Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Southern Comfort

I spent the weekend going through a trove of twenty and thirty year old Southern Accents, something which was akin to a trip down memory lane. You see, these were the homes- and the style of decorating-with which I grew up. Color, proper and sometimes fancy curtains, antiques, collections that were amassed over time, and beautifully set tables. In my mind, all of these things embodied Southern design from the 1980s. And while it might sound a tad formal (and it was), there was certainly nothing uptight about the decor. In these homes, one could just as easily spend a Saturday afternoon watching SEC football as seated at a formal Christmas Eve dinner. It was really about creating a beautiful environment for not only yourself, but more importantly for family and friends. Or at least, that's the way I remember things.

The Atlanta home featured here really captures a sophisticated side to Southern design. Photographed in 1982, the home was decorated by Jane Marsden, a designer and antiques dealer well-known to Atlantans. Of course, it helps when one starts with a Philip Shutze Regency style house noted for its restrained elegance and pleasing sense of symmetry. Still, the collaboration between the homeowner, Mrs. Bean, and Marsden imbued the house with additional style, substance, and some Southern charm too.

The elegant entryway with a George I mirror over a pine eagle table.

The living room with its lady-like draperies. Note the use of tassel trim and ball fringe throughout the room. Remember when we weren't afraid to use that trim? The Coromandel screen and the X-base, leopard covered bench strike a sophisticated note.

Most Southerners can't grasp the idea of not having a formal dining room in one's house. After all, your Royal Crown Derby "Old Imari" china needs a proper backdrop. As beautiful as the china is (it's a favorite on mine), it's the draperies that make me swoon. One more thing- see those floor to ceiling windows? They raise into the ceiling to allow guests to move between the room's interior and the outdoors during parties.

So nice to see a porcelain collection, this one with pieces decorated in the "Money Tree" pattern.

The library appears to be pink, although it was really a warm red. I'm not finding much in this room that screams 1982. In fact, if it's still installed this way, I bet it's held up pretty well. It's chic enough to host nighttime cocktails...and comfortable enough to relax and watch football.

The playroom. I'm assuming that's a playroom for adults. Again, a little tweaking here and there and you still have a room fitting for 2010. Imagine it without the wall to wall carpet and the acoustic tile ceiling, and you'll see what I mean.

(All images from Southern Accents, Fall 1982. Max Eckert, photographer.)


  1. Love it, love it, love it! As a native VIrginian, I crave that Southern 80s/timeless decor. You hit the nail on the head in explaining that while formal its not stuffy and uncomfortable.

  2. This is what I grew up with too - and I love it! Actually my house today looks similar to this. I have formal rooms, but we use them. And they are so pretty to look at - and are great if you like to entertain. Love all of the old Southern Accents magazines.

  3. Makes me feel better that someone else is storing magazines from 20-30 years ago! I'm not a southerner but timeless elegance never goes out of style in my book - exactly why I love (and posted this week) about David Easton and Gil Schafer. I especially love the beautiful entryway and playroom - and you're right - with a little tweeking (replacing the chairs perhaps) it would look contemporary - and chic!

  4. It's what I grew up with too. And you are so right- classic rooms always look current. I have my grandmother's decorating books from the 1940's and 50's and aside from the photography, you would think they were rooms from today (lucite, faux bamboo, x benches, etc).

  5. I think you forgot the other option: a formal Christmas Dinner WHILE watching football. Not my family, not SEC, but lurking in lovely homes in Texas and Oklahoma, I believed this has occurred!

    I think the 80s has gotten a bad rep. I agree when the proportions are right, beauty is timeless.

  6. Anonymous10:52 AM

    I echo the above comments. Hard to improve on the ideas reflected in these rooms. Charming, graceful,useful and timeless. Many thanks for reminding us- and maybe guiding some away from beige and bland.

  7. What a lovely way to spend a Saturday...before the Alabama game.

  8. Southern Accents was a beautiful magazine, and I am sad that they closed shop. It continues to baffle me.
    I love these images. Thank you for sharing.

  9. That was a great project. I am so glad to see people still appreciate classic interiors!
    Jane Marsden

  10. Jane, Thank you for your comment. Classic interiors are sometimes hard to find today. Thank you for giving us this one!

  11. your site/blog. just wanted to give you a little unsolicited lesson for the day..the "x-shape" stool that you point out is actually called a
    Roman chair or a curule chair...the form is found in Etruscan, Greek and Roman furniture...

  12. Barnabus Collins5:26 AM

    Jennifer, in recalling a conversation with the current owner of this great house, I believe she explained that Schutze designed the 'playroom' as a cards/bridge room for the original owners. And yes, Jane's pitch is perfect. Always.

  13. Alix- Unsolicited lessons like this are always welcome!

    Barnabus- This makes me want to learn how to play bridge :)

  14. Barnabus Collins2:08 AM

    Jennifer, perhaps we can both take lessons. By the way, I failed to mention that the original wall color for this room seems to have been a rich aubergine. I'd love to know if this detail was specified by Schutze.

  15. I'd paint the walls, remove some of the knickknacks and be perfectly happy.