Each year, Southern Living pulls together an all-star team of designers to design, build and decorate the ultimate southern home against the awe-inspiring backdrop of an iconic locale, from South Carolina’s Lowcountry to the farmlands of Nashville.
For the 2016 Southern Living Idea House, and in celebration of the magazine’s 50th anniversary, editors selected a location near and dear to their hearts: their hometown of Birmingham, AL. “We really wanted to celebrate the milestone in our own backyard,” said Southern Living Homes Editor, Zoe Gowen.
Set in the beautiful Town of Mt. Laurel and designed by local architect Bill Ingram, the classic cottage with wrap-around porch was decorated by a celebrated team of designers with roots in the region, including Amy Berry, Ashley Gilbreath, Lauren Liess, Margaret Kirkland and Mark D. Sikes.
“We purposely chose five up-and-coming designers from all over the region, and they all worked together to create classic southern decorating that feels modern and fresh,” Gowen said.
In honor of the magazine’s anniversary, the editors tasked the designers with reinventing traditional southern design with modern detail. Designers were given archival photos from past issues for inspiration in creating rooms that reflect the magazine’s history while designing them for today’s family.
Some of the modern takes on classic southern style include a bright color palette, head-turning window treatments, lots of pattern and creative, yet streamlined, uses of upholstery and wall coverings, including tented ceilings. And even with each designer’s unique style woven throughout, the home had a comfortable flow that felt really cohesive.
“Southern style is definitely not singular, but there is a common sensibility,” Gowen said. “I think this house is a real testament to that.”
The image of an old family room with a brick wall and wood ceiling beams that architect and designer Bill Ingram received could just as easily have been taken from the set of That ’70s Show. To recreate that same feeling of cozy warmth without the visual weight, he anchored his family room with dark green walls and created a tented ceiling using draped fabric.
Designer Ashley Gilbreath loved the idea of creating a “gathering space” right outside an upstairs bedroom. The upholstered bench adds an inviting softness and also reclaims the awkward space created by the dormer window.
Inspired by the pattern-happy Dallas home documented in the archival images, designer Amy Berry took a walk on the wild side by mixing animal print with traditional florals and subtle stripes.
Sometimes, you have to get creative. With no space to squeeze in a bedside table, Ashley Gilbreath custom designed a pair of brass sconces with a mini shelf for placing a book, pair of glasses or small vase of flowers and attached them to the extended headboard.
For the pajama lounge, Amy Berry imagined a feminine space with a “happy feel.” The animal print delivers without overwhelming the room, thanks to the neutral colorway.
Gowen said the editors wanted to create a mini-retreat just outside the living room, and it all centered around our Sunday Porch Swing, painted green to coordinate with the coral and green color palette.
Margaret Kirkland created a comfortable dining and lounging space on the patio using pieces from Suzanne Kasler’s Directoire Collection.
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.
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.