A media director makes a home in a former elementary school cafeteria
The lunchroom of an elementary school is often a cacophonous place, and one of unbridled and bountiful energy. This spirit is what drew Kyle Tibbs Jones to an apartment in the Highland School Lofts in Atlanta’s Poncey-Highland neighborhood. Jones, the media director for the Bitter Southerner, lives in what was once the cafeteria of Highland Elementary, a circa-1911 building shuttered in 1972 and converted into 30 residential units in 2003. “I feel like there’s such good energy in this loft,” Jones says with a Southern lilt. Childhood is “such a great time in your life, when there are no worries.” The exterior of the Highland School Lofts. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. When Jones was married, she lived in larger homes, but since she’s been single she’s been drawn to smaller spaces, she says, noting a previous residence in the Villa, a historic Philip T. Shutze building in Ansley Park. It wasn’t a studio, Jones explains, but it wasn’t quite a proper one-bedroom, either. Jones loved the “beautiful, tiny space,” which was, officially, a junior one-bedroom. But it was only big enough for a single occupant. “I rescued a 4-month-old pit bull mix named Loulou,” she says. “And Loulou grew from a tiny little 4-month-old into a big, big dog.” There wasn’t enough room for the two of them, so Jones went looking for a new place. “I’ve always loved living in a home with history or a story,” she says. “I am also very much an intown person and need to be in the thick of things.” When she first saw the Highland School Lofts, she was attracted to the natural light streaming in from the large, east-facing windows. But the apartment’s location really sealed the deal. “The loft is just up the hill from the Atlanta Beltline… it’s just very central to all the good things in my life,” says Jones. “Also, after living in the Villa, this loft felt big and airy, with room for my art and furniture—and me!—to breathe. [It was] a nice change at a time when change was welcome.”
At the outset, though, the owner was considering renting the apartment to film crews. Luckily, about three weeks into her search, Jones says she got a call from the owner, and he wanted her to have the place. “He said, ‘I just feel like you’re the person,’” Jones recounts. So in September 2018, she packed up her things and moved to Poncey-Highland. “And that’s how I ended up in this old schoolhouse.” Her loft, at 1,350 square feet, has two bedrooms and two bathrooms (“a bed and bath bigger than my last spot!” she says, noting their use for when her two sons come to visit), soaring ceilings, original wood floors, and painted, exposed ductwork. Her deck, off the living room, looks out onto some of the oldest-growth trees in Atlanta. As for the interiors, the loft offers the most space Jones has had for a while, which allows her art and furniture to spread out a bit. Jones worked with her friend Jayme Armour on portions of the interiors, and Armour advised on things from fabric choices to window treatments to tossing a dead plant. Jones’s eclectic collection of furnishings include vintage Paul McCobb dining chairs and pieces from her travels.
“These are the things that bring me joy: music and art and literature and friends and nature,” she says. “If you walk through my house, I think it feels like me. It’s a reflection of the way I walk around in the world.” The loft’s walls are lined with art assembled over the years, and much of it is work by friends. “I work in publishing, so I’m around photographers and writers all the time. And I’ve been collecting art all of my adult life,” says Jones. “It’s almost all Southern with the exception of a couple of French artists, and there’s one piece by a guy in London.”
Books are similarly—and unsurprisingly—dear to Jones; she admits to having hauled hers from Atlanta to Saint Simons, an island off the Georgia coast, to New York and back again. “I don’t agree with Marie Kondo,” she says, laughing. “She says you’re supposed to have 30 books. I think that’s sacrilege. I can’t even imagine.” For Jones, her loft is a place to entertain friends, a home base for the Bitter Southerner, a place to play with LouLou and to be surrounded by the things that bring her happiness. And she doesn’t take it for granted. “New apartment, new dog, new neighborhood,” says Jones. “I think that’s so important in life to have a little bit of personal revival.”
For original article please see: https://atlanta.curbed.com/2019/3/12/18254946/atlanta-home-tour-ansley-park-kyle-tibbs-jones