Gaul’s 1,200 square foot loft in the 805 Peachtree building wraps around a kitchen in one open space, with a wall of windows to let in light through sheer white curtains.
Coping with Clutter
Collectors often struggle with clutter, and Robert Gaul suggests a book to help cope: “Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui,” by Karen Kingston.
“I buy 10 or 20 copies at a time and give them to people. … It’s like here, read this book and you’ll feel better about throwing things away that you don’t really need, and giving things away that you’re just hanging on to,” Gaul says.
“I mean I hang on to things, but every now and then I have to read that book just to remind myself.”
“When we were first looking at the space this just seemed like the place where the living area had to go,” Gaul says, motioning to a conversation area with a love seat, several chairs and a flatscreen television. “But I really wanted to extend it into this area so that’s why there is this long skinny table with these chairs, so that you’re drawn around the corner.”
The loft shows off two of Gaul’s personal flairs — a custom desk he built himself that runs the length of the bedroom wall, and four vintage light fixtures he rescued from the Catholic church he attended as a child in Toledo, Ohio.
“I remember looking at these when I was a child and just being fascinated by them,” Gaul says. “My family is still there and my mother is involved in the church. A few years ago they were redecorating, just a change of paint and light fixtures really… I asked my mother what they were going to do with these lights, and she said, ‘Oh, I’m sure they’re just going to throw those out,’ and I was like, ‘Ask them if I can have a few.’”
Gaul splits his time between New York and Atlanta with occasional projects as far away as India. Most of his clients are high-end home renovations up and down the eastern seaboard. Unlike many designers who have turned to the public and celebrity to further their careers, Gaul built his reputation as a designer through hard work and word of mouth.
“There is a webpage that will be under construction,” he says, pausing before adding, “Some time.”
While most of Gaul’s work is in private residences, he is the creative mind behind the unofficial center of Atlanta’s gay universe. Outwrite is considered the heart of Midtown now, but when Rafshoon and Gaul first saw it, it was a broken down club with wood covering the windows.
“It was not a very attractive or positive corner, but Philip saw it and was like, ‘This could be really great.’ Then I chimed in and we wanted to take the boards off the windows, and it just fit with the idea of being a bookstore,” Gaul says.
“Where the dance floor used to be is where all the books are, and then that little raised area where the coffee house is was where the DJ booth was and had this strange little area. The little porch wasn’t there, we added it,” he says.
In its 17 years Outwrite has served every purpose from book signings and readings to a rallying place for protests and the living room for many in the community.
“We definitely wanted to make it a comfortable place where people could come and just hang out. It’s kind of worn out at the moment, but it’s held up for 15 years,” Gaul says.
“The sofa that’s in there has been recovered three or four times, and that’s actually the one piece that’s in there left over from when it was a club,” he says. “I said, we could reuse that.”
Books are not just the focal point of Outwrite; they are also reverently displayed in Gaul and Rafshoon’s home. A meticulous stack of hardcovers stands against a wall in the living area and carefully shelved books sit in the nightstands on either sides of the bed.
“Philip is in the book business, so of course they’re something that we want to have on display,” Gaul says, pointing to the stack of hard covers. “One night I was out of town and a stack had fallen over, and he called a friend in a panic to help him put them back together.”
Rafshoon thought he did a reasonable job of putting all the books, with their colorful jackets, back in the same order, until a few hours after Gaul returned from New York.
“I was like, ‘Something’s wrong, what happened to my books?’ and Phillip says, ‘How can you tell? I guess that’s the eye for detail that people pay for,’” Gaul recalls.