Discussion by Design
An interview with the South's best designers
In the Map Room of Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall in Atlanta, a round table composed of the some of the best Southern interior designers, textile artists, and painters met to discuss their industry, their beginnings, and to give a few helpful tips to potential clients. There was color, pattern, a little sass, and a whole lot of amazing food. Leading the way of this round table discussion was Brian Patrick Flynn, where he guided the designers in a discussion about design.
Why did you start R. Hughes? Did you feel like something was missing?
Ryan Hughes: There was a lot missing, product wise, in the design community in the South.
Steven Leonard: I wanted to join R. Hughes to express how fine furnishings should be shown in the south. We wanted to bring new lines that needed to be seen here.
How do you find ideas for fabric design?
Clay McLaurin: Yes, when it comes to designing fabric I find inspiration from my collections of antique fabrics and in my travels. I’m always gathering and collecting fabrics. I’m drawn to older, authentic fabrics from different cultures. I’m also constantly drawing from nature and sketching from both of those worlds. Then we scan it into the computer, manipulate colors and it gets sent to the mill.
Do you have a trademark? The pillow scape?
Michel Smith Boyd: I hate seeing beds being made the same way every single time. I approach every design with asymmetry in mind. Just a little bit skewed, but honestly, simple. I want to be able to sleep on one side of the bed and not mess up the other side. Here are my sleeping pillows and those are my decorative pillows on the other side. They asymmetry is interesting, I can colorblock and I can sleep comfortably!
You know how designers and artists like to throw in an element to throw it all off? Where do you think that comes from?
Kristen Giorgi: I think feeling safe as an artist is a scary thing because we want to stand out. We want to show these things inside of us and if we’re safe, what are we doing this for? What’s the point?
Would you say you have a favorite pallet or is there a pallet that sells more than others?
Sally King Benedict: Yes, and yes. I do have a favorite pallet and that pallet typically doesn’t sell. Bridging that gap is what it is to be an artist, doing what you love, and being a business owner, selling what is loved, and walking that fine line between.
Why do you think southerners like to keep heirlooms and antiques in design passed down from generations?
Mallory Mathison Glenn: Southerners look at heirlooms and antiques that have been passed down for generation after generation a little differently. They want to repurpose for a new generation. A lot of times when someone has an attachment to something, it’s not the piece, it’s where the piece was and the memories they have around that piece.
Have you ever had a project where the client wanted you to use something that you didn’t like at all?
Jared Hughes: Yes! A client insisted I use a dining table they bought in Europe. I decided I could downplay the table by focusing on interesting wallpaper, beautiful window treatments and cool dining chairs. This way everyone was happy!
Why do you think Atlanta has become a force to be reckoned with in the design community?
Niki Papadopoulos: I think one reason Atlanta is so fundamental in Southern design is because there’s really enough room for us all to work here. The fact that the design community here is so wonderful to one another is a really big part of the reason we are all so successful.
What’s one thing people need to know before they call a designer?
Dayka Robinson: The main thing clients need to know is their budget. Get clear about how much you want to spend and tell the truth about it! I can always work with wherever you are, but it wastes my time and it wastes the clients’ money. If you can know where your budget is in the beginning, we can get to where we want to go faster.
Why do you like to use old architectural antiques in your projects?
Lucy Farmer: I love to use old architectural antiques in my projects because I believe it creates unique details that you won’t see in new houses being built today. I love to find something that has texture or patina that celebrates the craftsmanship from old architecture. Using antique beams or corbels in the basic design gives you details you won’t find in a newer home and it creates a good balance for character and practicality.
Why do you choose to sell vintage?
David Kowalski: I think with vintage, the story of the piece becomes more important than the piece itself. With a vintage piece, there’s people behind it. I appreciate that someone before me made sure that a piece of furniture or a painting was well taken care of.
Words by Lucy Farmer
Photos by Robert Peterson