Yall . This is Southern Design

Reynaldo . The original Estate of R J Reynolds, designed by Charles Barton Keen, 1918.

When my Clients told me they were leaving Cambridge for warmer climes I admit my long drawn out nooooooo was a little dramatic, but life is fluid and ever evolving. The exciting news is that I am going to have the chance to evolve too. My very first opportunity to influence the design of a southern home, followed the initial piece of traumatic news, softening the blow, as only Jonathan could.

Note the scale, the diamond patterned tile floor, and the acid green.

A new emotion took over – known to many as panic, I asked myself, what exactly did I know about southern design? Naturally quick to met out a harsh judgement, I told myself, “absolutely nothing”. I love talking to myself, and frankly don’t care who hears. Some of my very best conversations, are held between, me, myself, and I, and in the end, helpful recommendations to some of my biggest quandaries result.

Kelly Wearstler’s Avalon Hotel

I actually do know something about Southern design, I had just forgotten that these influencers, for whom I have great respect, all hale from, or are known for their southern design aesthetic. Kelly Wearstler, born in Myrtle Beach, SC, has a self proclaimed style, known as Modern Glamour. Derived from the Hollywood Regency era of design, it is bold and graphic, bright and accented by enormous ceramic figurines – usually of animals. Dorothy Draper – born in Tuxedo Park, NY, known most famously for the Greenbrier in West Virginia, and for being the first socialite interior designer, has been on my radar for a very long time . Suzanne Kassler, born in Waco, Texas to an Air Force Dad, lived in many places, gathering inspiration near and far, until finally landing in Atlanta, GA.

Dorothy Draper’s Greenbrier – iconic design.

So what makes southern design, well….southern? The properties are certainly much, much bigger than the urban locations that I typically design. They are grand, they are estates, they come from an era when income tax didn’t exist and amassing of wealth was easier. Aside from their size, southern design appears to incorporate the following elements:

  • Florals: from the gardens to the interiors, they are heavily represented,
  • Painted floors: intricate or simple patterns – the diamond being a favorite,
  • Heavy use of fabric: from slip-covered furnishings to curtain-laden windows, reams of fabric abound,
  • Collectables: southerns love to tell a story through “things”,
  • Family photos,
  • Mix of antiques and modern furnishings,
  • Monogramed everything,and
  • Bold colors.

Kasler brings a fresh approach to Southern Design – she doesn’t paper the walls, but brings the outdoors in and loves her curtains!

I got this. My journey begins in just a few weeks. I’ve got a lot of research to do to pull this off, but I won’t let my lovely Clients down!

Kicked to the Curb: out with the old landscaping

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A patio in the middle of the lawn – genius.

I didn’t even think it was possible for landscape design to go out of style but…I could have been wrong about that.  It can certainly fall into disrepair.  One plant takes over, another flounders, a weed sneaks it’s way in,  rocks begin to fall from the carefully erected wall, and poof it blows up into a mess.  This is what I am faced with – a major undertaking, a minor budget, and the need to create something that is fairly self-sufficient.

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Stones help limit upkeep – attractive to me.

I can buy plants, pick and arrange flowers, weed, and water, but none of that means I have a green thumb.  Growing things is not a strength, most of my plants seem to die, so I am a bit worried about the prospect of taking on a home landscaping project.  Not worried enough to not do it though.

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Ground cover is an attractive option.  Spreads like wild fire and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance.  Looks pretty too.

My plan is to combine a series of hardscape areas with plantings.  It will be important to limit the grass in the yard, which would require an irrigation system (out of my budget).  I want to remain true to the indigenous plantings, and those that are iconically New England Coastal.  How to do that without buying loads and loads of plants that look wild and natural will be the challenge.

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Seagrass. floral ground cover, and stone looks organic – looks low-main!

While I encourage sitting with a space, a new home or apartment for a bit of time before embarking on a renovation or major furnishings refresh – all I want to do is rent a back hoe, tare up the yard.  Then I want to bring in mature plants, stones, chairs, and planters.  I want it all done like that time I took the long walk from my house in the North End to the Government Center T-Station.  I crossed a temporary bridge that went over a strip of highway – now the greenway.  I marveled over the effort it took for the crew to erect the foot bridge each morning and rebuild it every evening – in a location roughly 6 feet from where it resided in the morning.  I never found out why they did that, my cynical self said it was to ensure hefty overtime checks, but who knows.  It was however topped, when the DNC came to town, the Mayor called whatever the equivalent of a public Winston Flowers is, and pouf – a beautiful greenway dropped from the truck like magic fairy dust from the wand of a fluttery fairy.  It was beautiful.

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Love this raised bed planter, but it looks complicated.

I know that I shouldn’t want it to just arrive, no effort, no pride, no sense of ownership or accomplishment, and like that magically appearing greenway, a few days later – it was gone.  Every stone I dig up, and put into place, every bush I plant, flower I select, stone I collect on the beach is likely to be special, to be cared for, to have lasting power.

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a happy little bed at the foot of the tree trunk.

Suggestions are welcome.  I’m in unchartered tall grasses here.

Free and Easy Down the Road I Go: floral expressions

FC 1

Flora Chella Design . Cape Flower Shed Installation

I love a Winston’s floral arrangement.  It’s crisp and tight and fresh.  It’s formal and elegant, and refined.  It’s special occasion.  It has the power to turn a not so special space into something notable.  I love wondering into the store on Newbury Street or Chestnut Hill with all it’s vastness and inspiration.  The sheer abundance of stems with their blooming beauty puts me at ease and fills me with wonder.

FC 3

Horseshoe Crab, Sea Shell, Seaweed, Driftwood – MAGIC!

So it may come as a surprise to you that I went in an entirely different direction for the shoot on the Cape last weekend.  It was as unstructured as I think I have ever been.  I didn’t dictate a color palette – so unlike me.  I didn’t demand a particular blossom, bloom, fern or stem.  Instead I let the floral artist go where her heart wanted to go.  She walked the home, she got the vibe, and she filled her little truck with a most wonderful and unusual combination of flora and fauna I ever did set my eyes upon.

FC 4

Wooden Dory awaiting snacks – seaweed, horseshoe crab case, and floral design behind in a silver punch bowl.  

Kate Formichella of Flora Chella Design is a floral installation designer, a grower of edible flowers, and artist.  She used seaweed and horseshoe crabs, driftwood and succulants, an array of unusual flowers for which the names escape me.  We gathered punch bowls and some of my carefully curated pieces from Jill Rosenwald’s collection, perfume bottles, and silver Dory’s, sand pails and antique glass spirit bottles.  This eclectic array of materials resulted in one of the coolest floral installations I have ever been a part of.  I wish I had taken a picture of Kate – so super hip with her long gray hair, and her shortie black and turquois cow boy boots.  Love!

FC 5

Hydranga – quintessentially Cape Cod

A real artist.  Chicago . NYC . Cape Cod.  If free and easy, and totally on-point is what you are after.  Kate is your gal.

Flora 2

Look at the fern, cascading down the side of the table in my Jill Rosenwald vase.

Kate Formichella – Owner/Designer . 847.204.6627 – kate@florachella.com