Arts & Culture

What My Mother Taught Me

Five Southern tastemakers share their favorite life lessons from Mom

The best Southern source for advice on any topic? Mothers. To celebrate that sentiment, we asked five of our favorite tastemakers to share a standout bit of wisdom they learned from their Moms.

Designer Ann Mashburn
Southern by way of: Georgia

“My Mom was super crafty and creative and always making something out of nothing, from painted rocks to dried flowers,” Mashburn says. “We moved every two years or so, and she would let us decorate our rooms any way we wanted. When I was fourteen, she let me paint faux-bois beams on the walls, and I found a little Provencal-type wallpaper and quilt, and, voila! I was in the Swiss Alps. I had never actually seen the Swiss Alps, but in my head, it was a pretty good approximation. Between she and my seventh grade home economics teacher, I learned how to make all the ideas swimming around in my head happen.”

photo: Courtesy of Ann Mashburn

Ann Mashburn with her mother, Judith Daggett, in June of 1964.

Architect Bobby McAlpine
Southern by way of: Alabama

“Riding Southern roads alongside Momma in the Chrysler, there was always a glint in her eye that told me there was more to this life than where we were right then. There was an otherness in her eye. Fannie Louise McAlpine taught me how to dance with change and to exhaust it for all its beauty and possibility. And she was just the right kind of bad.”

photo: Courtesy of Bobby McAlpine

Bobby McAlpine with his mother, Fannie.

Landscape Designer Jon Carloftis
Southern by way of: Kentucky

“Anybody who has met my Momma will agree that she is legendary when it comes to style—from the way she wears her antique pins high on her shoulder to her capes instead of coats,” Carloftis says. “Even at age eighty-nine, she can walk into a room and command an audience. And she taught me so much about buying good quality, and always picking the simplest design that will stand the test of time, and about being yourself and never trying to be somebody you are not. She said, ‘More than money or good looks, a good personality that is kind and thoughtful will take you more places than anything.’ These words of wisdom and watching her style has affected me in my garden designs, clothing, cars, furniture, and life in general.”

photo: Courtesy of John Carloftis

John Carloftis and his mother, Lucille.

Boutique owner Laura Vinroot Poole
Southern by way of: North Carolina

“I was raised by a beautiful mother who is whip smart and would never want to be identified as anything but an intellectual. But one of the most enduring lessons I learned from her was about beauty,” remembers Poole. “Every afternoon, in anticipation of my father’s return from work, I watched her reapply her lipstick (Love That Pink by Revlon). I never commented on it or discussed it with her, but I took note (and she’s been happily married for fifty-three years). When I grew up and Lululemon hijacked women’s wardrobes everywhere, it reminded me of my mother’s quiet dignity and that small moment of “getting herself together” as she called it. Hence, I may not reapply my lipgloss on time, but you will never find me making supper in exercise clothes, and I’ve been happily married for twenty years.”

photo: Courtesy of Laura Vinroot Poole

Laura Vinroot Poole and her mother, Judy Vinroot.

Artist Emily Leonard
Southern by way of: Tennessee

“In terms of style, my mother taught me about effortless originality,” says Leonard. “She’s never given a moment’s thought to trends, which of course annoyed me as a teenager. She’s always known just what she likes, which is usually anything that offers loveliness or beauty to the world. One of my favorite stories is about when she made a dress for her home economics class in the 1950s. It was a stunning dress, but she got an F on it because she made up the design and didn’t use a pattern! That pretty much sums her up.”

photo: Courtesy of Emily Leonard

Emily Leonard with her mother, Wendy.