Many cities host decorator showcases in which a large home is selected as the playground for a group of interior designers, who each are assigned a room to show off their style. New Orleans–where home decorators, professional or not, have an inherent knack for style—curiously lacks this tradition. (The local Junior League used to host a decorator’s show house, but the last one was in 2002.)
But this year, the shelter publication Traditional Home opened its first-ever Southern Style Now showhouse in a Queen Ann Victorian on a Riverbend stretch of St. Charles Avenue. Featuring the work of 27 designers, who got their hands on everything from the living room to the butler's pantry, the home–open for tours until June 12—is a veritable funhouse for design lovers, and hopefully a new annual tradition.
The designers—eight of whom are from New Orleans; the rest are based elsewhere but have "southern roots"—were tasked with presenting their take on Southern style in their allotted spaces. This theme was interpreted in different ways in the showhouse, yet the home has a cohesive flow. Designer Shaun Smith, who partnered with Traditional Home on the project and designed the show house’s living room, has identified some hallmarks of southern style.
"You always see an antique, or something that looks passed down, like the piano in Reagan Hayes’ room that’s actually from her mom’s house," he says. "I think that’s what’s different about southern style—we work in the heirloom pieces and things that have meaning in a new, fresh way."
He points to the what the designers have coined the "she shed," the guest house designed by Lisa Mende that’s Lilly Pulitzer meets Miami. The space is anchored by a gold Ashley Longshore piece depicting Frida Kahlo flanked by colorful birds, but it also works in antique French chairs that were reupholstered.
"I think it has that southern, collected vibe to it," Smith says.
Function also figures largely into these designers’ rooms, and in the south a home largely functions to entertain.
"Here, there’s always a table for a drink next to a sofa, even if it’s just a small little something, just somewhere to stick a drink," Smith says. "Most of the rooms, too, have seating that can be moved throughout."
Besides the showhouse guests, who get a eyeful of gorgeous Southern design, the designers enjoyed a rare collaborative experience getting the house together in a span of a few days.
"That’s what’s been fun, working with other designers, which I didn’t expect. You don’t usually work with other designers," says Betsey Nixon Hazard, the senior designer of Shaun Smith Homes who designed the bathroom of the guest cottage. "We got to really know a lot of these people and become really good friends with them. It’s not at all a competitive thing, it’s very much like, ‘Come see my room. What do you think I should do?’"
Smith concurs. "It was like design camp," he said.