A look at Atlanta's properties and personalities
Goalie's home reveals only hints of hockey
Lehtonen lets job fade to background of modern Brookhaven home
By CHRIS REINOLDS
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/19/08
There is little in Kari Lehtonen's home to remind him of the daily stresses of work.
A massage chair, a hot tub and vitamin water hint that his is a physical job, a job that punishes and pushes the body.
Lehtonen, goalie for the Atlanta Thrashers, created a home in Brookhaven that is calm, yet modern. It's difficult to find any hockey paraphernalia. A few small awards can be found in a storage room the basement.
"I try to get away from that," he said.
The decor is soft contemporary — a style the 24-year-old hockey player says is a far cry from Atlanta's traditional homes.
"I wanted something very different," said Lehtonen, who hails from Helsinki, Finland. "It's not like where I grew up, but where I wanted to (grow up.)"
Lehtonen worked with designer and project manager Jill Weber and Distinctive Remodeling Solutions to transform the former Cape Cod-style home into a stylin' Finnish bachelor pad. The remodel took six months; Lehtonen moved in a year ago. The first floor includes a video game room, a pool table, a breakfast/entertaining bar ... plus a sensational sound system, indoors and out.
He chose the home, built in 1998, because he liked the backyard, complete with a swimming pool, and the neighborhood. The design team added the palm trees and the hot tub.
"We don't have those (palm trees) in Finland at all," he said, surveying his yard. "It's something cool." Indeed, the back yard is ripe for entertaining or chilling out. Lehtonen likes to grill — mostly steak and fish. In the summer, when he's "off" from hockey, he brings friends and family over from his homeland.
"I enjoy it more in the summer," said Lehtonen, who must remain focused on hockey and daily practice during the winter.
Indoors, the living room, dining room, pool table area and kitchen flow together effortlessly. In the kitchen, backlit glass cabinets add another element of openness.
Though Lehtonen enjoys his kitchen, he also relishes eating in his living room on his sofa.
"Mom never let me eat anywhere else than the kitchen table," he confesses.
His desire for immaculate white marble counters in the kitchen caused the designer much stress because of the potential maintenance, but Lehtonen won out.
"I wanted white, lots of aluminum and dark wood," he said.
The original library was turned into a video game room, where Lehtonen favors racing games "so I don't drive fast in the streets." Wireless controls keep the clutter at bay.
Lehtonen's favorite room is upstairs in the master bedroom. He spends much of his time resting for games in this retreat. Weber used blackout roman shades because Lehtonen often sleeps during the day between practice and games.
"It's just calm. He likes quiet colors," said Weber. "He has very subdued taste, very European, everything is categorized."
A larger guest bedroom accommodates visiting hockey players. Teammate Brett Sterling stayed with Lehtonen before he was sent to play for the Chicago minor-league affiliate. The room is done in tones of gold and brown and features a hexagonal tray ceiling and a small balcony.
Lehtonen's office follows the home's pattern of clean and modern with only a hint of hockey. He uses his computer to chat with faraway friends and family.
"The first couple of years it was hard, but now I'm used to it," he said of living in the States.
Now, in fact, he gets homesick for Atlanta when the busy eight-month National Hockey League season keeps him on the road.
"Some weeks we're here, and some weeks we're gone the whole week. That's when I start to miss this place," he said.
(Yes. It is like Christmas and my birthday and 4th of July and Juhannus and New Year's and Festivus all rolled into one, if you were wondering.)
19 February 2008