Arts & Culture

Peek Inside the Homes of Some of the South’s Most Creative People

Inspiration abounds in a beautiful new coffee-table book  

The writer Sam Lubell believes you can learn a lot about a person by peeking into his or her living room. In his new book, Life Meets Art, Lubell, who has written eight books on architecture including a mid-century modern travel guide to the East Coast, takes readers inside the homes of 250 thinkers and creators, including writers, musicians, artists, and designers, both contemporary and canonized. “I’m interested in helping readers get to know people on a different level,” he says. “Especially in this age where everyone sees everyone else as one-dimensional—we all have more to us than meets the eye.” Take Clementine Hunter, for instance, who lived and worked on Melrose plantation outside of Natchitoches, Louisiana until her death in 1988. A walk through the plantation today reveals the self-taught painter’s bright and telling depictions of rural Louisiana. Or Ernest Hemingway—perhaps known most as a transient writer and thinker—who loved hiding out at his lush and vivid Key West bungalow. “Reading his novels gets you so far, but there’s nothing quite like seeing where he sat, looking out the window of his home,” Lubell says. “When we can travel again, I want to encourage people to go out and explore and learn about these great people.” In the meantime, flipping through Life Meets Art brings you pretty close. 

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The Louisiana jazz great Louis Armstrong lived in this three-story red brick house in the Corona neighborhood in Queens, New York, from 1943 until his death in 1971. Decorated with mid-century touches, the home is filled with Armstrong’s notes, reel-to-reel tapes, and mementos, and is now open to the public as the Louis Armstrong House Museum. 

photo: Courtesy of the Louis Armstrong House Museum

For the majority of the forty-plus years that William Faulkner lived at Rowan Oak, his 1844 white-clapboard Greek Revival home in Oxford, Mississippi, he made a modest living off his writing, so he did the majority of the repairs and upkeep himself, including building the bookshelves in his library (pictured). 

photo: Ed Croom

James Gallier Jr. was one of the most prolific architects of nineteenth-century New Orleans, transforming the city with projects including the French Opera House and the Luling Mansion. His own home on Royal Street combines classical and Italianate details and Victorian and Rococo furniture. 

photo: Hermann-Grima + Gallier Historic Houses

Although known as a wanderer, Ernest Hemingway lived in this eclectic, limestone house in Key West, Florida, from 1931 through 1940. Now open to the public as the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, the building is restored to look like it did when Hemingway lived there. 

photo: Rolf Richardson/Alamy Stock Photo

Tommy Hilfiger’s mansion in Golden Beach, Florida, not only houses the fashion designer’s impressive Pop art collection but is a work of surprising art itself. Scratch-and-sniff wallpaper covers bathrooms, and the psychedelic media room (pictured) takes its inspiration from the Austin Powers movies.

photo: Miquel Juli., Photo Archive Fundaci. Pilar i Joan Mir. A Mallorca, Succession Mir./ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2020; Zachary Balber

Clementine Hunter (1886/1887–1988) lived and worked on the Melrose cotton plantation near Natchitoches, Louisiana, for over fifty years before teaching herself to paint, and later becoming one of the most renowned folk artists of the twentieth century. She eventually covered the walls of the onsite “African House” in murals of rural Louisiana life.

photo: James W. Rosenthal/Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey, HABS LA,35-MELRO,1B--32 (CT)

Architect Charles Moore was known as one of the godfathers of postmodernism. His Austin, Texas, home features a mixture of Spanish and German influences and is brightly decorated with Texas folk art.  

photo: Kevin Keim/Charles Moore Foundation

Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis is the second–most-popular house museum in the country, second only to the White House. The decorous Colonial Revival mansion has twenty-three rooms, including the famous Polynesian-decorated Jungle Room, a mirror-covered TV room, and the colorful basement billiards room, pictured. 

photo: Courtesy of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc

Although far from the banks of the Mississippi River where he grew up, Mark Twain’s Victorian mansion in Hartford, Connecticut, housed the author while he wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

photo: Frank C. Grace, Trig Photography

The Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace’s Miami Beach, Florida, mansion includes Roman frescoes, marble statues of Neptune and Medusa, and a pool constructed of thousands of 24-karat gold tiles. The property is now a five-star, twelve-suite hotel called Villa Casa Casuarina.

photo: Ken Hayden, Courtesy of The Villa Casa Casuarina/Victor Hotels

Life Meets Art: Inside the Homes of the World’s Most Creative People by Sam Lubell (Phaidon) Available to purchase now.