Behind the Scenes of the 2016 Idea House

50 years of inspiration, 1 architect, and 5 designers build our 50th Anniversary house. See how it happened.

Zoë Gowen
2016 Idea House Exterior
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Nearly 3 years ago, I was in a meeting discussing how to make the 50th Anniversary Idea House special. Everyone immediately saw the significance of the number 5. In fact, we put together a whole proposal of building and designing 5 different houses all over the South to represent the different regional vernaculars. A few weeks later we recognized the insanity this enormous task would take (The travel required! The furniture needed!). We came up with an easier, yet no-less special idea for the SL 50th.

We decided to build our Idea House in our own hometown of Birmingham, Alabama with five of the South’s best young designers giving each of them tear sheets of some of our favorite rooms from old issues for inspiration. This way we’d be setting the stage for another 50 years of classic Southern decorating based on the aesthetic that we spent half-a-century defining.

October 1974 Idea House Inspiration for 2016
October 1974
June 1975 Idea House Inspiration for 2016
June 1975

Birmingham-based Bill Ingram Architect, a 2013 Home Awards Best New Home winner, was an easy choice to design the home. Then it was on to the designers: we wanted different styles and locations represented. Mark Sikes, Reese Witherspoon’s decorator could speak to the effortlessly classic styles. Margaret Kirkland, out of Atlanta, could represent the colorful, traditional style that many of us love. Montgomery, Alabama’s Ashley Gilbreath’s look is characteristic of the area around Birmingham and Montgomery – layered with textures and quiet color sprinkled with antiques. Virginia’s Lauren Liess has defined her own organic and natural look that’s easy and relaxed. Last but not least, we tapped Dallas-based, Amy Berry to bring a bit of her hometown’s signature glitz.

January 1976 Idea House Inspiration for 2016
January 1976
October 1979 Idea House Inspiration 2016
October 1979

After speaking with each designer late last summer, they were given their archival photos to reinterpret, which they all did so well. Then, in early October, they presented their designs to us here in Birmingham. Finally the rooms were installed in early May. We are counting down the day when we can present their fresh takes on classic Southern style to everyone.

September 1974 Idea House Inspiration 2016
September 1974
June 1986 Idea House Inspiration for 2016
June 1986