The Dream Midcentury Home by Jackson Riley Holliday

Whether it was fate, sheer luck or the subliminal guidance from a friend, David found his dream home after several years of trial and error. Resting calmly on a hillside surrounded by trees, this midcentury modern home was crafted by Georgia native, Macon architect Jackson Riley Holliday. Today, David shares his sentiment toward midcentury aesthetics and tells us the story of how he found The Right One.

First of all, could you tell us a little bit about your background?

I moved to Macon, Georgia from Miami, Florida a little over 20 years ago to begin my career as a college professor. Macon is known for its many antebellum and traditional-style homes and I immediately embraced the charm of this mid-sized Southern town. The assimilation process and the desire to explore living in an “older home” partly lead me to purchase a bungalow built in 1923. I enjoyed the experience but the constant need to upgrade and maintain a wooden home of that age became a burden. My passion, however, had always been for modern and contemporary homes. 

Interestingly, the second home I purchased was another wooden house – this time a contemporary cedar home built in 1977. My friends and neighbors called that split-level home that clashed in the very traditional architectural landscape of the neighborhood the “Brady Bunch house”. I was certain I had found my dream home – but my, was I wrong!

How did you come to live in your house and what drew you to the mid-century style?

Like I said above, I thought I had found my dream home – until I found my Dream Home. In 2014 a close friend was selling her home and asked me to look at her listing online. Right below her listing was a home nestled in the woods that caught my attention for its unique architectural style. At that point I was not very familiar with the midcentury modern style and its legacy. 

That very same day, though, I requested a viewing and fell in love with the property. It had all the elements I had been dreaming about for my ideal forever-home; and then some! Architectural interest, privacy, a park-like setting with a beautiful creek as its front yard, enough room to accommodate a growing art collection, and ideally located five minutes from downtown. But it was the midcentury modern style that spoke to me. I was fortunate to acquire the property from its original owner, the architect’s widow.

What do you think was so special about this period in American design?

I was born in 1965, and whether it happened consciously or unconsciously, I have been drawn to midcentury aesthetics in general. I would say I first identified with the fashion sense of the time  — its simple elegance — and to the art inspired by an ever-changing cultural scene that benefited from European, African, and Asian influences. Architecturally, that same elegant simplicity, and open-mindedness rang true in midcentury modern design. It was a type of design for those who were not afraid to dream and explore.

What do  you know about the architect who designed your house?

The house was designed by Jackson Riley Holliday, a Macon, Georgia native. In 1952, he started his own architectural firm. In 1964, he was a founding member of Matthews, Holliday, Couch and Hollis Architects. He left quite a legacy of commercial and residential work that varied in style from traditional to contemporary, to what is now known as midcentury modern. He designed this house as his personal residence where he lived until his death in 2003. Because Mr. Holliday had expertise and interest not only in architecture but also in electrical engineering, furniture, and landscape design, he personally designed and incorporated all of these elements. The house features his beautiful built-in furniture, low-voltage lighting, central vacuum system, heated floors in the bathrooms, intercom system; all original to the 1959 design.

Have you had to renovate any part of the house? If so, which area(s)?

Because Mr. Holliday designed the house as his private residence, no expense was spared. He truly used the best materials and finishes at his disposal. Some of the contractors who have worked on the property have observed that the house was built like a fortress of iron, brick, and concrete. The solid structure suffered slightly after years of neglect that followed the architect’s death. Most of it was cosmetic, but I had to renovate the master bathroom where the tiled floor had cracked beyond repair. Other than the master bathroom, I replaced the wall-to-wall carpet with bamboo flooring taking as my cue the bamboo ring room divider that separates the living and dining areas. 

What are the advantages/struggles of living in a midcentury house?

I would say, at the risk of repeating what many have said about living in a MCM home, that the biggest advantage is quality of life. A design that incorporates both privacy and expansive walls of glass, seamless interaction between indoor and outdoor spaces, and beautiful, simple open concept. Another advantage of a simple and sophisticated architectural design is that whether you want to go for an understated, minimalist look or opt for a well-travelled, art-gallery, multicultural look (that a friend calls “modern-baroque,”) the structure supports and enhances your personal aesthetic. I must admit that so far I have found nothing that I could call a struggle.

Photos by Angela Criscoe

What’s your favourite part of the house and why?

Aside from the great design of the dwelling, with every imaginable feature I could ever want, I enjoy the wooded, country-like feel of the lot with its lush landscape, the beautiful creek that runs over granite shoals located only a few feet from the front door, the Japanese garden in the back, and the private, enclosed courtyard. Within the house itself, the living-dining area with the expansive walls of glass, brick, and those fantastic clerestory windows keep me in awe on a daily basis.