As a southerner, I’ve found it intriguing over the years to see “southern design” at the top of trends lists for interior decorating — sometimes even exterior. When you think of a “proper southerner,” a few things may come to mind, such as hospitality, good home cooking or country-like scenery (on a broader scale, nature). These are thought of as southern personality elements, but it doesn’t stop there; there are plenty of design elements that are southern-inspired, and I’d love to highlight those here.
The great thing about southern design today is how it’s being modernized. Mixing in fine, upscale appliances and framing them in rustic wood or white, picket-fence style cabinets is a look many are going for. For a southern-style kitchen, you go with one of two extremes: dark wood or purely light and white. The white is for the secret garden day dreamer, while the darker wood exudes a rugged owner, roughing it on the ranch — in style. A great island is a must, as holidays and family gatherings are common and require lots of helping hands, communion and snack spots. A large, copper farmhouse sink is something I’ve always loved in the genre; it can carry the weight of those pile-ups during guest visits, while impressing everyone as well. The dining room is just as important as the kitchen for the same reasons. A spacious dining room is a must, with a solid and accessible buffet.
Just a quick note: for all rooms southern, exposed wooden beams are never a bad idea, especially if you have higher ceilings. The kitchen is probably the best room for exposed beams, but they can work in nearly every room.
The southern living room hosts plenty of seating, natural light and a focal-point fireplace. For seating, benches are common, especially by the window, which is often decked dramatically in patterned drapes. Pattern, color and texture are vital elements to the perfect southern design, with checkered upholstery or lightly painted patterns on the walls or even floors. The fireplace is a primary gathering spot on the holidays, so be sure it’s equipped to hold as many stockings and holiday decor as possible. Meaning, incorporate a decently-sized hearth and mantel. Antiques are often found in a southern home, but if you don’t have any, at least go for the look with antique glaze or paint on your furniture or built-ins.
Guest rooms are priority. Depending on how many you have, of course, treat them well by making sure the rooms have plenty of closet space, room for towels and toiletries, and a comfy atmosphere. After all, they are out of their own comfort zone. For guest rooms with small closets, I suggest having a built-in shelving unit for utilizing space upward, while leaving room for shoes somewhere at the bottom. Try to keep family photos or portraits (also a common southern element) out of guests rooms; rather, leave them for hallways, stairways and the living room.
Let’s take things outside, because southern design can be applied to the exterior of the home as well. For example, great vintage architectural elements such as curved awnings, grand columns and intricate railings make up a welcoming, eye-catching southern home. The porch — or the veranda — is crucial and deserves attention, so go big. A large porch, whether screened in or not, with plenty of seating, such as benches or a porch swing, will invite anyone in with warmth and intrigue.
Large, wrap-around porches also give homeowners the opportunity to create multiple entrances and exits from different rooms. I’ve seen many homes where the front door is in the center and the porch wraps around the side, where the kitchen is located. This is a perfect opportunity for an easy escape or entrance to throw out compost, feed the dogs or call everyone for dinner.