The 2016 Idea House
For our 50th Anniversary Idea House, we selected five of today’s best young designers, shared old Southern Living stories for inspiration, and set them loose to decorate this charming cottage designed by Bill Ingram Architect. See their fresh takes on traditional Southern style. Find information to plan your visit here.
Located just outside our hometown of Birmingham, AL, the community of Mt Laurel provides a picturesque location for our 2016 Idea House. Architect Bill Ingram and designers Mark D. Sikes, Margaret Kirkland, Ashley Gilbreath, Lauren Leiss, and Amy Berry came together to create a one-of-a-kind home that has no shortage of Southern design inspiration. From a beautiful, green kitchen to a living room filled with shades of neutral, each room showcases the talent of these designers. The home is of course topped off with a wraparound porch, including a cozy porch swing.
With our house nestled on a corner lot in Mt Laurel, a community located between Birmingham (our hometown!) and Double Oak Mountain, Ingram played to the woodsy locale with a dark gray palette. The corner lot allows for 900 square feet of porch area wrapped with a traditional X-railing and newel posts, a more modest way for carpenters to finish posts on-site.
Meet the Designer: Mark D. Sikes
The Casual Classicist: Texas born, Nashville raised, Sikes has an eye for pattern, antiques, and collecting that’s impossible to miss. A move to California, which he now calls home, left a tailored, more natural effect on his style. Sikes employs well-balanced color palettes and comfortable furniture choices to compose graceful rooms. Look closely at the details in his work—they shine in their subtle execution. We love the watery, hand-painted stripes on the walls.
The Living Room: Max Out the Space
Sikes carved the 30- by 20-foot living room into two seating areas anchored by back-to-back sofas and comfortable armchairs (all by Henredon). “I wanted one space where everyone could hang out and another smaller, more intimate area by the fireplace,” he says. All the upholstery is plush but skirtless, and the sofas have only bench cushions, a smart way to keep things comfy and easy—no need to fuss with shifting cushions! Matching demilune tables and mirrors flanking the doors to the porch accentuate the room’s symmetry. Sikes also accessorized with reproduction bird prints by famed Swedish artist Olof Rudbeck (ornisgallery.com)—a great alterna- tive to mallard prints in old Southern homes—as well as bits of brass, fresh ferns, and oakleaf hydrangea cut from the yard.
His Inspiration: “The 1986 living room was gorgeously neutral,” says Sikes. “There were stacks of books, layered rugs, striped sofas, even a bit of rattan. That mix of finishes and textures gave it an elegance that’s still relevant.”
His New Take: “I wanted to maintain that room’s timelessness and maximize the space to seat as many people as possible,” he says, “and also include an organic nature.” The room’s many finishes—raffia, rush, wicker, and linen— give the right casual and elemental touch.
Meet the Designer: Margaret Kirkland
The Lively Traditionalist: I just want to bring out the pretty in spaces,” says Atlanta- based decorator Margaret Kirkland. “Monochromatic rooms bore me. I want to see people’s personalities, and color is an important part of that.” In addition to vibrant palettes, she also has a knack for enlivening antiques and reinventing classic Southern decorating gestures— like the bold portrait hanging from the wall.
The Dining Room
Kirkland thinks a lot about how people really live in a space. “We wanted the dining room to be a comfortable, everyday experience and not for occasions only,” she says. She limited the dressy elements to the windows, chandelier, and table and surrounded the table with durable upholstered chairs. Two banquettes set in the corners of the room double as extra seating. Then she wrapped the room in fun patterns using two different types of wallcoverings. A lattice fabric below the chair rail emulates a classic lattice garden room. “There’s a real outdoor quality to it,” says Kirkland. And a white embroidered paper above the chair rail adds slight dimension to the walls.
The Dining Room
Two matching banquettes make great spots for predinner drinks. The Matisse-like faces hanging on the wall by Atlanta artist Sally King Benedict are a bold, new-fashioned twist on portraiture.
Her Inspiration: “I fell for the dramatic drapery and the deep orange color on the walls in the dining room from March 1989. Looking through more old issues, I saw that this color and wallpaper were used a lot,” she says.
Her New Take: The red orange from 1989 was reimagined as deep coral that’s more suitable for 2016. “I went all out with two wallcoverings and great, chinoiserie curved pelmets and draperies, which feel so fresh now amid the more familiar curtain and rod treatments,” she says.
