September 14, 2015

Athens Modern Homes Tour Was a Success for AIDS Athens

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Photo Credit: Barbette Houser

The many balconies at the Glenwood home of Airee and Russell Edwards made it a tour favorite.

Another must-mark-your-calendar event has been born in our little town: The Athens Modern Homes Tour. Attendees flocked to Hotel Indigo on Saturday afternoon to pick up their maps and head out on Athens’ latest voyeuristic opportunity to peek inside the lives of others while supporting a worthy local organization: AIDS Athens.

The tour was conceived by AIDS Athens' fundraising chair Tracy Stroud, whose own home was one of seven on tour. A highlight of the event for Stroud “was meeting the founders of AIDS Athens [Bill Thompson and Roger Bailey]—they were thrilled at the turnout. In the beginning of AIDS Athens in the late '80s, they were barely getting by. When I told them AIDS Athens is now a $1.1 million [budget] organization serving not only Athens but Northeast Georgia, you could tell it meant a great deal to them.”

Another highlight for Stroud was meeting a number of couples who are considering moving to Athens and telling them all about our wonderful community.

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Photo Credit: Barbette Houser

Jewelry designer Molli Scarborough and her "crafty" girlfriends went on the tour as part of a creative weekend.

Brian Winters, that friendly face behind the bar at Heirloom Café, was on hand to lead tours of the various homes throughout the day. Winters is a graduate of the Pratt Institute School of Architecture and a local professor of design. According to Stroud, the organization “couldn’t have done the event without him and his interior design students from Athens Technical College that volunteered as docents for the homes.”

The first home on the tour was located just north of Hotel Indigo. The house’s position at the end of normally quiet little Kendene Street created a traffic snarl; neighbors stood in their yards to watch the spectacle of hundreds of people making their way to see Jeff Rieter’s modern house in its diverse in-town setting.

“It’s a Bork-and-York,” Winters said of the home, referring to the joint effort of architect Lori Bork and builder Jared York. “Sometimes the best ideas are first sketched out on a beverage napkin,” he went on to say as he described the initial design process. The modest scale and muted exterior colors allow the house to sit comfortably and graciously with older neighboring homes.

“Bork and York” created four of the seven homes on the tour, including York’s own home in the Five Points neighborhood.

A house on the Eastside, designed by architect George Franklin Tessman, was a standout on the tour and was influenced by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. In spite of soaring ceilings in the central area of the home, it proved to be one of the coziest on view that day. It was clearly created for family life, with its large communal area designed for gathering and sharing meals and large windows open to the views and natural light; more private and contemplative wings reside on either side.

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Photo Credit: Barbette Houser

Brian and Lara Carrigan's home was designed by George Franklin Tessman.

This makes sense, as the home was a labor of love: Tessman began designing it for his son and daughter-in-law upon their marriage. The home now belongs to Brian and Lara Carrigan, and they have filled it with thoughtfully curated vintage pieces and works of art.

Another surprise on the tour was the pool house of Judy Starkey. From its “Green Design” planted roof top to its grass and stepping-stone sunning ground and contemporary chaise longues, every detail was thoughtfully considered.

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Photo Credit: Barbette Houser

The grass and stepping stone sunning ground at the modern pool house of Judy Starkey.

Winters, in his introduction written for the event’s program, summed up the aspirations of the tour when he stated, “For AIDS Athens, this tour also highlights the importance of housing. Housing strengthens an entire community.” He went on to say, “With the help of these homeowners, AIDS Athens will be able to continue to stably house over 400 individuals and families each year.”

According to AIDS Athens director Olivia Chelko Long, the event was indeed a success, raising over $6,000 for that very purpose. The group was thrilled with how enthusiastically the event was received; plans are underway for next year’s tour and several exciting modern homes are already lined up.

To learn more about AIDS Athens, visit