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atlanta’s mod squad

June 1, 2015

Bernard McCoy_by Stefan Kjartansson

Bernard McCoy and Elayne DeLeo met in a meetup group on modern design. In 2007, the idea-driven duo created Modern Atlanta (MA), an annual design event that includes home tours, speakers, classes, panel discussions and a design expo. The growing event (May 29-June7) has put Atlanta and the Southeast on the map as a bona fide design destination — commercially and culturally.

What is your background:
BM: Grew up in Decatur and served in the Air Force in Europe, where I was stationed and studied. In 1996, returned to Atlanta and was hired as an environmental specialist (I have a background in metrology). Bought lofts in Bottle Works and Mueller Lofts in Castleberry Hill, where I liked the openness and industrial elements of the spaces. In 2007, following the success of MA’s first architecture tour, I moved to the UK.

ED: Grew up Connecticut and studied fine arts and communications (where?). Wanted to work in advertising as a creative director and spent a few years as a freelance designer. My first “real” job was in marketing and collateral design for a software company. I enjoyed the technology business and ended up working for a Fortune 500 company, where I designed and launched its first ecommerce website. In early 2000, joined a tech start-up company that led to other start-up jobs across the country. After more than 10 years, I was burned out and wanted to return to my passion: art and design. In 2006, moved from Scottdsale, Ariz., to Atlanta. When not promoting MA, I am the chapter administrator for ASID Georgia and live in a mid-century ranch home in Brookhaven.Elayne DeLeo_by Jason Travis

How did you get interested in modern design:
BM: It was random. In the nineties, I lived in Italy, where you are surrounded by strong architecture and design. My interest in design grew organically just from being in that environment and hanging out with Italians who were architects, designers or worked in fashion. In addition, my brother-in-law who is a French architect based in Paris and has worked closely with Philippe Starck on several highly publicized projects, had an early influence me too.
ED: My paternal grandparents, specifically my grandmother, was a modernist. Their home was very modern and decorated with Paul McCobb pieces, Eames chairs, etc. My grandfather worked for Chase Brass & Copper in Waterbury, Conn. He would bring home items designed by Russel Wright, Rockwell Kent and Walter Von Nesse. I was surrounded by great design. My parents were also very good about exposing my sister and I to museums and architecture. We would take the train into New York City and visit the Guggenheim often.

What would people be surprised to learn about Modern Atlanta:
BM: That the two partners are separated by an ocean. Based in Atlanta, Elayne is responsible for business development in the United States. I’m based in the UK and Europe, where my focus is to establish the MA brand internationally. I also serve as chief editor of MA’s glossy design publication.

How is modern home design different in Atlanta than in other U.S. cities:
BM: Modern architecture in Atlanta is as diverse as the architects and interior designers who create them. Atlanta is experiencing early growth in this sector and, in time, will have some of examples of bold architecture representative of Atlanta’s own style.
ED: There is more of a nod to tradition. We don’t have one “modern” neighborhood other than the mid-century ranches in Northcrest. We see a lot of architects being asked to create modern additions for existing traditional homes, which when done well is incredibly creative and inviting.

What are your favorite modern Atlanta buildings:

BM: High Museum; Star Provisions, Armchair Media; Krog Street Market; Room & Board; Ligne Roset; Georgia International Plaza; Roche Bobois; Hinman Building at Georgia Tech; and Atlanta-Fulton’s Central Library, designed by Marcel Breuer.

ED: Architect John Portman’s brutalist designs, specifically Peachtree Center and Atlanta Decorative Arts Center (ADAC), where I work.

Favorite design magazines, books, websites, films:

BM: FRAME; Disegno; domus; designboom; Yes Is More; (in residence video series); and, of course, MA’s own magazine: Design Is Human.
ED: Metropolis; Monocle; Elle Décor;; and

What’s next:
ED: Taking MA to schools to get kids involved so they will consider design careers.
BM: MA will launch its Limited Edition Collection (of what ? Furniture? Lighting?) in June and working with Germany-based Naber for its North American launch of Concept Kitchen by Kilian Schindler. In talks with HAXI, a new ridesharing app launched in Scandinavia and looking to enter the United States.

Modern OutsideThis 3,800-square-foot-house (above) sits on a raised corner lot on Highland Avenue in one of Atlanta’s intown neighborhoods. The homeowners, who were excited about city living and being in a walkable neighborhood, requested a home design that celebrated their love of Prairie-style architecture, including large overhangs and high windows that open out from modestly sized rooms that flow into one another along the length of the house. Photos by Atlanta-based Dencity Design

Modern Inside

Materials are a defining feature of this new modern house in Atlanta’s Virginia Highland neighborhood. Specially quarried stone cover was used on interior and exterior walls. There are sustainable wood cabinets and floors, plus live edges on the walnut shelves.


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