Podcast, Ep. 129: designers Cate Dunning & Lathem Gordon

Interior designer Cate Dunning and Lathem Gordon of the firm Gordon Dunning join the podcast

Photo: Erik Umphrey


Design duo Lathem Gordon and Cate Dunning from Gordon Dunning join the show this week to talk about their Atlanta based boutique interior design firm. Gordon Dunning was recently named House Beautiful’s Next Wave Designers, and we totally understand why. Lathem and Cate works with their clients to honor the story of the house, and this team has a knack for creating beauty in working both with the new and old. Lathem and Cate also chat with us about not worrying if you’ll get tired of a decision, how to use sectionals properly, and why things need to actually be comfortable instead of just looking that way.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode:

  • Lathem and Cate are very simpatico, but they do share what they disagree on including lights, and toilet paper display!
  • What each of their go to’s are in terms of design and decor, and the inspiration behind them.
  • What it was like to be named as House Beautiful’s Next Wave Designers.
  • What things we should be hanging on to for antique purposes, and what relics we may be better off parting with.
  • How their company Gordon Dunning works with clients to tell the story of the home, and weave it in with how they want their present and future to look.
  • Ways that we can bring the spirit of an old home into a new house.
  • A few examples of projects in their portfolio where the style ranged from playful and cheerful, mature and refined, to classic and southern.
  • Let’s not make decisions based on fear that we will get sick of it! We are more likely to like our choices for a longer term when we finish it completely instead of stopping midway.
  • What frames can make a house look more textured and charming, and how to bring proportion and scale into your frame choices.
  • Things don’t need to look comfortable, they need to be comfortable.

Decorating Dilemma

Hello ladies 🙂

My mom and I love discussing your pod – we both moved last summer and it’s been a lot of fun designing our new spaces!

My husband and I purchased a ranch home in Knoxville, TN. We spent the last 6 months painfully removing wallpaper, but we’re finally moving on. I apologize for the pictures – they’re from the real estate listing because my house is a mess!

My dilemma involves the living room, office, and entry way. When you enter the house, the dining room is on the left, the office is on the right, and the main living room is straight ahead. To get into the office, you walk through an arched doorway. The office is then connected to the living room via a second arched doorway. The living room has a vaulted ceiling and is supported by a half wall with spindles. We plan to replace the spindle wall with either a beam or a beam + post setup.

The living room is where we currently watch TV. We’d like the office to be a work space or a space to relax away from the TV.  Our general plan is to place a desk in front of the bay window, bookcases along the long wall, and then some sort of chair arrangement around a coffee table. There is no overhead lighting in either room, but we plan to eventually add it.

The living room is fairly dark while the office is the opposite. I am trying to think of a way to increase the natural light without totally removing the wall between the two rooms. I thought about shifting and widening the shared doorway and adding french doors. Along with the french doors, I thought about closing up the arch between the office and entry. This means you could only enter the office through the french doors in the living room – is this crazy?

My thinking is that the french doors will allow for more light in the living room while also allowing for space definition. Currently, our entry way has a good amount of floor space but very little usable wall space. Closing the arch between the office and entry would create a space where I could place a table/small stool to drop off mail, put on shoes, etc. It would also eliminate foot traffic between the two arches, which I assume means I could use more of the floorspace for the seating arrangement.

Does this make sense? Is it better to leave the walls as is and work to incorporate overhead lighting etc. instead? Do you have any other ideas for these two rooms or how to make the entry way more usable? This is our first house and we’ve held off on buying new furniture until the space is livable, so all design or decorating suggestions are welcome! construction is complete

Thanks so much for your help!!

Good for you for taking a risk, first of all! Your plan sounds like a good one, but it’s not the only option. There are multiple ways to tackle, and it really comes down to your budget and which one works best for you.  We like the French Door idea towards the living room, and love your idea of closing the off arch to close off your office. You could do built in bookcases on the wall, and do something with the mill work to make the offset french door make sense.  Since there is a lot of height, there’s an opportunity.

Mentioned In This Episode:

Please send in your questions so we can answer them on our next episode! And of course, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes so you never miss an episode. You can always check back here to see new episodes, but if you subscribe, it’ll automatically download to your phone.

Happy Decorating!

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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

    Rachel Alexander

    February 27, 2020

    This was an awesome podcast, but seemed way to short. I could have listened for another hour. You need to have these amazing ladies back again. They had some fantastic tips and were hilarious.

    • Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      February 27, 2020

      Agreed! We could have chatted with them all day. We’ll definitely have them back. Thanks for your comment and for listening to the show!

  2. Reply


    February 26, 2020

    Cate and Lathem were a delight to listen to. What great senses of humor and lots of great tips and advice. I loved hearing how these young designers are respecting the history and beauty of antiques and finding fresh ways to incorporate them into modern designs. Thank you for bringing such interesting, fun and talented guests to podcast.

    • Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      February 27, 2020

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this episode! Cate and Lathem are fantastic — so talented and down to earth. Thanks for taking the time to comment.