added to create a focal point. By using these windows throughout, this shape has become a recurrent theme in The Mill.
The pantry leads to the kitchen/breakfast room which faces the side yard. The kitchen is barely seen, hidden in a series of cabinets, one of which is at the left. Instead of cabinets, open shelves hold all the dishes, while a steel cart holds extras.
Comment: OK. The cart with dishes hints at something that people without upper cabinets must all face. When you empty the dishwasher, you have to have a nearby place to put the clean dishes. Imagine how long it must take to empty the dishwasher if you have to carry everything several steps away. I’m guessing that the steel cart is used to place all the clean dishes on it and then cart them all at once to the open shelves towards the back of the room. If you are planning a kitchen without upper cabinets, be sure you think about where you will store the glasses and plates and how far away from the dishwasher will that be.
Another view of the kitchen and breakfast room. To the left are paneled cabinets, and through the door is a secondary kitchen which is adjacent to the butler’s pantry. I do wonder whether the refrigerator/freezer is hidden behind the cabinet doors on the left? And finally, notice how thick the stucco walls are – you can see this thickness where the arched steel door is placed.
The wood floor is to die for! Steel doors open to the yard where the vegetable parterre garden is. The bench is covered in a F. Schumacher toile. Notice the sconces above the cabinets.
The second kitchen in the area between the pantry and the breakfast room.
Next to the kitchen is the family room, done in orange and yellow. Under the horse painting is a banquette upholstered in stripes. Out the French doors is the pergola and dining table outside. Beautiful antique rafters on the ceiling.
An earlier view – again, there are lots of changes. There’s a new antique rug here and this chair was in the estate sale. This room was updated to look a bit more modern and on trend and again, the changes are great!
The wet bar is fabulous – done in bright yellow leather and studs! The trumeaus are antique mirrors. Notice the sink. Fabulous!!!!!
I think this might be my favorite room in the house – the powder room! The unsealed faucet with its patina, the stone sink, the antique barometer – LOVE!!!!
Connected to the orange & yellow family room is the large living room, that runs along the back of the house. This is the first picture I saw of the house on Pinterest that brought me to this story. I LOVE this room! I love the mix of the old and new, the classic and the contemporary. I love the curtains and the screen is wonderful! Notice the two round screen above the doors. Gorgeous!
Here’s another view of the room, when you first enter it from the foyer.
The antique rafters continue in here from the adjacent family room. Gorgeous. Love the light fixture and sconces – perfect scale. The blue lamp is just the right touch to go with all the blue velvets and silks. Love the two white Swedish armchairs. And that antique stone fireplace!!!!! Not a reproduction. No way, no how.
Here’s the view looking at the other direction towards the library. Love the drapes – they have an African vibe. Actually this room does look like it could be in South Africa. Again, the gilt mirror between the double doors is the perfect size.
This view shows you how the first floor is oriented. Through the pair of double doors is the library. Through the door to the left of the sofa is the foyer and stairs and through the door on the right of the sofa is the dining room. The house has such a great flow – it must be wonderful to entertain here!
Next to the living room through two sets of beautiful wood doors is the library with its incredible herringbone wood floor. Found in a Belgium school house, the floor was pieced together by hand. Just incredible. And, notice the orange chair. Bits of the bright orange show up in different rooms to help unify the design scheme.
Notice the steel library stairs. Contemporary chairs add just that bit of folly that Helen includes in all her rooms. It’s a great lesson if you want to update your house – keep your antiques and dark furniture – but mix in bits of contemporary touches, either in a light fixture or a fabric. Do this - and your house will suddenly look hip! I’m still trying to learn this lesson though. It’s not easy!
Another early shot from Litchfield’s web site. OK, I think I’m right in my guess that a more contemporary vibe is going on – note the chairs before, without the modern fabric. And the rug makes the room more grown-up. By moving it to the family room, the library looks a bit youthful. Another great change.
At the foyer – through the back door are the stairs that lead down to the basement level.
The laundry is down these stairs. Notice the rustic gray painted wall – the white ironstone looks like jewelry on it! So many architectural details in this house. It must have taken Helen eons to work it all out – and what a great job she and Litchfield did!
The laundry, yes, this is the laundry. So charming with its original trough sink, shiplap walls and ceiling, wood floor and wheeled table that acts as an island and ironing board. Notice the little numbers placed on the cabinets. Details, details, details!
Also downstairs past this painted floor, black shiplap, and antique door – is the wine tasting room! Love the pitchfork! Notice the tiny light above the wood door. All the details – so many great ones!!!
