Home & Garden

Great Southern Spaces

We’ve asked some of the South’s most stylish folks to give us a tour of their favorite rooms

Photo: Joey and Jessica

This Lowcountry river cottage on Johns Island, South Carolina, puts a fresh spin on a classic form. Designed by architect Cooter Ramsey, in includes a wall of French doors that allow for easy access to the surroundings.

The Porch

Laurie Durden, Landscape Architect
Charlotte, North Carolina

From the Confederate jasmine–covered white trellis to the ivy-lined steps to the parade of potted plants, it’s hard to tell where the Charlotte, North Carolina, landscape architect Laurie Durden’s garden stops and her porch begins. This knack for connecting houses to the land that surrounds them has become her calling card among her clients across the Old North State.

Photo: Brie Williams

Durden installed a mirror on the porch to reflect the greens and white from her garden, making the space feel larger. Pillows, throws, and a soft rug underfoot bring the indoors outs.

“The magic of my porch is that it’s neither inside nor outside,” she says. “It’s a place where the two are one and the same.” In the early morning, Durden’s porch serves as her informal office, where she makes her first flurry of workday phone calls, sketchbook in hand. A far cry from her former Manhattan existence, where she spent four years working for Robert A.M. Stern Architects, it’s a welcoming and well-appointed spot complete with wicker furniture, a haint blue ceiling, and good books always close at hand. “I love my books and am constantly referring to them as a resource,” she says. Durden is also an avid antiquer. She found the two faux-bamboo metal tables at an estate sale, and the faux-bois mirror at a shop in Palm Beach, Florida.

Evenings on the porch are Durden’s favorite. Once the kids are home from soccer and dinner is on the stove, she can relax and look out on the garden she’s created in her own backyard. “At dusk,” she says, “when the prevailing breezes start to change, the scents from the jasmine, gardenias, lilies, and magnolias are intoxicating.”

The Kitchen

Anne Quatrano, Chef and Restaurateur
Cartersville, Georgia

When Anne Quatrano needed to fine-tune recipes for her new cookbook, Summerland: Recipes for Celebrating with Southern Hospitality, she did so in the kitchen of her Georgia farmhouse. Which is only fitting, considering the book is named after the Atlanta chef and restaurateur’s ancestral family farm, just forty-five miles outside of the city but a world away from its hustle and bustle.

Not surprisingly, the kitchen is a cook’s dream, outfitted with restaurant-grade appliances, tons of storage space, and, just out the back door, four acres of produce and three hundred laying hens. But it’s more than just a place for banging around pots and pans. Paintings by the Georgia artist Stephanie L. Jordan line the walls, and deep top shelves crafted by a local cabinetmaker house her collection of china. Still, there’s nothing that can’t withstand some dirty paws, since Quatrano owns ten dogs. “I never say no to concrete floors!” she says, laughing. Most important to the chef, the space can accommodate lots of company. The fireplace provides wintertime warmth and ambience and is occasionally used for cooking soups in cast-iron pots, and a huge custom island topped with a butcher block easily serves twelve. “My kitchen is a quintessential gathering place,” she says, “and to me, that’s the South.”

The Garden

Jon Carloftis, Garden Designer
Lexington, Kentucky

It wasn’t the pedigree or bones of the house that drew the garden designer Jon Carloftis to his new Lexington, Kentucky, home. It was the 150-year-old ginkgo tree in the yard. “I saw the ginkgo and I was done,” Carloftis says. “The house could have been on wheels and I still would have bought the place.” The tree stands guard over almost an acre of land that surrounds historic Botherum, a Greek Revival home once owned by Madison C. Johnson, a confidant of Abraham Lincoln’s, that Carloftis purchased in 2012.

Photo: Caroline Allison

Uncommon Grounds

The formal garden paves the way to Botherum's main entrance.

A Kentucky native, Carloftis is well known for the lush penthouse gardens he creates for his clients in New York City, but at home, he’s created his own urban oasis. In the process of renovating the property, he stumbled upon old photos of the home’s original formal garden and set about returning the grounds to their former glory. He uncovered and restored a brick cross-path, the center now marked by a new iron armillary sphere. The four quadrants surrounding it house statues that represent the four seasons, each quadrant planted with new varieties of old Southern favorites: the Annabelle hydrangea—sturdier under the weight of an afternoon rain—and the Little Gem magnolia, a narrower version of the strong-as-steel classic.

Carloftis transformed an old dirt-floor outbuilding left on the property into a potting shed. It sits on a foundation made of stone from the grounds, and the home’s original garden fencing, discovered in the basement while clearing out raccoons, outlines the kitchen garden that surrounds the shed. Kale, blueberries, brussels sprouts, and bushels full of basil grow under Carloftis’s tutelage. The ginkgo gets along just fine on its own.

