Tour the South's Best Historic Homes
Where: Charlottesville, Virginia
When to go: Open daily; $24 for admission, including a house tour and a day pass to the grounds and visitor center; monticello.org
Inspiring ideas: Thomas Jefferson's salon-style art groupings, displays of natural curiosities, and cozy built-in beds are just a few of the design innovations.
Nathaniel Russell House
Where: Charleston, South Carolina
When to go: Open daily; $10 for admission, which includes a guided tour; historiccharleston.org
Inspiring ideas: The three-story cantilever staircase and daringly colorful paint combinations (including a turquoise-and-red dining room) feel just as fresh today as they did more than 200 years ago.
Where: Atlanta, Georgia
When to go: Open daily; $16.50 for admission, with tours scheduled upon arrival; atlantahistorycenter.com
Inspiring ideas: The Neoclassic architecture coupled with the chic black-and-white marble entry floor continues to set the standard for gracious Southern style.
Ernest Hemingway Home
Where: Key West, Florida
When to go: Open daily; $13 for admission, which includes a guided tour; hemingwayhome.com
Inspiring idea: At Hemingway's Florida home, formal antiques collected on world travels are lightened up when placed in breezy, tropical-colored rooms.
Asheville, North Carolina
When to go: Open daily; admission prices vary; biltmore.com
Inspiring ideas: Acres of cultivated gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and 250 rooms full of antiques and art offer a wealth of design inspiration. George Vanderbilt, who built the home in 1895, described it as his "little mountain escape." It's as close to touring a European castle as you can get without leaving North Carolina.
Where: Mount Vernon, Virginia
When to go: Open daily; $17 for admission; mountvernon.org
Inspiring idea: George Washington had the wood exterior carved to look like cut stone—a clever way to make a humble material appear more impressive.
San Francisco Plantation
When to go: Open daily except on major holidays; $15 for admission, includes tours by guides dressed in period attire; sanfranciscoplantation.org
Inspiring idea: The family who built the plantation was one of the first to bring Europe's more lavish decorating style to the South using an abundance of extravagant patterns and elaborate faux finishes throughout.
Where: Port Gibson, Mississippi
When to go: The ruins are open daily; admission is free; to learn more, visit nps.gov and search for "Windsor Ruins."
Inspiring idea: The powerful scale and rhythm of the remaining columns make a striking architectural statement.
Longue Vue House and Gardens
Where: New Orleans
When to go: Open Tuesday through Sunday and closed on major holidays; $10 for admission; longuevue.com
Inspiring idea: The home's designer Ellen Biddle Shipman and original owner Edith Stern arranged formal antiques and modern art in a comfortable, more casual way.
Palm Beach, Florida
When to go: Open Tuesday through Sunday and closed on major holidays; $18 for admission, which includes a guided tour; flaglermuseum.us
Inspiring idea: Wealthy businessman Henry Flagler commissioned renowned architects John Carrere and Thomas Hastings to build this winter retreat as a wedding present for his new wife. The magnificent Grand Hall features large bronze doors, a stunning painted ceiling, and an impressive double staircase.
Pebble Hill Plantation
When to go: Open Tuesday through Sunday; $15 for admission, including tour; pebblehill.com
Inspiring Ideas: This classic plantation has breezy, colorful interiors with chic chinoiserie elements that feel au courant.