Belle Decor

The Charm of the Southern Home

By M.K. QuinlanApril 17, 2013

In her just-released coffee table book Houses with Charm, Southern design writer Susan Sully isolates a crucial component that reconciles the South’s high-end tastes with its laid-back lifestyle: the art of the personal touch. Filled with images of eclectic mountain homes, beach cottages, and brick colonials, Sully’s book highlights the way Southerners seamlessly integrate their interiors with their lives and histories.

I recently spoke with Sully about her inspiration for the book."Southerners don't put on airs," she says. "We're even a little self-deprecating, which makes people around us relax and let their guard down. And that's exactly what these houses do. Their charm is in the clear, honest, and unguarded expression of the people who live there."

Below, I’ve included some of my favorite photos from Sully’s book, ones that showcase the personal items and design decisions that set these homes, and the South, apart– from the small, memory-inducing mementos that decorate our mantels to the salvaged wood that frames our doorways.

Family photos, diplomas, and even a beloved aunt's straw garden hat decorate the fireplace wall of Decatur, Georgia-based garden designer Ryan Gainey's home.

The cast-iron eagle above this kitchen fireplace was salvaged by Atlanta architect Norman Askins for his mountain home.

The owners of this Highlands, North Carolina mountain house chose to leave its original milk-painted wood in their dining room untouched.

Twelve-inch boards of Virginia pine were left unfinished on the walls and ceilings of the same home's entry hall.

The pine shutters of this circa 1870 New Orleans cottage were stripped of their green paint to expose the character of the natural wood.

A headless statue sits in front of a salvaged architectural element in a Montgomery, Alabama, colonial.

Old apothecary jars from a relative's pharmacy and found birds' nests stand on a hall table in a North Carolina mountain home.

Different textures and scales of textiles give this Delaware family room character: blue-and-white toile on the sofa, an antique Turkish suzani as backdrop, and a table upholstered with an antique rug.