Environmental Change

Renovation project blurs the lines between contemporary additions and historical integrity


The quaint southern town of Barnesville lies a short drive northwest of Macon in Georgia’s historic heartland. Once heralded as the “Buggy Capital of the South” during the late 19th century, splendid manors of the “Buggy Barons” still grace the city streets and comprise the core of Barnesville’s historic district.

One such historic property was the focus of a recent restoration project by Madison’s Environs Landscape Design Studio and Arcollab, an architectural collaborative based in Athens. This circa 1875 home and property sits at a once vibrant crossroads within the Barnesville Historic District. The design featured both architectural and landscape interventions, and the Environs design team worked extensively with architect, Joe Smith with Arcollab, to resurrect a piece of Barnesville’s unique history.

A central architectural hyphen serves to connect the 1,700-square-foot modern addition made to the rear of the house with the original historic structure. Additional design features include mixed perennial borders, which help to frame and organize the landscape, infusing intimate garden spaces with the architectural components

Design interventions for this architectural and landscape rehabilitation project responded to the unique qualities of the house and grounds, accommodating new uses and experiences within the existing historic framework.

Considerations were envisioned to blur the lines between what is historic and what has been added. To this end, great strides were made to blend the two, rather than imposing a purely contemporary aesthetic that is incompatible with the surrounding historic fabric of the town.

Architectural rehabilitation included repairs and additions to the historic home. As part of the architectural renovation work, structural additions made to the rear of the house during the 1930s were removed. A master bath and closets, gallery, side entry and porch, powder room, bar, kitchen, full pantry, laundry, and back porch were added.

A three-car garage/workshop was added to the property, accommodating new uses while maintaining its overall historic character.

Where possible, intact original finishes were preserved and restored, including original milk-based paint on the ceilings and a front entry leaded glass fanlight. Interventions and craftsmanship accommodated new uses and experiences, while maintaining the overall historic character.

For the landscape, design considerations were informed by the unique qualities of the site. An in-depth analysis of the site’s attributes formed a narrative that described the landscape’s ecological and cultural history, while serving as a catalyst for design. By analyzing these systems, we gained a more thorough understanding of the complex relationships between the various elements – both contrived and “natural” – that comprise a site’s character. This understanding then directed design applications in ways that supported the environment and allowed for flexibility and change over time.

The addition of an outdoor pavilion functions as a garden folly, while providing outdoor living space for al fresco dining and entertaining.

By providing opportunities for direct engagement with the environment, our aim was to foster interaction between people and nature, provide spaces for contemplation, and encourage discovery and curiosity in the landscape. The resulting design interventions seamlessly stitched the landscape and architecture to the historic fabric of the town.

– Wes Ryals is a lead design associate with Environs Landscape Architecture and Ecological Planning firm in Madison. For more information, visit environsla.com.




Invasive vegetation removal and management revealed an important characteristic of the landscape that was previously unknown — an historic roadbed along the property line. A memorial pecan grove, planted in the 1940s to commemorate victory in World War II, became a feature through which guests enter the property.


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