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By Travis Neighbor Ward | Photo: Chia Chong and Adam Kuehl | April 22, 2015
Inside the family home belonging to the president and founder of SCAD, color and art take center stage.
For Paula Wallace, president and founder of the Savannah College of Art and Design, home is where the art is. When she was looking for a house to share with her husband, Glenn Wallace; their two children; and their two dogs, she wanted something that would serve their modern family’s needs and provide a beautiful backdrop to their impressive collection of works. They also entertain often, from hosting private events for board members to small fireside chats in winter. In the end, a two-story Queen Anne from 1884 was the perfect choice.
“I chose to live in the heart of Savannah,” Paula says of East Liberty, the name they gave to the house, which is on Liberty Street. “It’s located in the Historic Landmark District on a beautifully shaded boulevard.” In addition to their private residence, the property includes a guesthouse and a commercial space on the ground floor called Pinnacle Gallery, in what used to be a grocery store.
The fact that the building is only two stories tall makes it unusual for the city, where row houses are often three or four stories. One of the greatest bonuses is its location. “We have the advantage of these green spaces and squares for gathering and conversing with our neighbors, or ‘taking in the air,’ as we like to say.” When they entertain at home, she loves opening the doors of the house to the side garden, which includes a fountain made of hand-carved bricks by SCAD students.
Because of the era in which it was built, the house has extremely high ceilings and tall windows, with a wrought iron balcony on the front—very different from the southwest Atlanta white clapboard bungalow, where she grew up. Together with Glenn, Paula has developed a passion for reclaiming and repurposing aging structures while trying to respect their architectural bones and heritage. (Last month she was inducted into the Georgia Historical Society as a Georgia Trustee.) In this house that meant doing things like opening up the space while preserving the original heart pine beneath the wide-plank bleached oak flooring—and employing SCAD teams to do the work.
When the Wallaces decorate, it’s also a collaboration. They are professional interior designers, and they like to mix antiques and modern furnishings with contemporary art. For instance, in the dining room, there is a mahogany table flanked by ’60s-era midcentury-modern apple-green and chrome chairs, a contrast she thinks is more interesting than having them match. To find pieces, they go to flea markets, antique stores and contemporary design shops, and look at work by SCAD students.
Throughout the house, colorful palettes are often energetic and dramatic, with choices that are highly personal. (In the parlor, the ceiling is painted blush to match a shade of Estée Lauder blush that Paula wore for many years.) The first floor is full of complementary blues and oranges, punctuated by things like artwork featuring red lips in the foyer.
“Glenn and I work well together, and it’s all about the creative process,” she says. “We both see something and think about it three-dimensionally.”
Paula and Glenn Wallace