Idea House opens in Senoia
By Sarah Fay Campbell
The Southern Living Idea House in downtown Senoia is open to the public.
The house, called Abercorn Place by the magazine, is the grandest in a row of five brownstone-style townhouses in The Gin Property, a historically-flavored mixed use development in downtown Senoia.
Admission to the house is $10 for adults, and there’s no charge for children 12 and under. Proceeds from the admission fees will benefit the American Cancer Society’s Cattle Barons Ball.
The house is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. through Dec. 12.
Several speakers gave remarks at the opening event, including Paul Lombardi and Scott Tigchelaar of Historic Development Ventures, the developer, and representatives from Southern Living.
“It’s about the town of Senoia and how a town recognized what we wanted to do,” said Lombardi. Over the past several years, Historic Development Ventures has purchased various properties in Senoia and filled them with historically-inspired buildings.
Lombardi and RiverWood Studios got involved in Senoia in 1988. He enjoyed the town but “never really got into the community like we did now,” Lombardi said.
Several movies were made during that time, but before long, the movie industry moved on and things got pretty quiet at RiverWood. Most of the folks working at RiverWood headed back to Hollywood.
About 10 years ago, Lombardi’s wife, Sheila, passed away. Not long after, he returned to Senoia, along with Tigchelaar, his nephew, and he decided he wanted to get into development. “I didn’t want to do normal stuff. Because normal stuff is boring,” Lombardi said.
That meant some changes to downtown. “Change, for everyone, is tough,” Lombardi said. “We talked about taking charge, moving forward, and pushing it in a way that’s positive.”
The development really started about three years ago — with the groundbreaking for the first new building — on Main Street. “We got the best team we could find,” Lombardi said. That included architecture firm Historic Development Ventures of Peachtree City.
Many people in town, including Frank Hollberg and the late Paul McKnight, were part of the reason the project worked, Lombardi said. “I know you don’t believe this, Frank, but we wouldn’t have been here if it wasn’t for you,” he said.
“This has been a team effort,” said Tigchelaar. “The city backed us up. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
“We are very excited to bring this here today,” said Eleanor Griffin, editor-in-chief of Southern Living.
Some 16 million people will see the idea house in the Southern Living August issue, she said.
The house might bring some traffic and some newcomers to the city. “Don’t be mad at us. It’s all for a good cause,” Griffin said.
“The purpose of our magazine is to help keep the South as southern as possible,” Griffin said. The Idea House in Senoia is definitely different. “We see too many McMansions,” she said.
Historical Concepts has been working with “Southern Living” for two decades, she said. “If Historical Concepts has done it, it is done right.”
“This is probably one of the strongest houses we have seen,” she said. “Thank you for letting Southern Living be your neighbor.”
“I hope everybody shares our enthusiasm for what is going to happen in August,” said Rich Smyth, publisher of Southern Living.
Publishing a magazine is a team effort, he said, and so is building an Idea House. “This project is probably the poster child for a team effort,” Smyth said.
Jamie Elliott McPherson of Hearth and Home Interiors in Newnan is the lead designer for the house. Terry Pylant, also of Newnan, was the lead architect for the house.
“Not only does he have a great heart, he’s done a yeoman’s job in making it happen,” said Jim Strickland of Historical Concepts of Pylant.
McPherson was chosen for the Idea House after Southern Living visited his own home, on Roscoe Road, for a feature in the November 2009 issue.
Officials working on the Idea House project saw photos and “said that’s the style we want” for the house, McPherson said. After an interview process, he was chosen as the designer.
McPherson has been an interior designer for years, but this was a big step.
“I’d never even done a showcase room” before, he said. “It’s a great springboard for my career,” he said. And “Southern Living supported me 100 percent the entire way.”