Style Worth Stealing: A Modern Take on Traditional Southern Style

Take a Look Inside the Traditional Home New Orleans Showhouse That’s Redefining Classic Southern Style


A place of lore and legend, America’s South captivates us a little more each time we experience her many charms. It’s a region that evokes a mysteriousness that makes the region feel almost foreign, as if it isn't a mere state away but somewhere else altogether.

It’s this enigmatic nature that makes Southern Style Now a designer’s dream. With its swampy, water-locked locale, intense subtropical climate, and fusing of European and Caribbean cultures, New Orleans is one destination that keeps on giving from its wellspring of design influences and inspiration.

“The whole idea of being here in New Orleans—the history, the romance, the architecture—was perfect.”

This forefront of influences and a deep talent pool of local designers made New Orleans the model backdrop for the 2016 Southern Style Now design event and show home. Stemming from an appreciation for Southern architecture and interiors illustrated by the event’s host, Traditional Home magazine, the New Orleans–based Showhouse is a study in quintessential Southern style.

The appeal of New Orleans was undeniable. Ann Maine, editor-in-chief of Traditional Home, echoed this sentiment, “The whole idea of being here in New Orleans—the history, the romance, the architecture—was perfect.”

The Ultimate Color Collaboration

This year, Pratt & Lambert had the pleasure of partnering with Traditional Home to be the exclusive provider of paint—all 22 incredible colors—for both the interior and exterior of the historic site.

Beth McDonough, the magazine’s publisher, is all about Pratt & Lambert’s passion for meticulous color. “Pratt & Lambert is a 165-year-old company, and, for us, with 1,000-plus unique colors, it really offers a huge abundance of options,” she said. Given the historical importance of the Southern Style Now Showhouse, the collaboration was an ideal fit.

Refreshing a Proper Southern Manor

A team of gifted designers, all hailing from the South, was asked to bring their unique points of view to the gorgeous 1895 Queen Anne Victorian home that had been chosen to represent Southern Style Now’s vision. The overall directive was that the home was to maintain its Southernness and historical reference points, but be brought back to life with a fresh and modern vision.

Southern style can sometimes get a bad rap for being fussy and sentimental, but this project turned that distortion on its head.

New Orleans Showhome

Robert Leleux, cofounder of Southern Style Now, shared, “Everybody thinks of Southern style as being kind of ruffles and bows and flourishes. And I thought that, you know, it’s such a distinguished, sophisticated region of the country that it deserved a kind of cosmopolitan show house.”

The Color and Inspiration Behind the Design

Living Room

The Living Room

By Shaun Smith, principal, Shaun Smith Home

Design Notes: The inspiration for Shaun Smith’s stunning living room was admired designer and New Orleans doyenne Gerrie Bremermann. “Everything about the room is classic Gerrie,” Smith explained. “When I opened my shop, the first thing I sold was these horse sculptures—to her—so I kind of put them in as a little tribute.” The perfect union of traditional and modern design, the crisp, white room is curated and high end without foregoing comfort.

Pratt & Lambert featured color: ProWhite 33-4

Dining Room

The Dining Room

By William Rankin McLure IV, principal, William McLure Interiors

Design Notes: Sometimes all it takes is a look at the décor you have as your basis for paint color. William Rankin McLure said, “I knew I wanted to do a bright, bold yellow that would be a pop of color because I was going to fill the room full of graphic abstract art that I did. I wanted to do the juxtaposition of something bold and fun to go with the architecture of the house.”

Pratt & Lambert featured color: Sutter’s Gold 12-7 

Kitchen

The Kitchen

By James Farmer, founder, James Farmer Designs

Design Notes: James Farmer sought out an overall neutral look for the kitchen. He explained, “I wanted it to be white but not too white. I needed to have a little touch of something warm so I went more cream.” By utilizing accents like stainless-steel accessories, fresh-cut flowers, and stunning antique velvet on the chairs, he created dimension and texture that further warmed the kitchen.

Pratt & Lambert featured colors: Tobacco 33-19 and Woodgate 8-24 

Master Suite

The Master Suite

By Ware Porter, principal, Ware M. Porter and Company

Design Notes: “The inspiration behind the master suite came from my vision of a grand dame of New Orleans in her boudoir," Ware Porter explained. ”There’s a perception that she never gets out of bed. She receives breakfast there, reads the paper there.” With a romantic palette and prettiness abounding, Porter envisioned nothing short of a gorgeous, indulgent setting.

Pratt & Lambert featured colors: Half ‘n Half 7-2 and Salmon Bisque 5-4

Guest Cottage Living Room

The Guest-Cottage Living Room

By Lisa Mende, founder and principal, Lisa Mende Design

Design Notes: Waves of color from contrasting upholstery, vintage-inspired accents, and interesting light fixtures lend themselves to a feeling that there are no rules and that the space can fully be yours. Designer Lisa Mende’s interesting take on Southern style is about blending the past with the present, “It’s about taking the wonderful new art that we have and combining it with beautiful furniture from the past.” China White is a quiet neutral canvas for this boho viewpoint and strong juxtaposing elements.

