Best Houses of 2016
We see a lot of beautiful homes from top to bottom. We see big pretty houses. We see small pretty houses. We see amazing homes that are traditional and ones that push our modern envelopes (just a little). Grand or charming. Newly built or antebellum. It must still feel “Southern” to us we say. Does it feel “Southern” is always the question. And, this has been a hugely Southern year for us since it’s been our 50th Anniversary. We’ve shot and covered more amazing houses than we normally do from our retrospective on the legendary and prolific architect A Hays Town to our Next Generation of Southern Decorating Idea House story. Since the New Year is almost upon us, we took a moment of pause to honor some of our favorite rooms and homes. Without much more ado, please click through to see some of our most beautiful homes from 2016. And lastly, to all the decorators, homeowners, and architects that we’ve worked with, thank you for letting us into your homes. And to our cherished readers, thanks for listening to us, we hope you were inspired.
This is one of 28 homes in Baton Rouge’s Bocage neighborhood-alone designed by the godfather of Southern architecture, A Hays Town who we profiled for our 50th Anniversary Issue. The prolific master worked well into his 90s (he died at 101) and put traditional Southern architecture back en vogue when contemporary design was the rage.
Here is a sneak peak into the home studio at A. Hays Town’s own house in Baton Rouge where his son, Sonny, now lives. The windows and beams are old found cypress windows probably from New Orleans. Town started the then revolutionary idea of using reclaimed materials in new homes to make them settle into their neighborhoods more easily.
This two-story brick home in Baton Rouge is another A. Hays Town design. The curved windows, shutters, and perfectly proportioned fanlight were his hallmarks. Another Town hallmark? He continued his designs right into the house. Here, he wanted a six-tree allee for this home, but the owner planted eight – then regretted it later.
Timeless White Home
Classic scale and a reclaimed slate roof give this Baton Rouge home designed by A Hays Town in 1991 a sense of permanence. Town is credited with designing over 1000 homes in his lifetime.
Like a Jewel Box
Designer Shannon Crain created a little oasis inside her 600 square foot open space apartment which is housed in an 1882 Georgian home in downtown Wilmington, NC. The rugs were key to devise different zones for sleeping and living. We thought this disciplined approach to living was the perfect January before and after.
This stately 1941 red brick home in Richmond, Virginia hides its wild interior designed by Charlotte-based designer Charlotte Lucas. Another fun fact: the homeowner is actually Charlotte’s sister-in-law, Jenny Lucas.
Say Yes to Chartreuse!
Inspired by a French living room designer Charlotte Lucas and her sister-in-law spotted in a magazine, they opted to lacquer this Richmond dining room in an olive-mustard hue to complement the splatter-paint-style, navy-and-white draperies. For a similar look try, Benjamin Moore’s Fresh Olive.
Forgo Chairs & Kiddie Squabbles
Theses oversize, custom Hickory Chair sectionals in the Richmond, Virginia family room are swathed in a durable linen and allow “everyone to sit without touching each other, which is super important with kids!” says Jenny Lucas. “Bench-style seat cushions look cleaner and don’t shift around like multiple seat cushions do.” Why confuse things with chairs?
Throw a Curve Ball
"With so many traditional elements, the living room needed a really modern lift,” says designer Charlotte Lucas. She set her eyes on Jenny Lucas' heirloom settee, swathing it in a wild fabric (L’Africain; jedjohnson.com) that takes the piece from so-so to fantastic. To counter the graphic settee, Charlotte used neutral fabrics on the pieces with funkier lines, like the curved vintage Dunbar sofa and the rounded swivel chairs.
Upholster with Vinyl
To combat the inevitable food and paint spills, Charlotte Lucas selected a linen-and- rayon fabric coated with polyurethane (Brentano’s Hard Candy), a choice that restaurants frequently use, on the banquette and chair cushions so the family could eat without fear of ruining their upholstery. An oval Saarinen pedestal table, rather than a round style, also loosens up the seating area.
Glamorize with White
The Lucases family room, breakfast nook, and kitchen blend into one large, open space. With lots of strong colors in the nook and family room, they needed the kitchen to give the eye a break. The answer: a sleek, all-white space spiced up with brass accents and vintage pieces, like these clear acrylic counter stools.
An artist, Anne Couch lives in this Birmingham, Alabama home (and its actually our copy chief, Susan Alison’s sister!). From the street it looks like a traditional shingled home, but you actually enter from the back (shown here) to save yourself from walking up a steep hill. “I wanted circular copper cutouts to balance all the hard angles,” says the artist. “Even my doormats are round.”
Multipurpose & Chic
Anne Couch used to lug laundry baskets up from a “scary, dreary basement.” After her two daughters settled in other cities, she turned one of their bedrooms into a convenient, multitasking space: a light and bright main-floor laundry, an office that keeps paper clutter off the kitchen island, and abundant closet storage for party ware and vases. Sorry kids.
