Ever since childhood, when Mama and Daddy would pile us into the Suburban and start our northerly trek to Cashiers from Middle Georgia, I have relished the very thought of heading to those sacred hills.
A feeling washes over me in Cashiers - a calmness bathed in hay-fern scented air and cool summer nights. Cashiers is like summer camp for grownups! The same childhood anticipation and delight - somewhat akin to Christmas morning - still surges my soul the night before I leave for the mountains.
For the past four summers, I have had the utmost pleasure and so much fun really of being a part of the Cashiers Historical Society's Designers Showhouse - the pinnacle of my summer and a highlight of my year. This last summer, the thrill was monumental, for I was selected as the designer for the main living room! Y'all, this room, née, I say great hall from a lodge more so, was truly the peak experience to show some design prowess.
The space was nearly a thousand square feet and required vast amounts of furniture. Thankfully, I own a small shop, but more thankfully I have friends in the design business to loan me fabulous finds to fill up the space. Filling up though is not the goal- proper placement and designing a lifestyle was to be the ultimate achievement.
My amazingly talented friend Kathleen Rivers served as Showhouse Chair and immediately presented me with my first challenge- paint! The room had little wall space but a vast, sloping ceiling and leftover bits of odds and end paneling that, that, along with the shag carpet mind you, enveloped you into a time capsule of midcentury style - but not the chic midcentury style one desires!
I went to my go-to colors of Benjamin Moore's Linen White for the walls and Ice Cap for the ceiling - which took some convincing but delivered a thrilling result. The mountain views at this home are nothing short of breathtaking - almost more Montana than North Carolina - and I needed to recreate that sky and light into the living room. My said colors proved the pudding! For the floor, wall-to-wall sisal blanketed and further anchored the nature-inspired palette.
Since this space is a living room, I decided to create such a room - a room for living! Dining, sitting, visiting and entertaining all had to fit within the space for a true living room.
Anchoring the room was a French beret table my wonderful friend Sally loaned me from her eponymous shop, Dovetail Antiques, in Cashiers. The table was literally one of the heaviest and most challenging pieces (they had to walk it down a sloping knoll and then up stairs and across a deck) my buddies from McCorquedale Transfer even installed for me, but I knew it was the table. Plus, Ollie, the stuffed otter who was to be the table's centerpiece, was going to look so handsome atop this sensational table and epicenter of the tableau in turn. My friend Jason Moattar loaned me the tribal, diamond-patterned rug that kept the dinging space anchored with an earthiness and casualness that the Cashiers' style affords – tradition with a twist!
Three seating areas then served as a triumvirate of grouping for which to relax, converse, enjoy a fire from the dueling fireplaces or simply take in the scenery. The two fireplace seating areas were duets of leather wing chairs from Holland and Company complete with an Irish pine coffee table for one grouping and a simple, heavy woven white upholstered ottoman for the other. Thus these accouterments gave each spot a place for display, propping up your feet or even a casual dinner. My dear and super-talented friend, Carrie Beskin, loaned me two limed French wine tables that I used for side tables - I'm a sucker for limed wood and Carrie was so kind to loan me hers. Blue and white lamps given a contemporary twist with acrylic bases and flowers and family photos dotted the tables too and, thus, brought personal touches to the room.
My buddy Beau Holland lent me a gracious stack of stag horns to crest the soaring walls along with a pair of handsome leather club chairs that I paired with a white sofa, limed pine and zinc tables, a driftwood and glass coffee table and a Black Forest carving (a family piece my sisters and cousins will have to fight me for‼!). Wispy, gauzy white linen hung simply from bamboo rods on the five sets of French doors leading to the deck and awesome views beyond. The deck was simple in its decor with antique hickory rockers, garden stools in shades of aqua, jade and celadon and some iron turkeys nestled into faux bois planters of fern and hosta. My always gracious and fellow gardener Judy at the Village Gardener in Cashiers outfitted the awe-inspired hanging baskets that suspended and catapulted into the mountain forest with summer plantings that fair so well in the mountains.
Shelves stacked with books new and old, a Bavarian fish set and some vintage art further gave the room purpose as a place to study, read and boast a collection. A short wall in height and width still got the grand treatment with a Jacobean chest and fabulous pine bullseye mirror from Beau Holland and some of my favorite things too - my French needlepoint bird chairs, my vintage Audubon prints, a splash of blue and white and my favorite green Italian bowl filled to the brim with North Carolina apples! A pair of French iron candlesticks turned lamps shed the light on this subject matter. This wall and its symmetry and balance were a fun counterpoint to the white sofa and dark leather chairs on the opposite wall. High and low in colors and weights and even textures are so fulfilling to layer upon a room and house. A pop of turquoise in the Clarence House dragonfly pillows on the needlepoint demonstrates such a layering credo.
Speaking of pillows, brown plaids and checks along with blue ikats and stripes all found their way into my scheme. Blue and brown and white with whispers of green became the calling card of the room (along with quirky taxidermy of course) and thus reflected the nature just outside. And since the land at this home is a phenomenal horse riding retreat, large equestrian canvases by the uber talented Meredith Keith, from Birmingham accented the antique timber mantles and were guarded by white temple jars that with another pair too became a part of the room's design.
With Cashiers acting as my happy place since childhood, putting together a great room of favorite things made it even more so of a happy place as a "grown up." I hope y'all enjoy these photos of reflection and remembrance of such a joyful experience for me. I was in terrific company with the other designers, and I can assuredly say that this Showhouse was a happy place for all!
photography by Emily Followill