A Garden Apartment Where Old Meets New

In his Atlanta home, designer Jared Hughes solves a conundrum: how to freshen Southern antiques with youth, color, and serious personal style

Photo: Ali Harper

Blue anchors the antique pieces in Jared Hughes’s Atlanta foyer; Hughes in his living room.

Even as a sixth grader, Jared Hughes had an eye for enlivening traditional furnishings: That was the year the North Carolina native redecorated his bedroom to complement a framed Chinese silk panel passed down from his great-grandmother, painting the walls a mod, color-blocked red and ivory, and accenting the scene with pieces inspired by his mother’s blue-and-white porcelain collection. That striking blend of the old with the bold would become his signature when he officially hung his shingle as a designer just over a year ago—a talent on vivid display in his garden apartment in Atlanta’s historic Ansley Park neighborhood.

Photo: Ali Harper

Traditional monogrammed bedding and an eighteenth-century-style bed get a shot of youth from abstract art, textiles, and modern end tables.

The stately Craftsman structure was built in 1910 in one of the leafiest parts of the city to house pied-à-terre apartments, many of them just a thousand square feet. “I fell in love with the building because of the age, the huge windows with original glass, the hardwood floors, and the perfect scale and proportion of the moldings,” says Hughes, who is now thirty-one. “I love spending time here. It’s happy.”

Happy is an appropriate word—between the fearless use of color and Hughes’s dynamic mix of antique and modern pieces, a sense of joy pulses throughout. Take the foyer: From the trim to the door to the shredded bamboo wallpaper, Hughes bathed the room in an electric cobalt blue that calls to mind the pure pigment used in old-world paintings. The hue not only matches the blue roofs carved into a Chinese coromandel screen hanging on the wall, which Hughes saved for years to purchase, but also complements a trio of abstract prints by the Birmingham, Alabama, contemporary artist William McClure—seemingly opposing elements that harmonize effortlessly thanks to Hughes’s clever use of color.

Photo: Ali Harper

From left: A slipper chair, off the living room, upholstered with an antique rug; the sunroom; nineteenth-century Hepplewhite bureau lined in silk and filled with Blue Willow china.

This dramatic but unfussy entry point is emblematic of Hughes’s Southern style savvy. “Southerners love color because we are surrounded by it in nature,” he says. “I also think that Southerners are the least boring lot of people in the country, and our homes and sense of color reflect that. And our culture is influenced by every corner of the world: African, English, Scottish, Irish, Italian, French, Indian, and Chinese, just to name a few. It’s an insane trickle-down effect. We are hungry for history here.”

Photo: Ali Harper

A majolica garden stool doubles as a cocktail table.

To wit: Hughes painted his bedroom a bright ocher, then stuffed it to the ceiling with blue and white jars, urns, and plates, as well as books, art, and objects gathered on travels around the world and handed down to him from his family—all punctuated by traditional dark wood furniture. “Brown furniture sometimes gets confused with formality,” he says, looking at a leather-and-wood cocktail table his grandfather brought back from a military stint in Portugal. “But I think the grain of the wood adds warmth. It’s a pattern only nature can create, and it adds, even in a fancy piece, something organic that all rooms need.” He’s been pleasantly surprised to see that his younger peers and clients seem to  appreciate these antiques more and more, too. “They’re looking for a sense of normalcy and comfort and familiarity. A lot of people want their houses to feel more like what they grew up with.”

Photo: Ali Harper

From left: The living room; the self-serve bar.

Still, it’s important to Hughes to update the appeal of heirlooms beyond nostalgia. “An old oil painting in a gilded frame hanging above an antique case piece is pretty, but an abstract work over the same piece is much more unexpected,” he explains. In his bedroom, for instance, Hughes commissioned a plaster artisan in Alabama to make tables that look like avant-garde sculptures to flank his eighteenth-century-style bed. In the living room, a relaxed self-serve bar he created on a chest exists beside windows topped with old-school lambrequins. This is the spot where you’ll most likely find Hughes in the evenings now, pouring cocktails with friends.

“I have an open-door policy, and I love having people over,” he says. “Once I even hosted a friend from college who lived in my sunroom for six weeks. Lately it’s a predinner gathering spot that involves lots of bourbon, gin, and wine.” Hughes also likes working at his desk with the windows flung open, in the company of his collections and his dog, Chip. “There’s a lot of stuff in my house,” he admits. “But it’s all important stuff. It’s personal. It’s one hundred percent about the stories and about connectivity.”