For a dramatic departure from the otherwise all-white interiors, artistic Anne Couch chose Sealskin from Sherwin-Williams for the den. The deep charcoal shade works because there is so much abundant natural light and it lets colorful books, paintings, photos, and plush fabrics do the talking.
Mismatched, Travelling Chairs
Unlike most dining tables, this one isn’t surrounded by a set of chairs 24-7. Two antique Mouton armchairs (covered in the Brunschwig & Fils print Les Touches) bookend the table. Green linen Parsons chairs sometimes live along the wall or roll on their casters to the den. “My friend Jeanne Rogers helped me choose the chairs and other pieces, such as the antique French enfilade [buffet], to anchor the new space,” Anne Couch says.
Fill Modern Rooms with Traditional Pieces
The trappings of a historic home— antique mahogany table, Oriental rug—feel fresh and confident in this modern space with an 18-foot ceiling. “Ben and Darla [of Birmingham firm, Shepard & Davis Architects] helped redefine the floor plan and improve flow, and designer Jeanne Rogers was a terrific sounding board for the decor,” says Anne Couch, “but you’ve got to put a personal stamp on a home with your collected hodgepodge. You’re the one who has to live there and wake up to it every day.”
Down by the River
Charlottesville, Virginia designer Alana Woerpel took on this dilapidated little cottage on the Potomac River as a project to turn it into a simple getaway for her family. She pulled it all off without sacrificing any of the structure’s easy charm, which we love. Fun fact: her husband spotted it while on a business trip and he couldn’t stop thinking about it. We love that Alana pulled it together with mismatched finds and trades with friends.
Small seagrass squares from World Market form a wall-to-wall carpet over a linoleum floor. “I bought extra squares so when something gets stained, I can just sew a new one in,” says Alana Woerpel. The green ceiling and rows of hand-crank jalousie windows are original to the home. She says, “They are a great invention: Cranked out for summer you have the equivalent of a screened porch; cranked in for winter, it’s like a greenhouse.”
Barter for Décor
The blue dancer painting is by Gresham Sykes, a retired University of Virginia professor who lived nearby; Alana Woerpel traded her decorating hours for his artwork. Rather than refinishing the floors on the main level, she economized by painting them ivory. The 1970s “cheesy coffee table” came from her husband’s family—it has a glass shadowbox top with cork below.
Enlist Talented Friends
Charles Calhoun, a high-school friend of Woerpel's, crafted the iron-and-wood dining room table. It's surrounded by a set of rustic Queen Anne chairs, which she scooped up at a secondhand shop in Charleston. “I bought eight of them for $300,” Alana Woerpel says. “They already had aqua vinyl on the seats—great for wet bathing suits.”
“I’m a big fan of thick duvets at the foot of the bed,” says designer Alana Woerpel, who created this guest bedroom oozing with cottagey romance. “We call it the princess room because it feels creamy and fancy, especially with those Italian strung damask curtains. When you pull a cord, both sides go up like an opera curtain.”
Former SL Editor-in-Chief, Lindsay Bierman shaped a 1000 square foot Southern Living House Plan No. 1237 into a serene lakefront hideaway 75 feet above Alabama’s rocky Smith Lake. The upside to living in a little space? It’s makes small splurges standout even more.
Perfect Little Kitchen
Lindsay Bierman's little kitchen is tucked into the center of the open living and dining floor plan. He hid the pantry and Subzero refrigerator with matching cabinet fronts. The Anne Sacks tile was a big splurge that gives the space a little impact.
Our Editor-at-Large, James Farmer, collaborated with Atlanta architect firm, Spitzmiller & Norris to create the perfect country home in both size (2000 square feet) and looks. It’s also one of Southern Living’s most popular house plans.
An Airy Dining Room
Situated in the front of the house, Spitzmiller and Norris worked with James Farmer to give the dining room the feeling of a porch that’s been enclosed over time. This move helped create an instant old house feel.
Look to Your Surroundings
Materials that connect this April feature home on Kiawah Island locale were key in this design. “Sisal is so right for the Lowcountry,” says designer Elizabeth Newman. It hints at the marsh grasses in an elegant way and is also durable, easy to clean, and ideal for layering. The alligator skull speaks to the local wildlife, while palms in antique glass and fern-patterned pillows are additional nods to the room’s Lowcountry vibe and provide a carefree polish.
Design for Touch
“Employing comfortable layers and textures is key to making a room cozy,” says designer Elizabeth Newman about the luxe master bedroom. Mixed materials like the down-filled duvet, grass cloth wallcovering, bamboo bench, and wool Berber carpet add warmth. The sleepy space gets a gentle wake up from the quiet splashes of celadon green on the bed linens, pillows, and bench cushion.
Capture Every View
Instead of letting the window nook in the master bedroom go to waste, Elizabeth Newman turned it into a seating area with a down-cushioned window seat framed by linen-and-wool curtains. Homeowner Stephanie Street says, “I love sitting here and looking at the marsh.” Club chairs and a skirted ottoman round out the arrangement.
