Calm, Classic Southern Home
With the colors, antiques, and art she loves most, Mia James has planned her family’s Baton Rouge home with one classic Southern quality in mind: quiet strength
Classic Southern Design
When Jeff and Mia James started renovations on their newly purchased home in an older tree-lined neighborhood of Baton Rouge, the last thing they expected was a call from a neighbor telling them their house was falling down. But that is just what happened. “It changed everything—budget, design, everything,” Mia says. “I had never built a new house and I was terrified to do it, but we were so attached to this neighborhood.”
Ten-foot-tall plantation shutters give a historic look to this newly built home.
West Indies Inspiration
Mia found style inspiration from a historic home on the Mandeville lakefront and arranged cut pieces of paper to show residential designer Billie Brian her desired room layout. Once the new West Indies-style home was finished, the decorating was easy—she’d been collecting her treasured furnishings for decades. Mia has a style that’s more about meaning and tranquility than any period of furniture or medium of art.
The Jameses’ home has more than 2,000 square feet of outdoor rooms, including an inviting front porch.
Shutters and shutter hardware: custom color by Southern Plantation Shutters; 225/292-2278.
Buy Only What You Love
Mia’s been collecting the pieces in her home for almost 25 years, following her simple adage of buying something only if she is irresistibly drawn to it. “There is nothing in this house that I’m not in love with,” says Mia. She never tries to just fill a space and resists any urge to rush but waits until something is a perfect fit. Inversely, Mia will buy a wonderful item even if she’s not sure where it will go. “I say, if your budget will allow and you love it, then you will always find the right space for it in your house,” she advises.
Custom trumeau mirror: Jon McArthur; 225/288-2105.
Lamps: For a similar look, try the Bruges Table Lamp by Aidan Gray.
Chairs: For a similar look, try the Louis XVI Dining Chair or George III Rattan Chair by Wisteria.
Chandelier: For a similar look, try the Paris Flea Market Crystal Basket Chandelier from Shades of Light.
Use a Signature Color Palette
Mia recommends finding the few colors that speak to your soul and sticking with them. A small landscape painting by her sister-in-law, Jeanne James, initially inspired her home’s soft palette. Mia loved the natural colors and was often drawn to these same shades of blue-green. “Aqua, turquoise, sky, and cerulean blues have just always spoken to me,” she says. By primarily using these colors throughout her rooms, she maintains a sense of uniformity and flow in the home. Mia creates interest with subtle variations of the blue hues, such as the brighter sea blue on the sunroom ceiling and the grayish sky blue on the living room chairs.
Make Antiques the Focal Points
Another way Mia simplifies each room is by limiting the number and size of dominant pieces of furniture. “When I think about my house, I realize that there is one very old piece in every room,” says Mia, “and it is usually the largest piece of furniture, such as the French walnut buffet I use in the foyer.” She says to limit yourself to one or two antiques and make them grand in scale because if your furniture has to fight for space or attention, it loses much of its impact. The grace in one beautifully carved antique chest will carry an entire room.
Choose Art With Your Heart
About 17 years ago, Mia was surprised with a bonus check and immediately wrote a wish list of her favorite artists. Then she started systematically buying pieces from every artist on the list. She made a new purchase each time she saved a little extra money. “The art I have doesn’t necessarily go or match with my house,” Mia says. “It works because I love it.” She also believes that framing makes the biggest impact and even a $10 painting can look totally amazing and original with the right frame.
Bird paintings: Woodland Respite I and Woodland Respite II by Jennifer Goldberger through The Garden Gates; 504/833-6699.
Bedding: Pearl Embroidered Duvet Cover and Sham by Pottery Barn.
Headboard: Leonel’s Fine Upholstery and Furniture; 504/469-0889 and James Snowden, Jr., Juniors Furniture Service LLC, Zachary, LA; 225/654-3949.
Headboard fabric: Ozborne Powder Blue by Premier Prints through Forsyth Fabrics.
Pick Furniture That Will Work in Multiple Spaces
Everything the Jameses own can work in most any room in their house. “If you look at a piece of furniture and it screams only living room to you, skip it,” Mia urges. Her own living room is the perfect example. Everything in the space—the sofa, two club chairs, and two armchairs—has lived and functioned in other areas of the home. Mia re-covered them for their current location, but her fabric choices allow her to pull them into other rooms if needed. The ability to rotate furnishings is part of the home’s peaceful, tranquil feeling. “I think continuity is really an essential part of everything I do,” Mia says.
Outdoor Living Room
A Sunbrella-covered sectional and ottoman, plus a nearby dining table that seats eight, make this covered porch ideal for outdoor entertaining.
Steal this Idea: A high coffee table allows a seating area to pinch-hit for dining
Take It from Mia
Round Top Road Trip
Look for antique treasures of your own at one of Texas’s most famous flea markets.
Many of Mia’s most treasured furnishings, such as the antler chandelier in the kitchen and the china cabinet in the dining room, were purchased during shopping trips with her girlfriends to the antiques fairs around Round Top, Texas. Spread out over the course of two weeks, multiple events cover fields and fill barns with booths overflowing with the best antiques and flea market finds. The next fair is scheduled for around September 18 through October 1. For more information visit roundtop.org, roundtoptexasantiques.com, and roundtop-marburger.com.
Steal this Idea: Camouflage a blah kitchen island with a cypress table topped with walnut limestone.