Even from an early age, award-winning designer Frank Betz knew he wanted to design homes. Upon receiving a drafting kit in the 7th grade from his parents, Frank’s interest in architecture blossomed.
“My mom likes to tell the story that when I was in elementary school — when given paints — I would always paint the exterior of a house. After receiving the drafting kit, I knew I wanted to design homes,” Betz said.
Along with his love of architecture, he also had an interest in commercial art and was able to fuse the two by producing renderings of his designs in the development stages of his company. Now a successful businessman and founder of the Atlanta-based home design firm Frank Betz Associates, Inc.(FBA), Betz has become his own customer by designing his personal home.
Choosing to build in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA, Frank carefully crafted a home that enabled his favorite pastime to flourish: entertaining. He knew he wanted to design a home that included large, open spaces and a larger-than-life poolside oasis to accomodate large crowds of friends and family.
“My prior home was very ornate and formal, with lots of moldings and traditional elements. So I wanted this home to be designed more for entertaining and enjoyment,” Frank said regarding the initial concept of his new home.
The challenge however, was designing a plan that also reflected his desire for a castle-like facade. Sprawling over 8500 square feet, Frank and his company’s associates designed a home that combined a comforting interior with an exterior that consists of stone and brick, and looks as though it was conceived several hundred years earlier. Wanting to create a home that still felt livable and comfortable, they designed a modern marvel. “I wanted this home to look old, all of masonry, like a castle. Everything in this home is either tile, slate, marble, limestone or wood. There is virtually no carpeting,” he said.
While one would think those materials might initially produce a cold feel, Frank turned to the aid of his interior designer, Jill Kirr of Collaborative Designs, to provide a warm and friendly environment within the home.
“I wanted a very warm-feeling home. I want people to come in and relax and not be afraid to sit on the furnishings,” Betz said.
When guests arrive, they are treated to a stunning two-story foyer highlighted by a cascading staircase. An interior balcony that overlooks the foyer below becomes a second focal point. Granting a feeling of being outdoors in a courtyard, the balcony is actually off of a bathroom suite. Arches frame the entryways to the bedrooms and dining room, and enhance the open foyer.
While there is a definite formal front entrance, there is also a less formal guest entrance that enters from the motor court. Leading immediately into the kitchen, this entrance puts guests at ease the minute they enter the home. Creating a casual environment was constantly in the back of Frank’s mind.
“I wanted my home to be very livable and comfortable. I don’t have formal spaces like most homes have,” he said.
Instead he has designed a massive space for indoor entertaining that includes a built-in wet bar, adjacent wine cellar, grand family room with a brick barrel-vaulted ceiling and a sprawling eating area. Using a technique from his own portfolio, Frank designed the home with the large family room and adjacent breakfast room off the kitchen. Understanding that the majority of families spend their time in the kitchen and family rooms, he designed his own home to mirror that notion.
“The way the family room is set up, it’s almost like two rooms because the seating faces in the opposite direction. One side is more for hanging around the kitchen.
When we cook, people are always hanging around the kitchen’s serving bar, which is why I designed such a big, curved bar,” he said.
The other side of the family room faces an elegant fireplace and a television that ascends from a hidden cabinet.
It is within this large family and breakfast room that one begins to notice the abundance of visibility within the home. From the breakfast room, the sprawling outdoor pool, home office, wine cellar and dining room are all visible. Creating an open feel, these lines of sight are what make Betz’s home truly unique.
“I’m big on focal points, lines of sight and visual lines,” Frank said.
The backyard, with pool and entertaining area, is so breathtaking that he wanted to take advantage of its calming presence even from the bathroom. The master bathtub looks through a tiled arch, and features an open view through the master bedroom’s sitting area straight to the pool. Like his company’s plans, Frank Betz created a sense of indulgence even in his own master bathroom.
Optimal visibility is not limited to the master bathtub, however. It also comes from the three-sided aquarium built into the wet-bar. Facing the family room, bar and kitchen, this vertical aquarium is also visible from the guest entrance, and creates a unique focal point when entering the home.
“The aquarium is one of my favorite things,” Betz said. “It’s nice to see, and because it is three-sided I can view it from various points,” he said.
Also visible from several rooms is the wine cellar. A fan of red wines, Frank built a brick tunnel adjacent to the kitchen and dining room to house the climate-controlled cellar. It features glass walls so guests in the dining room can see through the cellar to the tunnel. Built in the basement of his prior home, Betz’s cellar is now on the ground floor so a bottle of wine is just a step away.
“The brick tunnel creates the setting while climate control provides the perfect environment for the wine. I love having the wine cellar on the ground floor because it’s much more convenient than having to go downstairs every time I want a bottle of wine,” he said.
While the wine cellar complements indoor entertaining, it is the backyard that fulfills Frank’s outdoor entertaining needs. The rambling patio overlooks a beautiful pool that flows throughout the entire backyard. With a water slide, foot-bridge, waterfalls and hot-tub, the pool is meant for true relaxation. Also stunning is the giant rock formation that frames the landscape surrounding the pool. Featuring a tunnel one can actually walk through, it is this formation that becomes the focal point of the backyard.
“I wanted a very unique backyard, something really different,” Frank said. “I had more fun working on the backyard of the house, designing the rock structure, than anything else. If the weather is good I’ll have pool parties every weekend, that’s where I spend a lot of time,” he said.
For the months when the weather permits such parties, the backyard accommodates several people comfortably. With a pool and hot-tub, there is plenty of room for aquatic relaxation. The pool even includes a swim-up bar with built-in seats. Two other backyard structures also enhance outdoor entertaining. The brick chateau doubles as a guesthouse for visitors to change clothes, bathe or even spend the night. On the opposite side of the pool is a brick-covered cabana for those who want to avoid the sun. Complete with a large grill, icemaker and food prep area, the cabana provides shelter from the sun while still allowing guests to be a part of the outdoor fun.
“This house was designed for entertaining. I enjoy having friends over on a very frequent basis,” Betz said.
Truly amazing, the backyard is a real-life oasis.
In the Details
Just as the details of the pool provide splendor to the backyard, the interior also boasts several details that showcase indoor luxury.
“One of my favorite design elements in the home is the ceiling in the family room. It’s a brick barrel vault,” Betz said. The soaring family room is crowned with bricks that have a history to them, granting the old feeling Betz originally sought when designing the home.
“The bricks came from a building in New York that was burned. Some of them are black and charred,” he said. Although a small detail, it is this authenticity that adds character. When designing the home, he used wood from trees cleared from the site for trusses in his master bedroom.
While it’s these special details that make this house a home, unique design elements are not to be overlooked. When guests stay overnight they are treated to the same level of luxury, as every bedroom features its own stunning master suite. Each include a separate shower and tub in the elegant bath, walk-in closets and custom details that include sitting areas, French doors and balconies. Promoting indulgence, Betz’s home is a true work of art.
Designed to look like a castle, but promote comfortable living, the home of Frank Betz reflects his artistic personality just as art imitates life.