Charmed by a Home
This teeny little cottage (our March before and after) was tired until the right architect and team got their hands on it. They painted it gray and added the porch with the arches that emphasize the sloping roofline.
Not Mellow Yellow
It’s nearly impossible not to smile when you pass a house that’s painted sunshine yellow with green trim like this one in New Orleans that was our March cover. The trick to making it work? Try it on a home with big windows and paint your trim white. Fun fact: the homeowner selected these colors himself when he bought the house 60 years ago. He hasn’t changed them since.
Calypso Blue Bedroom
We love blue, but we were ready for a change from cobalt. We opted for Meg Braff’s ocean-inspired hue that makes us feel a little like we’re on vacation. Play it up with red and orange accents or tone it down with white and old ones instead.
Petticoat Pink Living Room
In the past, pink was relegated to baby girl nurseries or glamorous boudoirs, but this mellow shade works anywhere because the taupe undertones neutralize pink’s sweetness. In here, designer Anna Matthews paired it with deep graphite and green colors to keep it unisex friendly for the living room. It was perfect for March’s New Southern Color feature.
Pure and light, this crisp shade is devoid of any brown or golden undertones. To balance the color’s intensity, designer Mary Douglas Drysdale was mindful of where and how much she used it. Lemonade works best in small bursts like on the walls in a room with lots of moldings, on an accent wall, or for just the trim.
Never Enough Cottages
At SL, we have an enduring love for white cottages – especially ones with adorable dogs waiting for us by the door designed by young architect Corbett Scott. This traditional home feels fresh with the white on white palette, boxwood balls, and the hopscotch-style front walk.
The 50th Anniversary Idea House
To fete our half-century mark, SL tapped architect Bill Ingram to design this traditional Southern cottage for us in our own hometown, Birmingham, Alabama. Then we tapped 5 top young Southern decorators to outfit this colorful home with their inspiring styles.
Balance a Formal Dining Room
Decorator Margaret 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, and 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.
Keep Foyers Moving
“I tried to pull off some overstated, catch-your-attention pieces. Too many tchotchkes become disorienting in a foyer,” says designer Ashley 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. 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.”
Max Out Seating
Decorator Mark D. Sikes carved this 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—a great alternative to mallard prints in old Southern homes—as well as bits of brass, fresh ferns, and oakleaf hydrangea cut from the yard.
Start from the Top
Open to a dark green kitchen, this square family room needed a boost. “The tented ceiling lightens up the space, and it’s a 1960s throwback,” says designer Bill 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.”
Design for the Architecture
“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 designer Lauren 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.
Cozy up with Pattern
"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 designer Amy 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.
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.
“When we settled on this corner property, it begged for a wraparound porch that faced both streets,” said designer Bill Ingram about his Southern raised cottage. “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.” A big hanging bed swing from Ballard Designs anchors the lounging area of this porch perfectly.
“I always try to bring a sense of history to the houses I work on,” says architect Matt Benson about our October feature home, “but this one already felt old and historic. You can sense the age and craftsmanship as you turn the original door handle and feel its heft.” It is certainly buoyed by the home’s exterior, featuring stone foraged in the 1920s from a quarry that has since shut down. The stone is still echoed in some of the neighboring homes in town. Fun fact: his wife Barrie designed the interiors. SL loves a family affair and a mountain house for fall.
Let Patterns Speak
Designer Barrie Benson combined 10 different textiles and prints in a single, orderly viewpoint in the mountain tudor without flinching. “I’m not shy about mixing patterns,” she admits, “as long as the scale is significantly different.” Three boldly distinct but equally strong upholstery selections converse easily with one another in this mise-en-scène. The swivel chairs’ leafy magenta-and-blue print (Sanderson’s Rainforest Blackberry) leads the look, while the club chairs’ deep violet linen adds a calmer counterpoint. The lighthearted purple, pink, and white leopard print on the window seat cushion (Lee Jofa’s Feline by Kelly Wearstler) keeps pace with the other prints without overwhelming any of them.
Wild Living Room
You have to give credit to a husband who’s confident enough to handle a pink-and-purple- themed living room,” jokes decorator Barrie Benson. But the truth is, her expertly layered feminine touches are part of the well-executed yin and yang that balance the Tudor’s more masculine architecture. Another tip to keep things from looking like a Barbie Dreamhouse? Weave in menswear- inspired fabrics like wools and plaids with floral and chintz patterns. And make sure the more ladylike prints always have a hint of black or brown. “This helps take the sweetness down a notch,” says Barrie, “and puts a few warts on it.”
In Richmond decorator Janie Molster’s Nags Head, North Carolina beach house, she didn’t hold back on the decorating. She used clever finds and outrageous combinations that don’t flinch with any wear and tear that come from any of her five children plus their friends. Who couldn’t have fun at this dining table?