Located near the corner of Boulevard and Memorial Drive, a small blue building with a beveled glass front window and “The Livery” painted over the front door is a splash of gentrification in a stretch of road most have given up on.
Right at the cusp of Cabbagetown, a stones throw from Oakland Cemetery and just a hop, skip and jump from the local Mexican food favorite Mi Barrio, The Livery — now the home of Libby Quattrocchi — was once a broken, vacant building covered in ugly graffiti.
The front door wouldn’t open. The back yard was waist-high in weeds that hid many strange objects that Quattrochi, who is gay, discovered when excavating.
She bought the vacant building and overgrown lot in July 2011 from a friend, Martin Wiser, who had lived there years ago. The building itself was constructed in 1940 and its history includes a long stint as a store. But what else went on there is up to anyone’s imagination.
“I found the craziest stuff in my back yard. My yard was like a big sifter after heavy rains. I found a few horseshoes, a yoke. I thought this could be a place you could come and get your things repaired, like a saddle maker. And I like horse themes,” she says.
Coupled with the painting of “The Livery” is a Living Walls Mural painted on the side of her home once covered in ugly spray-painted tags. Quattrochi says she knew she wanted to do something with the side of the building to deter late-night taggers so she contacted Living Walls.
The Feminist Women’s Health Center then called Quattrocchi and asked if a mural for its organization could be painted there. The “Torch of Freedom: It’s Toasted” mural is a commentary on how cigarette companies market to women.
It’s also a topic for school students.
“I woke up one morning because my dog was barking outside and looked out and there was a class of students with sketchbooks doing a Living Walls tour,” Quattrocchi says.
Neighbors who speak in tongues
Living on this busy stretch of Memorial doesn’t allow for a lot of peace and quiet. Cars whiz within a few feet of her front door at all hours. Big rigs rumbling by shake the building. Her neighbors at Omega Holiness Church hold service at all hours of the night, singing sometimes into the early morning hours and also speaking in tongues.
“That freaked me out the first time I heard that,” she says. “But I get to hear a lot of great music. And they’re great. They were very encouraging through the whole process.”
For Quattrocchi, the quirks, including the occasional knock on the door from a stranger who thinks her place is a club, are just part of living in her favorite neighborhood in Atlanta.
“You definitely get used to the traffic. It’s like I live by the ocean. The ocean on Memorial that has a lot of hip hop,” she says.
‘A girl and a dog’
Quattrocchi is still recuperating from a major motorcycle accident she had in November. She spends much of her time in the home that has taken approximately two years to convert from a hollowed-out shell to comfortable living quarters with a full kitchen and a tidy black-and-white tiled bathroom where once only a drain hole was located.
In her bedroom space she keeps perhaps her most valuable possession, a custom-built 1967 Triumph chopper with a competition dirt bike motor, a parcel rack, a tank from England and club handlebars.
“I have a drain hole in my bedroom for my bikes,” she says with a laugh.
The “warehouse effect” of the building when she first bought it is still evident with exposed brick walls throughout, although gallons of polyurethane have been painted over them.
The floors in the building were originally brick but over time had been covered in uneven and ugly tiles that had to be ripped up. Quattrochi says it took more than one concrete truck to completely cover her new floor and make it even.
Shelves made from Georgia pine are installed high on the wall, next to the ceiling, and hold albums, books and motorcycle helmets. The high shelves make more room in the tight space. Quattrocchi also passed on a drop ceiling and instead left tresses exposed, also to keep as much height to the rooms as possible.
Her kitchen set was purchased at Ikea while most of the rest of her furniture she inherited from her grandmother, including a green futon in the living room that needs to be restuffed.
While the big projects are done, such as the new floor, a working bathroom, a kitchen and a clean space to live in, there are still items that bother Quattrocchi — the wrong knob on the cabinet, the cabinet space not big enough for some items, some youngsters who tagged the other side of her home that she still has to paint over, a desire for a back splash.
Overall, though, she’s pleased with her first small project and said she would consider working on another renovation. Right now, she’s just enjoying being in a home she’s comfortable in and reaping the rewards of her hard work — as well as the hard work of many friends who are carpenters, electricians, roofers, painters, artists and even chefs she consulted on how to design a small but efficient kitchen.
And the future? She plans on keeping the place for 10 years but is not sure what exactly she wants to do with The Livery.
“All I know is I want to grow up and have a girl and a dog,” she says.
Libby Quattrocchi renovated a gutted out building built in 1940 on Memorial Drive to make it into a simple and comfortable home. (Photos by Bo Shell)