The Tack Room

Misdee Wrigley Miller, Equestrian
Paris, Kentucky

It’s not just history in the air in the pine-paneled tack room at Hillcroft Farm, in Paris, Kentucky. “There’s nothing like the smell of the leather,” says fourth-generation horsewoman Misdee Wrigley Miller, Hillcroft’s owner. “It’s overwhelming to walk in, take a deep breath, and think about the stories of where these harnesses and saddles have been, and the workmanship that went into making them.”

The room is a memorial to Miller’s family and to her love of combined driving, an equestrian sport in which riders conduct coaches drawn by a team of horses, competing in dressage, marathon, and obstacle trials. She’s currently training to compete for a spot on the U.S. pairs driving team at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France.

Photo: Caroline Allison

Full Rein

Miller's grandmother's custom sterling silver saddle takes center stage.

Harnesses that match Miller’s extensive collection of antique and modern driving carriages hang below reproductions of nineteenth-century lithographs that depict traditional coaching scenes, flanked by horse blankets emblazoned with the signature W, the logo from her great-grandfather’s standardbred horse farm. Front and center, the real gem of Wrigley’s collection sits at attention: a tooled sterling silver saddle, custom made for Miller’s grandmother by Edward Bohlin, a legendary saddle maker who came to fame making pieces for Hollywood Westerns in the thirties.

“The sense of tradition is very strong in the South,” Miller says. “And maintaining this room reminds me of an era when people took the time to appreciate the land and their horses.”  

The Studio

William Christenberry, Artist
Washington, D.C.

stroll past William Christenberry’s studio on Macomb Street, in Washington’s Cleveland Park, can stop folks in their tracks. Visible through a large circular window is a two-story wall lined with the subjects of the renowned Alabama artist’s lifework: Hand-painted signs hang among a slew of rusted advertisements plucked from Alabama’s country roads, including a metal corn-on-the-cob sign from Christenberry’s 1977 photograph Corn Sign with Storm Cloud, Near Greensboro, Alabama. “It’s a real curiosity to people,” Christenberry says. “They often stop and ask, ‘What goes on in there?’ I sometimes wonder that myself.”

Photo: Dana Gallagher

Worldly Interior

Instead of a piano, modern, tomato-red wingback chairs occupy the bay window.

Christenberry at his worktable.

Photo: Dana Gallagher

Christenberry at his worktable.

Christenberry was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in 1936, and spent his summers with extended family in nearby Hale County, which became
the main subject of his iconic photos. The Nehi sign that decorates his studio once hung outside a corner store down the street from his parents’ house. When he recognized the store in one of Walker Evans’s photos in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, he introduced himself to Evans, marking the beginning of what became a lifelong mentorship and friendship.

A screened-in breezeway connects the clapboard studio to the main house, where negatives of his photographs sit in a basement refrigerator, next to the washer and dryer. At a glance, Christenberry’s setup might appear disheveled, but there’s a method to the artist’s madness. Collections of political buttons and tiny roadside trinkets are carefully archived in cabinet drawers, and everything has its place. “I’ve always liked order,” he says. “It’s like my hair. I like to keep it straight.” 

Framed above the artist's desk, a handwritten sign advertises the services of a gravestone maker.

Photo: Dana Gallagher

Framed above the artist’s desk, a handwritten sign advertises the services of a gravestone maker.

The Parlor

Paula Wallace, College President
Savannah, Georgia

The classic Victorian parlor calls to mind images of stuffy formality—heavy velvet curtains, triple-crested sofas, tables draped in lace. But step into the primary entertaining space in Paula Wallace’s Savannah home, and you’ll quickly realize this isn’t your grandmother’s drawing room. The cofounder and president of the Savannah College of Art and Design, Wallace has created an eclectic and thoroughly modern room that reflects both her commitment to the college and her Southern roots.

Wallace stands in front of the entrance to a courtyard.

Photo: Dana Gallagher

Wallace stands in front of the entrance to a courtyard.

Sleek Italian sofas, upholstered in SCAD’s signature gray, share the space with an antique chest sourced from a nearby plantation. Artwork from some of SCAD’s most talented students is lit by two brass candelabras that Wallace found at a local antiques shop and has carried with her to all of her homes over the past thirty years. An antique Madonna, purchased in Vaucluse, France, rests in the corner, and then there’s a snow-white stuffed squirrel—a sculpture by SCAD alum Marcus Kenney—which never fails to raise a few eyebrows. “It’s the ultimate conversation piece,” Wallace says.

Wallace regularly hosts visitors from all over the world in the parlor. “It’s the perfect place to welcome our students and faculty from Hong Kong
and Lacoste,” she says, “because the room is a glimpse into the entertaining traditions of the South.” The most important lesson? In these parts, the guest always comes first, which is why Wallace chose blush pink for the ceiling, “to hopefully flatter everyone’s complexion.”