Connecting the house to the garage is the dog’s room. Notice the heavily troweled stucco wall on the left and the shiplap on the right, and rafters in the ceiling. Such pretty creamware plates on the wall – and I love that light over the painting. This hall leads to the dog’s room.
The dog’s room has a striped skirted island attached with grommets. Notice the hardware on the cabinet doors.
Looking the opposite direction, there is a faucet for the dog’s water bowl and that might be his bed inside the arch, not sure. Helen, call me!
The view back towards the connection hall and up the stairs to the apartment above the garage (I think.)
Back to the foyer: up the main stairs is the landing with more of the herringbone floor. The tureen collection is fabulous! Notice the whitewashed beams. Honestly, is this France or Georgia?
From Litchfield’s web site. A larger view of the landing.
From Instagram. After the house was emptied – it was photographed bare, without the furnishings. Double wood doors lead into a bedroom suite.
Off the landing, past the double wood doors is this black lacquered sitting room with the velvet sofa. One of the guest bedrooms is adjacent to this room.
Next to the sitting room is this guest room. I really like the shuttered closets. So cute!
The other view – Ikat curtains and striped duvet. Gray wood ceiling and black doors.
The guest room bathroom – the only normal sink in the house!!!!
Here is the master bedroom with the herringbone wood floor. Contemporary furniture mixes with antiques. Love the hot pink velvet sofa with all the whites. Notice the wood paneled ceiling.
Close up of the fireplace.
The master bathroom doesn’t even look like a bathroom! Love the cabinets with painted screens. Notice the sink vanity. The toilet is hidden behind a frosted French door with an oval window above it. Through the open door is the closet.
The clothes are enclosed behind the mirrored doors. The orange touch? The ladder!
This room with the fireplace is part of the man’s side of the master suite.
An early view – into the man’s bathroom with the antique doors. Once there was a lantern in this room and now there is a contemporary fixture instead. This explains all the wonderful lanterns in the estate sale. Like so many of us, Weeks is wanting a more contemporary feel and by changing out light fixtures, she is able to achieve this. I’m guessing most of the contemporary fixtures were mostly French lanterns before. Again, a great idea.
And the man’s bathroom in the master suite.
There is this girl’s bedroom with the painted wood floor and David Hicks fabric.
And the bathroom with the hot pink ceiling and white wood floor. Love this!
The guest suite – just beautiful! I love this bedroom with the floating canopy bed!!! It looks like a French mas’s attic with the high ceilings and rafters.
The kitchen in the guest suite.
The sitting room in the guest suite. I love how Helen used the same hot pink in all the bedrooms – it ties everything together.
Of course there is a work out room – with an antique oil portrait! Even I might be motivated to work out in this room!
And finally – this hallway – not sure where this is? In the basement? Or does it lead to the guest suite over the garage? Not sure! Helen….call me!!! Helen!!!! She’ll be calling the insane asylum to come pick me up, I’m afraid.
Whew. What a house! I can’t imagine all the energy and determination it took to design such a large house with so many details and so many fabulous choices! And Helen Ballard Weeks and her architect Bill Litchfield did such a great job. There isn’t much I would change. In fact, I would be happy to move right in….just bring my toothbrush.
The company that held the estate sale posted a lot of pictures online of the items for sale and I was drooling at the pictures!
Off the garage, a tent was erected on the gravel courtyard. On this table are all these green confit pots and lanterns. And…I just noticed the blue apothecary jars!!!!! OMG!!!!
I know that table! That armoire. This picture is from the Lissyparker.com blog. She has a darling blog! Be sure to visit it.
Lanterns and lanterns and chairs and tables!
This armoire is fabulous. That chair! And look at all the creamware. People from Atlanta are so lucky! First there was the Dan Carithers estate sale and now this one!! Whose is next? If Suzanne Kasler moves, be sure to call, OK?
I’ll take this and this and this and that. Those two sample size chairs are adorable!!!
Table and bench.
Love the dogs!
Shutters and doors.
Plates and plates and French tables. Notice the cobblestone driveway and stone walls in the porte cochere.
AND finally – look! The green chairs!! From all those years ago.
Just seeing those chairs makes me think that maybe Helen likes to hang onto everything and finally she had a huge sale to clean it all out.
Amazing!!! I’m in awe!!! I shudder to imagine what is in my attic. Also, all the lanterns – it does seem like the fixtures inside were updated to the more contemporary ones. She just wants to be more on “fleek” now. (Did I use on fleek correctly?)
All I know is I can’t WAIT to see what Weeks designs next. If it’s anything like this, it will be BEYOND fabulous!!!!