Lauren Liess’ Master Suite in the 2016 Southern Living Idea House

Virginia-based interior designer Lauren Liess in her master suite designed for the 2016 Southern Living Idea House

This year’s 2016 Southern Living Idea House is a celebration of the magazine’s 50th anniversary. Set in Southern Living’s hometown of Birmingham, AL, and built from the ground up by a team of designers with roots in the south, this year’s house celebrates traditional southern design with modern detail.

We chatted with interior designer and blogger of Pure Style Home, Lauren Liess, to find out how the history of the iconic magazine inspired her designs.

Lauren Liess' master suite in the 2016 Southern Living Idea House

Ballard Designs: What rooms were you assigned?

Lauren Liess: I was assigned the master suite — the bedroom and adjoining bathroom.

BD: You were given archival photos from past issues for inspiration. How did you reflect the history of the magazine in your rooms?   

LL: I was really inspired by the color palette, so that’s where I started. The pictures I received  had a lot of chartreuse, orange and white. One was of a bedroom and it had a sort of a grasscloth wallpaper — similar to what I ended up with — and in a similar color of orangey-brown. The bedroom was either 60’s or 70’s and it had this shag rug, but it was a really gorgeous room. I relied heavily on that inspiration — but I used a natural fiber rug instead of a shag rug!

Lauren Liess' master suite in the 2016 Southern Living Idea House

BD: How did you go about designing for the specific parameters of the project while adding your own signature stamp?

LL: I love sort of whites and naturals, blacks and ivories, so I just pulled a little more color in by riffing off that inspiration of the chartreuse, orangey brown and pale blues. I brought in a lot of my own fabrics and used them on the pillows, coverlet and canopy. I love a gallery wall, and I knew I wanted to do one. Luckily, I was able to find a lot of locally sourced artwork. One is from artist William McClure and the others I found in local antiques shops and vintage stores.

Lauren Liess' master bathroom in the 2016 Southern Living Idea House

BD: What are the hallmarks of every southern house that you felt compelled to include?   

Southern homes exude that relaxed, welcoming, easy-breezy vibe. That’s what I was going for: a relaxed elegance that was very comforting. I do think canopies are a really great element of southern design, so I went with a clean, simple design without any turnings and covered it in my paisley fabric, which is not a very formal fabric.

Lauren Liess' master bathroom in the 2016 Southern Living Idea House

BD: How did Ballard fit into your vision for your space?

LL: We used a lot of accessories to layer and make the room feel more lived in and relaxed, such as a soft, neutral throw and pretty baskets. One of my favorite items were the mirrors from Ballard. I loved them for their scale and shape and that great gold edging. We actually retrofitted them onto a medicine cabinet. People don’t think they can buy the pretty mirror when they need a medicine cabinet for storage, but you really can.

Ballard Designs' Kayden Mirror retrofitted as a medicine cabinet in the master suite

BD: Was there anything you learned with this project or you had fun with that might influence your next project?

LL: One of my favorite parts of the project was working with the designers, architect and builder, and seeing everyone’s signature touches and what makes their work different. It was a super experience and a lesson in the importance of teamwork. There was no sense of competition. I think it was a very southern experience, actually!

Take the full tour of the 2016 Southern Living Idea House, see more interviews with the designers, or shop all of the products featured in the house.

Learn more about visiting the Southern Living Idea House, and find the full resource guide.

See the last two Southern Living Idea Houses: the 2014 Idea House at Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina designed by Suzanne Kasler or 2015 Idea House designed by Bunny Williams in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Reply

    Renee Metzler

    October 8, 2016

    I love the soft color palette, textured walls, and natural elegance of the master suite. Well done, Lauren Liess.