Meet the Architect: Bill Ingram
The Nostalgic Modernist: Ingram was born in Birmingham, graduated from Auburn University, and now has an office in Atlanta in addition to his Birmingham base. Several of Ingram’s projects— including his own home—have graced our pages in the past, so he was a natural choice for designing our 50th Anniversary house. In addition to being responsible for the home’s architecture, he also decorated the kitchen, family room, and back hall.
“Here, I chose Absolute Black honed granite for the perimeter and basic butcher-block on the island. It just gets better and better with age.” He created a faux-handcrafted look with semi-custom cabinetry. “I like for kitchens to look like another room in the house, not a showroom,” says Ingram, who mixed and matched diagonal tongue-and-groove cabinets with a raised-panel style. Chrome hardware, stainless-steel appliances, and brass lighting add glitz and character.
Chrome hardware, stainless-steel appliances, and brass lighting add glitz and character. No more 1970s avocado green! For 2016, it’s Sherwin-Williams Evergreens (SW 6447). “It’s soothing and cooling,” says Ingram. The Thermador hood insert (wrapped in a custom wood hood) comes with halogen lights.
It’s clear that Ingram took some green inspiration from the June 1975 kitchen with its wallpapered ceiling and stenciled cabinets. He just magnified it, selecting the same shade for the Wellborn cabinetry, walls, and ceiling. “The dark green adds a cozy warmth,” says Ingram. A butcher-block-topped island is another thing that Ingram likes from the 1970s kitchen. “I typically use two different materials for countertops,” he says.
The Family Room
Open to the dark green kitchen , the square family room needed a boost. “The tented ceiling lightens up the space, and it’s a 1960s throwback,” says Ingram. The secret to pulling off the look is to use only simple, inexpensive fabrics sold by the bolt. You must also realize that the ceiling’s labor is not for the faint of heart. First, line the room with curtain rods and drapery panels at the top of the walls. Instead of letting the panels hang down like curtains, pull them up to the center of the ceiling and secure above the pendant light. The valances hide the rods and conceal the junctures of the curtains. “It’s a lot of work,” says Ingram, “but there is no other treatment with such impact."
Meet the Designer: Lauren Liess
The Relaxed Naturalist: “Natural elements add warm, welcoming vibes to my spaces,” says Liess. Clean-lined furniture, vintage pieces (instead of precious antiques), and thoughtful vignettes also give her rooms an approachable simplicity. “I want people
to relax and breathe easily,” she says.
The Master Bedroom
The hemp burlap walls fill the room with coziness, while Liess reinvented the traditional Southern four-poster bed. “When most people think of a canopy bed, they think of frills and ruffles. Instead, we took a clean-lined bed and created a box-pleat canopy with block-print linens,” she says. The bedding is also simple— white sheets and plain shams with two accent pillows for interest. One is an old vintage rug turned into a pillow, and the other—the rust-colored one—has an unfinished hem that’s purposely unraveling to keep it from feeling too done. The nightstands serve a purpose: “I must have a large nightstand to fit all my books and a glass of water,” Liess says. On one side she chose a vintage storage chest, and on the other, she created a workspace by pairing a West Elm Parsons desk with a kooky bamboo chair.
The Master Bathroom
“As I was designing, I was inspired by the architecture of the space, and I wanted to take the bedroom’s vibe into the adjoining master bath,” says Liess. “Bill Ingram did a round skylight in the bath that I accentuated by pulling the durable hemp wallcovering up onto the ceiling. Hemp has natural imperfections, so it works great in a bath.” Ingram set the stand-alone tub in an arched nook against a planked wall to sharpen the tub’s sculptural effect. To enhance Ingram’s design, Liess hung a grid of 18 vintage botanicals, sourced from antiques malls around town. A potted tree adds an extra natural touch to the space.
Meet the Designer: Amy Berry
Dallas-born (and based) Amy Berry says, “I love classic American design with European elements. Madeleine Castaing has always been a point of inspiration for me.” Castaing, known for her elaborate draping and strong color, is the French counterpart to legendary American decorator Dorothy Draper. “I’m always trying new things with fabric,” Berry says— though in a much more livable way than her flamboyant mentor, Castaing.
The Pajama Lounge
“I always envisioned this space as a place to read, but it would also be such fun to hang out with girlfriends and drink martinis in here,” says Berry. The glamorous tête-à-tête and the L-shaped corner banquettes create separate little zones for multiple conversations. Fun aside, there is a serious design takeaway: The deep color contrast from the blue abstract painting by Mallory Page and the sapphire and magenta pillows keeps all that leopard from overwhelming. The rest of the furniture is understated in gilt or whitewash.
