Frank lloyd wright’s atlanta-based great-granddaughter talks design, the american master’s influence – curbed atlanta

I got a degree in hospitality management from Cornell [University], and I went into the field for five years and was climbing the ladder. I was one of few women and making great progress, but moving cities, states, and companies every eight months. The problem for me was I was a turnaround artist, so I would go in and fix troubled departments, but I would be bored out of my gourd, so I’d go above and beyond, or I’d find another job with another company and do the same thing. It wasn’t particularly exciting for me. A traditional interior design by Galt. MelissaGaltInteriors.com

The turnaround part was fun, but the day-to-day would really bore me, and, as a high creative, that made sense. I had really wanted to go into costume design school—and I got in before I went to Cornell—but I didn’t have the guts to pursue it because I thought that I’d gotten in just based on my godmother’s recommendation, not my own merit.


I just made a decision. Mom had died really suddenly in December ’85, and I had graduated in spring of ’84, so I wasn’t very far into my career path when she died, and I felt a compunction to follow the Cornell path because she had put me on it. My mother was always very persistent, and I thought, to shut her up, I would apply to Cornell. I won’t get in, I thought, and then it’s done.

I had explored interior design much earlier on, but it didn’t seem like the right profession. But in that time gap, the field had shifted and changed, so I decided I wanted to do that. I had read a book called Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow, and my mother had done just that, because she had known what she wanted to do since age 7. She won her Oscar at age 23.

I do a predominance of contemporary, modern, and mission-style—arts and crafts, bungalow, Great-Grandfather-esque. But the key is I create it uniquely to each client. There’s no Melissa stamp. I have some hallmarks: Heavy texture, a lot of texture, a lot of different materials, and a good balance of materials. A sample of Galt’s contemporary decoration. MelissaGaltInteriors.com

I’m very irreverent about the family thing. I joke about it, and I bring Great-Grandfather down to earth on a regular basis. He was an architectural genius, but he was not an engineer, and the engineers couldn’t keep up with him, which means his homes are notoriously leaky. The maintenance is through the roof, and he was a very serious misogynist. He did not design for women.

For example—he died in 1959—it would be interesting to see how he would deal with the shift of women’s empowerment in the home today. That started happening in the ’60s and ’70s, and now you might have a him and a her going to purchase a home, but we all know who’s calling the shots. It’s her, even if he’s writing the check. And a lot of times she’s writing the check. So how would he have handled that? Mayor Eric Garcetti attends the 2015 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the reopening of The Frank Lloyd Wright Hollyhock House in Los Angeles. Araya Diaz/Getty Images, for Barnsdall Art Park Foundation

Technology. Smart homes. That’s huge, especially in kitchens. The talking refrigerators that tell you what you need when you go to the store. Disappearing kitchens are huge also. People are literally doing the kitchen in a way where you look around a go, “Oh, this must be the kitchen. There’s the stove top,” but everything else is paneled out so you don’t even notice the appliance anymore.

I was reading up about the trends coming up in 2019. Induction cooking is finally starting to come into the market more, and an article showed a kitchen where the sauce pans were sitting on the counter top. They’re hiding the induction in the counter, so it looks like a counter top, but it’s actually inducted, so you need a certain kind of pot to use it. It sounds a little dangerous, but with induction, the heat only goes through the metal, so you could put your hand on it, and it won’t burn you. A kitchen renovation completed by Galt. MelissaGaltInteriors.com

There’s that, and the latest thing in the high-end homes is what’s called a scullery kitchen. Scullery kitchens are being built parallel to the kitchen, fully loaded with appliances because even though the kitchen is right next door, people in these high-end homes don’t want you to see dirty dishes in the sink or appliances being used. So the cooking takes place in the scullery kitchen, and then you close the door behind you.

Black is also coming into kitchens more. Touch latch, too—no hardware, so you can use your hip to open the refrigerator door since your hands are always full. And the faucets: there’s no knobs. You can just wave your hand. The only challenge with those—I’ve had clients who got them—is pets. A kitty will run across it, it will turn on, and there’s no one around to turn it off.

She’s not the flashy sort, and this project was fun because she had never invested in design at all. She never knew what she really wanted, but she had a cat called Delilah. We’re both cat people, which was a huge bonding place for us, so I ripped the entire concept off her cat, who was charcoal with green eyes. Now, rhe whole house is shades of grey with lime green accents. That’s my favorite, without a doubt.

Because it wasn’t complete, the owners stepped in and finished it themselves. Then, as time goes on, people think, “Oh, we’ll just update it with the trends.” You can’t do that with a home that is architecturally significant, which his work is to Atlanta. You need to design with the sensitivity to what he would have intended. He had such an organic quality, which was a hallmark of Great-Grandfather.

This reminds me of the fight to save the facade of the Central Atlanta Library, the Marcel Breuer-designed Brutalist block downtown. You’ve voiced concerns with the plans to cut windows into the building—part of its $50 million renovation. Despite some community uproar, especially from the architecture community, it looks like the window plans are a go.

This is not an adaptive-reuse project where we’re taking something and turning it into something else. We’re not. And when you have architecture that’s significant, you honor it; you don’t destroy it. It’s not even just destroying the structure’s integrity; you’re destroying the intention of the architecture. Breuer’s Atlanta library. DOCOMOMO

Atlanta was burnt to the ground. It doesn’t have architecturally significant structures the way other cities do, and to take even one piece of this magnitude and decimate it is nuts. If Atlanta really wants to land on the map and stop being the second tier city that it is, it will have to protect and preserve its significant structures. The library could see windows cut into its sides—as this rendering shows—in months to come. Cooper Carry