Pratt & Lambert featured colors: China White 33-8 and African Night 32-18

The Essence of Southern Style: Five Design Styles to Steal

Just what is the foundation of Southern style? It’s hard to pinpoint one idea or philosophy because there isn’t truly one. Brimming with personality, it’s indiscriminate, lively, a little bold, and a touch celebratory. It’s about mastering the art of entertaining and celebrating the ordinary.

You don’t need a complete design overhaul to add a bit of Southern style to your space. It’s about refining your designer’s eye and showcasing your creativity through color, textures, and patterns that fit together.

Here are five distinct Southern styles and ideas for how to borrow the look.

Low Country

Look no further than the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia to get your fill of low-country style. Born of a need to stay cool and above sea level in low-lying bogs and marshes, the building style is functional and makes the most of indoor-outdoor living spaces oriented to cross breezes and shelter from the southern sun. Think cozy wraparound porches and shuttered windows. It’s a regional approach that’s also very community-minded, which is a throwback to centuries-old Southern hospitality.

“The climate has a big impact on the look and feel of Southern architecture,” explained architect Joe Barnes. He recently teamed with Sherwin-Williams® paints to come up with an interior color palette for a new live-work-play development called Nexton that his firm, WestRock Land & Development, is creating in Summerville, South Carolina.

New Orleans Color Palette

”People want to take advantage of breezes with deep porches, for example. With ten months of the year accessible to outdoor living, there’s a greater need for indoor-outdoor living spaces that flow into one another and a desire for taking advantage of natural light.”

Style steal: Keep wall color focused on midtones with earthy, muted greens and blues. Try Pratt & Lambert Blue Passe 24-27 for the right blend of blue, green, and gray. Metals like wrought iron and oxidized copper provide a strong statement to the softer palette. For the exterior, paint your home’s porch ceiling soft Haint Blue, the color featured in the front porch of the Southern Style Now Showhouse. Styling your porch in this way is said to ward off evil spirits—and, more practically, bugs.

Coastal Caribbean

Caribbean style is both bright and bold, but it can also be laid-back and relaxing. If there ever were an excuse to tart up your paint color, the Caribbean look is it. From the hypersaturated hues of market squares to the more subdued European-influenced palettes now displaying a more evolved aesthetic, Caribbean style has sides that are playful and energizing or peaceful and sophisticated.

Style Steal: For textures and materials, think tropical foliage and bold florals. Add wicker or cane pieces, such as a coffee table base, a bar cart, or bar stools, in teak or dark wood tones. Replace table vases with an oversized tropical leaf, like a bird of paradise or fiddle-leaf fig.

Neoclassical

Polished, elevated, and sophisticated, the neoclassical style comes out of Greek and Roman architecture and feels stately, almost regal. Colors are more neutral and tend to remain at the same saturation level. Darker wood tones and elegant geometric patterns prevail, and materials all fall within the plush to light sheen range. Everything appears tailored and finished, with a sense of place and purpose.

Style Steal: Try a muted monochromatic palette on all six planes of a room (that includes the four walls plus the floor and ceiling). A wallpapered ceiling in a subdued tonal pattern can bring a richness that pairs well with the intricate molding prevalent in this style. For a neoclassical color palette, stay close to whites, neutrals, creams, and light grays, as well as pastels with just a hint of blue, yellow, and green. An example of this palette at work is the guest-house bedroom, designed by Jonathan Savage of Savage Interior Design.

Boho

In a part of the country brimming with artists and musicians, it follows that cities like Nashville, Asheville, and New Orleans have developed a strong bohemian aesthetic. At its core, boho is collected, treasured, blended, and spirited. The same characteristics can be applied to many Southern cities.

Style Steal: Color becomes your new neutral. Paint walls in a complex and dramatic hue, such as Pratt & Lambert Red Mosaic or Sutter’s Gold (as William Rankin McLure IV exemplified with the Southern Style Now Showhouse), and layer textures and patterns throughout your interior space. Instead of common artwork, incorporate vintage finds like the unique items you may discover perusing Nashville’s Hatch Show Print. Lisa Herring Mende’s guest-house living room is a stunning example of finely curated boho design from the New Orleans show home.

Art Deco

Judging from the gorgeous deco sculptures all over its Gothic urban cemeteries and metropolitan parks like Lafayette Square, New Orleans was one of the first cities to fully welcome the deco aesthetic. Highly decorative and angular, with a preference for metals and glossy metallic surfaces, it’s a luxe style that appealed to a city making its mark in entertainment and on an international scale.

Style Steal: The opulence of past and present New Orleans converges with the art deco style. For a prime example in the Southern Style Now Showhouse, look no further than Reagan Hayes’ parlor piano room, with its metallics, geometric shapes, and luxurious antique accent pieces. High-gloss walls and trim create a dramatic statement that is elevated and unapologetically indulgent. Try Pratt & Lambert RedSeal® for a high gloss that has an enamel finish, plus a lasting, hard coating.

However you choose to explore Southern style, remember that it’s more about celebrating the day, cherishing the people in your life, and making memories.