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


Steeped in lore and legend, America’s South enchants us a little more each time we discover more of her many charms. It’s a region that evokes such mystery that it feels almost foreign, like it could belong somewhere else altogether.

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

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

This beacon of influences and a bountiful gathering of local designers made New Orleans the ideal backdrop for this year’s Southern Style Now design event and show home. Thanks to an appreciation for Southern architecture and interiors evidenced 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 clear. 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 Ideal Color Collaboration

This year, Pratt & Lambert had the privilege of partnering with Traditional Home to be the one and only provider of paint—all 22 sumptuous colors—to bring beauty to 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. Drawing from the historical significance of the Southern Style Now Showhouse, the collaboration was a perfectly complementary fit.

Refreshing a Proper Southern Manor

A team of gifted designers, all hailing from the South, was called upon to bring their unique styles to the gorgeous 1895 Queen Anne Victorian home , which represented Southern Style Now’s vision. The general directive was that the rooms were to maintain their Southernness and historical reference points, but be brought back to life with a fresh and modern vision.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 untruth on its head.

New Orleans Showhome

Robert Leleux, cofounder of Southern Style Now, agreed, “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 muse for Shaun Smith’s stunning living room was respected designer and New Orleans doyenne Gerrie Bremermann. “Everything about the room is classic Gerrie,” Smith said. “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 confluence of traditional and modern design, the clean, white room is collected and elevated 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 it’s as simple as looking 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 shared, “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 incorporating accents like stainless-steel accessories, fresh-cut flowers, and stunning antique velvet on the chairs, he achieved dimension and texture that further warmed the space.

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 said. ”There’s a perception that she never gets out of bed. She receives breakfast there, reads the paper there.” With an ultrafeminine 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 create a feeling that there are no rules and that the space can fit you. Designer Lisa Mende’s unique take on Southern style is about partnering 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 subtle neutral canvas for this boho take on design 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 root of Southern style? It’s hard to name a single idea or philosophy because there isn’t just one. Brimming with personality, it’s indiscriminate, lively, a little fearless, and a touch celebratory. It’s about owning the art of entertaining and celebrating the ordinary.

You don’t need a full 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 have a familiarity about them.

Here are five distinct Southern styles and some simple ways to borrow the look.

Low Country

Look no further than the coastal stretches of South Carolina and Georgia to get a sense of low-country style. Born of a need to stay cool and literally stay above water in low-lying bogs and marshes, this particular style is functional and takes advantage of indoor-outdoor living spaces structured to create cross breezes and shelter from the midday sun. Think cozy wraparound porches and shuttered windows. It’s a regional approach that’s also very community-minded, a nod 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 worked 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 developing 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 in the midtone range with earthy, muted greens and blues. Try Pratt & Lambert Blue Passe 24-27 for the ideal blend of blue, green, and gray. Metals like wrought iron and oxidized copper provide a strong contrast 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 the right styling can also be laid-back and relaxing. If there ever were an excuse to tart up your palette colors, the Caribbean look is it. From the hypersaturated colors of market squares to the quieter European-influenced palettes reemerging with a more evolved aesthetic, Caribbean style explores a personality that is playful and energizing or peaceful and sophisticated.

Style Steal: For textures and materials, think tropical leaves and bold florals. Add wicker or cane pieces, such as an end table, a bar cart, or bar stools, in teak or dark wood tones. Replace floral arrangements 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 formal, almost regal. Colors are more neutral and tend to stay at the same saturation level. Darker wood tones and gentle geometric patterns prevail, and materials all fall within the plush to light sheen range. Everything feels tailored and finished, has 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 quiet tonal pattern can bring a richness that mimics the intricate molding prevalent in this style. For a neoclassical color palette, stick to whites, neutrals, creams, and light grays, incorporating some pastels with just a hint of blue, yellow, and green. This palette can be viewed in the guest-house bedroom, designed by Jonathan Savage of Savage Interior Design.

Boho

With the South brimming with artists and musicians, it is no surprise that cities like Nashville, Asheville, and New Orleans would have a strong bohemian aesthetic. At its core, boho is collected, treasured, blended, and individualistic. The same is true of many Southern cities.

Style Steal: Color reigns as your new neutral. Paint walls in a bold and dramatic shade, such as Pratt & Lambert Red Mosaic or Sutter’s Gold (as William Rankin McLure IV chose to do with the Southern Style Now Showhouse), and layer textures and patterns throughout your interior space. Instead of traditional artwork, incorporate vintage finds like the rarities you may come across perusing Nashville’s Hatch Show Print. Lisa Herring Mende’s guest-house living room is an excellent example of finely curated boho style from the New Orleans show home.

Art Deco

Judging from the artful deco sculptures all over its Gothic urban cemeteries and public parks like Lafayette Square, New Orleans fully embraced the deco aesthetic. Highly ornate and angular, with a preference for metals and glossy metallic surfaces, it’s a distinct style that appealed to a city establishing itself in entertainment and on an international scale.

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

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