The Pajama Lounge
Hickory Chair’s Regency Bamboo Writing Table and the Maurice Chair from the Mr. and Mrs. Howard collection for Sherrill Furniture make a great place to write a note. For the walls, Berry recast Carleton Varney’s classic Madagascar pattern, enlarging the print and updating the colorways
Her Inspiration: “There’s something so cozy and warm about the bedroom from the October 1974 issue,” says Berry. “Like in the photo, I covered all of our walls and ceilings with fabric—especially the pitch of the roof. That’s what instantly finishes a room.”
Her Take: She used only one tonal, animal-print pattern (a fabric actually), rather than multiple prints throughout her pajama lounge. “This makes the banquettes seem to disappear into the wall and the room appear bigger,” says Berry.
Meet the Designer: Ashley Gilbreath
Gilbreath entered college as an architecture major, which turned out to be a great primer for her career. “If you can’t recognize the architecture, you can’t pull off good design,” she says. Her decorating is intentionally understated. And her understanding of form and color highlights a room’s architecture, or makes up for a lack of it.
Gilbreath measured and designed this 180-square-foot room (which has two slanted walls) 10 times before arriving at this clever arrangement. Covering the walls in this mist-colored linen allowed her to use pelmets and curtains to create two separate nooks (one for a desk and one for sitting) along the slanted walls. She placed a queen-size bed in front of the window, using an extra-low headboard to avoid blocking the view.
The Center Halls
The bottom floor has a 10-foot-wide center hall, which separates the level into two zones: a more active side for the kitchen and dining room and a calmer side for the living room and master bedroom. "I tried to pull off some overstated, catch-your-attention pieces. Too many tchotchkes become disorienting in a foyer,” says Gilbreath. And she found a few key big things, such as the 9-foot-tall walnut basket propped against the wall, a 10-foot-long antique English table, and a 9-foot-long seascape (a tattered but still amazing find from France) that hangs above it.
The Center Halls
In regards to the moss-toned walls that Gilbreath used both upstairs and downstairs, she adds, “I’m drawn to natural colors that pull in the outdoors and keep you moving. Stark colors like neon green will stop you in your tracks.” Upstairs, a game table and 9-foot- long banquette turn a landing into a useful hangout space.
Her Inspiraiton: The references between Gilbreath’s foyer, bedroom, and upstairs landing and the January 1976 bedroom are clear. “We took a lot of the built-in cabinetry and mustard yellow hues into account,” she says.
Her Take: “We made it accessible for today, using mustard just as an accent,” she says. “The bed coverlet speaks to that era’s style. Rather than having elaborate millwork for built-ins, we got creative with curtains.”
The Southern Living Bedroom
For our 50th Anniversary Idea House, Associate Decorating Editor Elly Poston designed a bedroom and bath featuring the Southern Living Collection for Dillard’s. Starting with the traditional Hayward Bed in Taupe and a mix of classic white bedding (Cotton Percale Sheet Set, Emery Tile Jacquard Matelassé Coverlet, and Heirloom Sateen & Twill Duvet; dillards.com/southernliving), Poston wrapped the room with a textured, blue-green raffia wallcovering to “play up the jewel-box effect,” she says. Then, she had overscale monograms in chartreuse by O’Connor Monogramming appliquéd on the bedding; layered two rugs (a sisal one from Jaipur Living and a vintage one from Paige Albright Orientals); and pulled everything together with the drapery fabric, Le Lac Toile Linen (brunschwig.com). When decorating with new things, it’s important to pull in older pieces to jump-start some patina,” advises Poston.
Southern Living Bath
Meg Braff’s Sasa wallpaper in Celery on White and Stray Dog Designs’ Marrakesh mirror sharpen the bath and coordinate with the curtain and towel monograms.
“When we settled on this corner property, it begged for a wraparound porch that faced both streets,” says Ingram about his Southern raised cottage. A relaxing side porch opens off the living room.
I think this house could work anywhere. Painted white, it could be in an open field, but here in this rocky locale, we wanted it dark gray. But it still has classic white trim.” Try the mountain palette for yourself with Sherwin- Williams Night Owl on the siding, Meadow- land on the shutters, and Pure White for the trim.
The dining terrace was designed by Margaret Kirkland, with the native landscape and hardscape done by David N. Brush. The Ballard Designs Suzanne Kasler Directoire dining set sits on the outdoor terrace.