Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ye Olde Southern Style

I'm back.  I've been touring the South over the last few weeks, lecturing in such cities as Birmingham, Memphis, Greenville, and Dallas.  Each of these cities has its own unique style, but what they all have in common is a friendliness and ease that make visiting these cities a real pleasure.  It's also confirmation that, thankfully, our region's famed Southern hospitality is alive and well.

Something else that I discovered on my journeys is that the old Southern appreciation for color and pattern isn't entirely dead.  For a few years now, I have written about how the saturated and, at times, bright colors that marked my Atlanta childhood have fallen out of favor, with neutral tones and soft, pale colors now mostly defining Southern decor.  This isn't a local phenomenon, because I think the same thing has happened throughout much of the country.  But what does surprise me is how little color is being used in the South, especially considering our region's light.  We have the benefit of bright, warm light, which makes corals, yellows, bright blues, and acid greens, for example, look really smashing.  (Our typically sunny light is also the reason why some of those moody Belgian colors have never looked entirely comfortable in the South- at least, that's the way I see it.)  I certainly understand the appeal of neutrals, and some of my favorite homes are those which are decorated in rich, warm tones of caramel, camel, and brown.  I only wish that more people in the South would take advantage of our light and indulge in a little colorful decor.

It seems that I'm not alone, because over the last month, I have heard a number of Southerners express similar sentiments, and not due to any prompting on my part, either.  And after visiting a number of Southern homes during my trips, I can say that there are others who, like me, never forgot our colorful design roots.  Color and pattern may not be as prevalent south of the Mason-Dixon line as it once was, but it's not non-existent, and that's something in which I take comfort.

And now, for a little taste of how some Southerners used to decorate, I give you a few photos of Southern interiors from the 1970s and 80s.  Yes, a lot of the decor is dated, but look past it.  I chose these particular rooms for either their vivid colors or the great printed fabrics that seasoned them.  Looking at these photos decades after they were taken, I'd say that a lot of these fabrics, and many of these colors, haven't aged a bit.


Thursday, October 09, 2014

Inspired by Tradition: The Architecture of Norman Davenport Askins

It's not often that I can say I have a history with the subject of a high-profile book, but such is the case with the soon-to-be-released Inspired by Tradition: The Architecture of Norman Davenport Askins.  You see, back in the late 1980s, Norman, the influential Atlanta architect and classicist, was hired by my parents to renovate our 1920s-era house.  They greatly admired Norman's work, and they trusted Norman to do a sensitive renovation, one which would respect the integrity- and the age- of our house.  Of course, back at that time, I was all of sixteen years old, so I don't remember a lot about the renovation process- except the fact that the young male architects who worked for Norman were really cute.

Years later, and my parents and I still think that Norman is one of Atlanta's best architects, one who is deserving of his new monograph.  Having lived in the South all of his life, Norman is steeped in the history of old houses and traditional architecture.  Capable of working in a number of styles, Norman's body of work includes houses executed in the Federal style, for example, as well as those influenced by rural Italian architecture.  But as diverse as Norman's work can be, what ties all of his houses together is the fact that they are rooted in tradition.

I think it's this diversity of classical styles that makes both Norman's work and his book so interesting.  Written with Susan Sully, who also served as the book's photographer, Inspired by Tradition takes the reader on a tour of Norman's work in cities, in the mountains, and at the beach.  While it's the exterior photos of each house that lull me into daydreams, it is the interior shots that make me sit up and take notice.  Norman has an incredible eye for detail, and I think that really comes through in the houses' interiors.  (These details are also highlighted beautifully in Susan Sully's photographs.)

If tradition, gracious homes, and classical architecture inspire you, then I suggest reading Norman's book.  Now that I have done so, I am fantasizing about hiring Norman to update my condo.  I'll let you know if that fantasy ever becomes a reality.


All photos from Inspired by Tradition: The Architecture of Norman Davenport Askins by Norman Davenport Askins and Susan Sully, © The Monacelli Press, 2014.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014


I experienced design serendipity last week. I was catching up on my World of Interiors reading when I saw the article about the Castilian home of Paco Carvajal, the Count of Fontanar.  Great decor throughout the house, but what especially caught my eye was the vintage blue and white tile-motif wallpaper that Carvajal used around a bedroom fireplace.  (See above.)  According to the article, Carvajal found the old rolls of paper in his grandmother's pantry.  Hadn't I just seen that wallpaper somewhere recently???  Why, yes.  That is the same paper that was used in the bedroom of the old Denning and Fourcade residence, which I featured on my blog a few weeks ago:

These two photos brought to mind yet another interior where the paper was so strikingly used:

Here, you can see it in the blue and white sunroom of Oscar and Françoise de la Renta.  Three chic homes, all of which featured this stylish paper.  The only trouble is that I haven't a clue as to who produced this paper.  Any ideas?

Top photo from World of Interiors, September 2014, Pablo Zuloaga photographer.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

A Tribute to Jane Marsden

Jane Marsden, one of Atlanta's preeminent antiques dealers and interior decorators, was a fixture in our city's design community for decades. In addition to decorating some of Atlanta's finest homes (one of which I featured on my blog a number of years ago,) Marsden also founded her eponymous antiques shop, which she ran with her daughter, Janie Marsden-Willis. (You can see mother and daughter in the photo above.)  Jane Marsden's shop became a coveted source for French and English furniture, Chinese Export porcelain, and antique lighting, just to name a few of the areas in which Marsden specialized.

Sadly, Marsden died last week, and it's a loss that Atlanta designers and collectors have felt immensely.  As a tribute to the talented Marsden, I am featuring these photos of her Atlanta residence, which was located above her shop.  As you can see, Marsden had real flair and a taste for beautiful objects, both of which influenced the way Atlantans decorated their homes.  Her legacy will live on in the many homes she decorated, not to mention the myriad antiques that left her shop for places far and wide.

All photos from Paper City, Erica George Dines photographer.