We recently attended the inaugural Southern Style Now Festival in New Orleans, and the absolute highlight was Traditional Home magazine’s showhouse, a Queen Anne Victorian mansion located in the Uptown District on St. Charles Avenue. Aptly described by Curbed New Orleans as a “veritable funhouse for design lovers,” the showhouse is a spectacular homage to the region’s rich and colorful cultural traditions.
More than 25 local and national designers, all originally from the south, were invited to lend their contemporary vision to this uniquely southern-style house, and we were excited to have the opportunity to work with some of them by providing furniture and decor. One of those designers is Lisa Mende of Charlotte, North Carolina, who designed the guest house. Below, we talked to her about the project.
Ballard Designs: Tell us about the room you were assigned and how you envisioned a homeowner using this space.
Lisa Mende: I was assigned the living room and kitchen in the guest house. I named it Peacock Cottage based on the eye-catching art in the living room, painted by a local artist. I envision the homeowners using this space for their family and friends who visit, but I also wanted it to be a fun place for the homeowners to entertain. Brett, one of the owners, is a darling young woman who said she could see herself entertaining her girlfriends in the cottage.
BD: This project was about reinterpreting traditional southern design through a modern lens. How did you go about that while adding your own unique stamp to it?
LM: Historically, southern design has been colorful, collected and sentimental with a nod to the area where the home is decorated. My signature style is bold, southern, chic which is exactly how I would describe the living room in Peacock Cottage. I love a collected interior, mixing new items with old ones, so I scoured the local shops and found items to blend with the Ballard items to give the room a sense of history.
I brought in color with Ballard Design’s Georgetown Sofa in Peony Pink Linen from Suzanne Kasler’s collection and added whimsy with the outdoor terra cotta bust planter, which I used as a focal accessory on the coffee table. The colorful Frida with Peacocks was painted by local artist, Ashley Longshore. I bought the gold gilded French chairs on Magazine street and had them reupholstered in Schumacher Chiang Mai Dragon for an updated look. Life is too short to be beige or greige. We need interiors to delight, and that’s what my design aesthetic is all about.
BD: How much did the host city influence your design? How did you incorporate the distinct charms of New Orleans?
LM: The showhouse is a Victorian home, with beautiful, lacy ironwork that reminded me of a woman’s petticoat, so I knew I wanted to have a feminine feel in my room. On my first visit to see the property, I visited local stores on Magazine street and paid close attention to what I saw as far as antiques, art and accessories. In many of the shops, I saw antique oyster plates, so I decided to bring along some of my oyster plates from my private collection to create a colorful display on one of my walls.
BD: What are the hallmarks of every southern house that you felt compelled to include?
LM: Southerners love to entertain, so I wanted my room to feel comfortable and hospitable. We also are proud of our heritage, so I wanted there to be items in the room that represented heritage. My friend, Lance Jackson, of Parker Kennedy Living, who is also a designer, and I shopped outside of Baton Rouge one day and started a collection of “southern ladies” art for the brick wall in the kitchen. I think that collection is a great juxtaposition to the modern Frida with Peacocks painting. Southern women are strong — we are known as steele magnolias — so I wanted the representation of strong women in the cottage as well.
BD: How did Ballard fit into your vision for your space?
LM: Your products were a perfect for my room! Ballard’s ability to create custom furnishings allowed me to custom choose pieces to make the room exactly how I had envisioned it. The Bunny Williams and Suzanne Kasler collections work wonderfully into the room as well. Both collections have amazing items for entertaining and for giving a room a custom feel.
BD: Was there a particular Ballard item that surprised you in some way or that you fell in love with?
Was there anything you learned with this project as a designer that might influence your next project?
LM: Yes, as a matter of fact, I will be looking at Ballard Designs for creating custom pieces for client projects. I was very happy with the quality and loved the many options that were available. I also liked that I could see online what the various furniture frames would look like in the fabrics offered, which was fun. I had a blast changing out the fabrics on the frames and deciding what I wanted to use in Peacock Cottage.
And we had a blast touring your space. Thanks, Lisa!
Learn more about interior designer Lisa Mende, or follow her on Twitter and Instagram. See more spaces from the Traditional Home Southern Style Now Showhouse in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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